Sources of protein and iron for the vegetarian
Ways for vegetarians to get the nutrition of iron and protein.

When deciding to go vegetarian, people are often concerned that they might not get enough iron and protein. But the vegetarian diet supplies both in ample amounts if you eat right and pay attention to what food it contains. Once upon a time, it was believed that a vegetarian had to do enormous amounts of meal planning to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed in their diet. With the advent of fortified foods, this meal planning does not have to be more elaborate than any other diet plan. As with all diets, a vegetarian only has to eat sensibly, include all food groups and creatively substitute dairy, eggs and plant foods for meats.

Protein is the number one concern of the vegetarian diet, as most vegetables have very little of this necessary nutrient. Protein is essential to the repair and growth of body cells, protection against disease and infection and the formation of bones and blood cells. Protein is easily found in dairy products and eggs but can also be readily available in soy foods, seeds, whole grain products and breads, nuts, cereals and beans.

While the recommended daily allowance of protein is dependant on gender and age, there are some simple guidelines available. Men, from ages eleven to fifty plus, generally require between 45 and 63 grams of protein daily. Women of the same ages, unless pregnant or nursing, require 46 to 50 grams daily. To give a few simple examples, two eggs have approximately 11 grams of protein, 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese have nearly 41 grams, a 1/2 cup of beans will net around 8 grams and a 1/4 cup of sunflower or pumpkin seeds as well as a 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta will give you around 10 grams. 1 cup of yogurt has around 13 grams, and most hard cheese has 11 grams of usable protein.

It is very easy to fulfill the protein requirements daily, whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-eater. A vegan will have to rely on whole grain foods and soy products, but it can be done, provided that the meals are planned well.

The recommended daily requirement for iron runs around 15 milligrams daily for both men and women, unless the woman is pregnant or nursing. Iron is essential for healthy blood, and its absorption into the body is aided by foods or supplements containing Vitamin C.

Like protein, iron is easily found in certain vegetarian foods, especially whole grains and whole grain food products and legumes. Soybeans and soy foods also contain iron in relatively high amounts. Generally, the meatless foods that have protein also have the iron nutrients also.

An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause listlessness, fatigue and other health problems. To make sure you are getting both protein and iron in your vegetarian diet, make sure you read the labels of the products you buy. Many items, such as cereals and soy foods, are enriched or fortified with iron and the other vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. A daily vitamin/mineral supplement is never a bad idea, no matter how well you think you eat.

If you are a vegetarian woman and pregnant or lactating, be sure to discuss your concerns about your protein and iron intake with your health care provider. There is no reason a vegetarian woman cannot have a happy, healthy pregnancy and nursing experience; she need only understand that she has special needs at this time.