Vegetarian Diets

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The popularity of vegetarian diets has increased in recent years. One reason, aside from religious or social beliefs, is that vegetarian diets have been linked to lower risks for several diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. There are many different types of vegetarian diets. The similarities among them lie in their emphasis on grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts to obtain the necessary macronutrients. The vegan diet is the strictest of the vegetarian diets since it contains no animal products. The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet contains both dairy products and eggs in addition to the above foods. Even within these two types of diets, there is considerable variation based on food choices. The main concern people have when deciding whether they would like to try a vegetarian diet is whether the diets will meet their vitamins, minerals, and proteins needs. Both protein and micronutrient intake is adequate among vegetarians as long as they eat a variety of foods. Vegetarians who limit or omit animal products from their diets may need to take Vitamin B12 and calcium supplements. A well-rounded vegetarian diet follows the US dietary guidelines and can meet the nutritional needs of adults, children, competitive athletes, and pregnant women (see Figure 3-3).

Figure 3-3. Food Guide Pyramid for Vegetarians

Fats, Oils, & Sweets: use sparingly (Fats & added sugar)

Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese Group:

2-3 servings (Proteins)

Vegetable Group:

3-5 servings (cho)



^ 1


Adapted from the Vegsource organization web site at:

Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, & Meat Alternative Group: 2-3 servings (Proteins)

Fruit Group: 2-4 servings (cho)

Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group: 6-11 servings (cho)

Adapted from the Vegsource organization web site at:

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