A vegetarian diet is a meal plan made up of foods that come mostly from plants. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. A vegetarian diet has little or no animal products.
Types of vegetarian diets include:
A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. Eating a vegetarian diet can help you:
Compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians usually eat:
Anyone following a vegetarian diet needs to make sure to get enough important nutrients. This is because it may be hard to get all the calories and nutrients needed for growth and development and to maintain good health. Careful planning may be needed for certain groups of people such as:
Vegetarian diets are usually high in fiber. High-fiber diets may lack calories, which can lead to:
Vegetarian diets often lack certain vitamins and nutrients. You may want to pay attention to the following:
Iron: This mineral is found in beans, green vegetables, and foods fortified with iron such as cereals.
Protein: Sources of protein include fish, eggs, beans, soy products, nuts and nut butters.
If you eat fish, eggs, and dairy, getting enough protein should be easy. Even if you do not, proteins from plants can still provide a healthy diet:
Vegetarian diets that include some dairy products and eggs are nutritionally sound.
You may want to work with a dietitian to ensure that your nutrients are adequate.
When following a vegetarian diet, keep in mind the following:
Lacto-ovovegetarian; Semi-vegetarian; Partial vegetarian; Vegan; Lacto-vegetarian
American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282.
Craig WJ. Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25:613-620.
Thedford K, Raj S. A vegetarian diet for weight management. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:816-818.
United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 2010.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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