As gardeners, we eat lots of fruits and vegetables of many kinds, and this big variety satisfies our needs for most vitamins, minerals, phytochemi-cals, and fiber. Those nutrients that might be lacking in the fruits and vegetables are generally found in whole grains or beans. So a diet based upon staple whole grains and beans, fruits, and vegetables is likely to be a healthy diet.
Getting enough iodine used to be a problem for many inland people once. Now, with iodine added to commercial salt and fish available even to people far from oceans, lack of iodine isn’t common.
Many people in temperate climates don’t get enough vitamin D. The sun isn’t intense enough in winter. Indoor lives, clothes, and sunblock further exacerbate the situation. Eggs may provide vitamin D, but it depends upon what the laying flock is eating and how much sun they are getting. I take a daily (standard, not super-potent) vitamin pill as well as cod liver oil, both of which include vitamin D.
Most vegan vegetarians can generally get their protein pretty easily from plant sources. Protein needs of individuals seem to vary widely, however. I suspect some people need too much protein to thrive as vegetarians. But clearly some people do fine as vegetarians. Most vegetarians, with a full diet of whole grains, beans, and many vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, probably don’t need to worry about either protein or calcium.
However, there are three nutrients that are potentially problematic for those who don’t eat at least some animal products. Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods. Vegan vegetarians are advised to take a B12 supplement or a general daily vitamin containing B12.
Vegetarians may also lack vitamin D. That, too, can be solved with a simple once-daily all-vegetarian vitamin pill.
The third potential problem is omega-3 fatty acids. If we could all convert the short-chain plant form of omega-3 fatty acid into the longer-chain animal forms that we need, omega-3 fatty-acid needs of vegetarians could be provided by plant sources such as flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and, to some extent, greens. However, as already mentioned, not everyone can convert the short-chained plant-derived omega-3s into the longer-chain ones. Those who cannot need to eat animal products containing the long-chain omega-3s. That is, not everyone can survive and thrive as a vegetarian. For some of us, of whom I am undoubtedly one, eating meat or animal products or fish is obligatory.