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Healthy eating is supposed to be based on the same rule for everyone. There are certain nutrients that need to be taken in sufficient amounts and there are types of food that are better if avoided. Vegetarians should basically follow the same basic guidelines for everyone but since they do not eat meat they must replenish nutrients found in meat from other sources. Luckily, every important nutrient in meat has an alternative source.

General guidelines for healthy eating

Everyone, regardless of their dietary rules, should follow several basic rules and guidelines. One is to eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. It is also necessary to include starchy foods like rice, potatoes, corn, whole grain cereals and legumes. The next important food group that needs to be taken daily are protein rich foods, like meat, eggs, dairy and legumes. The fats should come from cold pressed vegetable oils and not from deep fried foods and animal lard.

Food should be low in sodium and low in sugars, especially white sugar. It is also important to include enough fiber in the diet and to complete it with ample amounts of water.

These guidelines apply to all, but vegetarians must be extra careful to include enough iron, protein and selenium, because these nutrients may be lacking in their meat-free diet.

How to get enough iron

Iron is an essential nutrient that needs to be taken in sufficient amounts, but not in excessive amounts, because it can be toxic. There are two types of iron, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in foods of animal origin and it is absorbed much better through digestion than non-heme iron, found in plant-based foods. This means that vegetarians should not only take care to eat foods that contain iron, but they should also eat them in larger amounts. These foods include broccoli, green leafy vegetables, spinach, watercress and okra. Iron-rich foods must be combined with sources of vitamin C, because this vitamin enhances the absorption of iron. In addition, it is worth remembering that coffee reduces the absorption of this important nutrient, which is why it is important to wait for a while after a meal before having a cup of coffee.

How to get enough protein

Fortunately, protein can be found in many foods of non-animal origin. Some of the best sources of protein for vegetarians include lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, milk, cheese and other dairy products, eggs, soybean, soy derivates like tofu, mycoprotein, cereals, bread, rice and corn. In order to stay healthy and strong, a vegetarian needs to eat at least one of these foods each day.

How to get enough selenium

Selenium is a mineral that represents an essential micronutrient for animals and some plants. In humans, it is necessary for proper functioning of the immune system, but in excessive amounts it can be toxic. Selenium can be found in nuts, seeds and eggs, and Brazil nuts are a particularly good source. Vegetarians should include at least five or six Brazil nuts or other nuts in their daily diet plan.

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