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

One of the most popular health trends that is currently on the rise worldwide is adopting a “plant-based diet.” The term “plant-based” does not necessarily mean vegan or vegetarian (eliminating animal products), but rather incorporating more plants and less animal products in your diet. If planned well, plant-based diets can support health and decrease risk of disease for all stages of life. Part of having a well-balanced plant-based diet is knowing which nutrients are found in various plant-based foods to reap the health benefits. If you are considering changing your diet to a plant-based approach, it is recommended to consult a Registered Dietitian to help you be successful.

Here is a list of foods that consumes high amounts of these powerful nutrients: 

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Iron: Green veggies (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, cashews, almonds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, baked beans, and whole grain products. 

Vitamin B12: Nutritional yeast, fortified foods, and supplements. 

Vitamin D: Most food sources of vitamin D include meat, fish, liver, and egg; however, there are fortified plant-based foods that contain vitamin D such as fortified plant-based milks and fortified cereals.

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

Calcium: Calcium is found in high amounts in dairy foods and is arguably one of the most important minerals in our body. Calcium can also be consumed in plant sources such as broccoli, kale, collard greens, bok choy, 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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