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There are many minerals that are essential nutrients that humans need to obtain in order to be healthy. Minerals are chemical elements and cannot be synthesized by any animal. All minerals are ultimately obtained from the earth, and the content of minerals in plants varies depends on the soil they are grown in. Iron, zinc and calcium are important minerals that humans need to ensure they obtain adequate aounts of.

Iron is needed for the formation of healthy red blood cells. It is unnecessary to eat meat to obtain sufficient iron, as it is widespread in plant foods. Good sources include whole grains, green vegetables, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds. Many breakfast cereals have extra iron added to them. Women who are of child-bearing age, pregnant women and athletes need to pay particular attention to getting enough iron in their daily diet.

Eating foods rich in Vitamin C at the same time as eating iron-rich foods will increase the amount of iron absorbed by the body. Examples of foods rich in Vitamin C include fresh fruit, juices, tomatoes, capsicum and raw green vegetables.

It is not recommended that iron supplements (other than the small amounts in a multivitamin tablet) are taken unless a deficiency has been diagnosed. (This is because excess iron may have negative health effects.) So if you are concerned you may be low in iron, visit your medical practitioner for a blood test to check your iron levels.

Zinc is a mineral that is used in many processes throughout the body. Good plant food sources are similar to the foods that are good sources of iron: whole grains, green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Men generally have higher zinc requirements than women do.

Calcium is best known for its role in the structure of bones. Adequate calcium intake is particularly important during bone formation and growth. Maintaining healthy bones is not simply a matter of getting plenty of calcium. Adequate vitamin D (eg from sunshine) and weight-bearing exercise are essential for bone maintenance. (As with muscles, bones will become weaker without stress being placed on them.)

Most plant foods contain some calcium, with green vegetables (especially kale, bok choy, watercress) being the richest source on a mg per calorie/kJ basis. (Spinach is not a reliable source of calcium due to its high content of oxalates which bind calcium.) Other sources include tofu that has been set with calcium sulphate, and many plant milks (such as some soy milks/rice milks) are fortified with added calcium as are some breakfast cereals and some orange juices. (Check the label to be sure.) For people with high calcium needs, supplements are available which are suitable for herbivores.

Nutrition Index

Maybe it's time you went herbivorous?