Vegetarian Diets – Can Be Nutritionally Healthy

There is an assertion by many, generally those who are meat eaters that vegetarian diets can’t possibly be healthy because meat protein is absent. However with careful planning there are these types of diets that can be a healthy alternative to those diets that contain meat. However, if the diet is poorly planned then it can put the health of the individual at risk.

Why Do Some Choose To Become Vegetarian?

There are many reasons that people become vegetarians. In some parts of the world food is scarce so the diet of some peoples mainly consists of vegetable foods or only vegetable foods. Others may choose to become vegetarians due to abhorrence to eating any living creature, concerns about animal cruelty in the meat processing areas, concern for the environment, concerns about reducing world hunger, their religious beliefs or simply due to a belief that a vegetarian diet is healthier.

Types of Vegetarian Diets

All vegetarians eliminate red meat such as beef and pork from their diets; however, some type of vegetarians may eat chicken and fish while others eliminate any type of animal flesh. These diets may also include dairy products to different degrees, and some vegetarian diets consist of only vegetables either cooked or raw.

Types of Vegetarian Diets

Diet TypeAnimal Foods IncludedFoods Excluded
FruitarianNoneAll foods except raw fruits, green foliage, and nuts
Lacto-ovoDairy products, eggsAll animal flesh
LactoDairy productsAll animal flesh, eggs
OvoEggsAll animal flesh, dairy products
PescoFish, dairy products, eggsBeef, pork and poultry
SemiChicken, fish, dairy products, eggsRed meat (beef and pork)
VeganNoneAll animal products

Benefits of Vegetarian Diets

On average those that are vegetarians have lower blood cholesterol levels and are less likely to suffer from heart disease, since their diets are lower in fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Those diets that emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables contain higher amounts of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamins C and E which protect the body from cell and tissue damage. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables also contribute dietary fiber which helps to move wastes along in the gastrointestinal tract for elimination provided an appropriate amount of liquids are taken in not just from fruits and vegetables but from water as well.

Vegetarians also have a lower body weight due to their diet and health conscious activities such as regular exercise. In addition, since it is red meat that usually contributes to a higher incidence of colorectal cancer, those with vegetarian diets, especially those with vegan diets generally have a lower incidence of colorectal cancer and male vegetarians have a lower incidence of prostate cancer as well.

Risks of Vegetarian Diets

Certain types of vegetarian diets can be more risky since the more limited the diet, the greater chance of nutritional issues. Lacto-ovo diets can be high in fat and cholesterol due to the focus on eating eggs and dairy products, and if there is a high amount of milk products then iron intake may be low.

Those that are vegans have diets that are generally low in calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc, since these diets contain no animal products and red meat and other animal foods are the best sources of these nutrients.

Diets such as fruitarian diets pose the greatest nutritional risk due to their deficiency in many of the essential nutrients.

For infants and young children as well as pregnant or lactating women diets that are strictly vegetarian in nature must be planned very carefully to accommodate periods of rapid growth of the fetus, infants and children.

Dietary Recommendations

The nutritional guidelines for vegetarians provided by the American Dietetic Association are:

• Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and for those with this type of diet, dairy products and eggs

• Whole unrefined foods should be consumed often and the intake of highly sweetened, fatty and heavily refined foods should be minimized

• When choosing fruits and vegetables a variety of both should be consumed

• When choosing dairy products and eggs, lower fat dairy products should be chosen and both dairy products and eggs should be used in moderation

• There should be and intake or regular sources of vitamin B12 and vitamin D

Healthy Vegetarian Recipes

Try these healthy vegetarian recipes

A New Take On Potato Au Gratin
Apple Cider Nut Bread
Chocolate Tofu Pop UP
Confetti Chili
Eggplant Smothered Pasta
Glass Jar Granola
Melon Shake Up
One Dilly Of A Potato
Roasted Veggie Medley and Bean Soup
Simple Pasta with Onion Sauce
Spinach Packed Tomato Bowls
Steamed Wild Rice and Asparagus
Summer Veggie Grilled Sub
Veggie Chowder Supreme
Warm Up All Over Stew

For information about vegetarian diets click on the link to

For other information on nutrition and nutrients some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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Vegetarian Diet Resources

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