By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC and Crystal Liebenberg BS

One of the most popular health trends currently on the rise around the world is a “plant-based diet”. The term “plant-based” does not necessarily mean vegan or vegetarian (avoidance of animal products), but rather to include more plants and fewer animal products in the diet. With good planning, a plant-based diet can support health and reduce the risk of illness in all phases of life. A balanced plant-based diet involves knowing what nutrients are in different plant-based foods in order to reap the health benefits. If you are considering switching your diet to a plant-based approach, it is recommended that you consult a registered dietitian to help you succeed.

Here is a list of foods that consume large amounts of these powerful nutrients:

Iron: Green vegetables (e.g., spinach), nuts, seeds, whole grains, fortified foods, lentils, and dark chocolate. (Note: adding vitamin C to your iron sources will help your body absorb iron more efficiently.)

Protein: Legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, soy milk, tofu, peas, edamame, peanut butter, chickpeas, nutritional yeast, and quinoa.

Zinc: Chickpeas, cashew nuts, almonds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, baked beans and whole grain products.

Vitamin B12: nutritional yeast, fortified foods and dietary supplements.

Vitamin D: The majority of food sources for vitamin D are meat, fish, liver, and eggs; However, there are fortified plant-based foods that contain vitamin D, such as fortified plant milks and fortified cereals.

Omega 3: Oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardine), chia seeds, ground flax seeds and oil, hemp seeds and oil, walnuts, edamame and kidney beans.

Calcium: Calcium is found in large quantities in dairy products and is probably one of the most important minerals in our body. Calcium can also be consumed in plant sources such as broccoli, kale, kale, pak choi, tahini, soy products, and fortified foods.

Kristen K. Hicks-Roof Ph.D., RDN, LDN, CLC is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.


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