Considering a vegetarian diet?

Vegetarianism, the what and the why.

A vegetarian diet is one that is described as having the absence of meat. There are different types of vegetarian diets: the Lacto-ovo vegetarian, which includes animal bi-products, like dairy (eggs, milk, yogurt, etc.) and honey, etc., and the vegan, which in addition to abstaining from meat also excludes all animal bi-products. There are about 12.4 million Americans who are vegetarians.    

A common thought is what is missing from the vegetarian diet and how can this type of diet affect ones overall health? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) (formerly the American Dietetic Association) refers to key nutrients which are important to take into consideration when looking at the vegetarian diet. Those nutrients include protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. They go on to say that if a vegetarian diet is appropriately planned, it can be healthy, nutritionally adequate and provide some health benefits. It could be that these health benefits are what motivate the interest of a vegetarian diet. According to the AND, the vegetarian diet is associated with the decrease risk of heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer. With this laundry list of potential benefits, a vegetarian diet might be worth exploring further. If you are aware of these chronic diseases in your family history, taking a closer look at a vegetarian diet and other more traditional healthy diets makes good sense.

To get more helpful information about the vegetarian diet, take a look at the government website HealthFinder.gov under the topic Tips for Vegetarians. The website has recommendations for vegetarians and for other healthy eating options as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Remember the key is to eat a variety of food. According to experts a vegetarian diet can meet all the nutrient needs but advise that vegetarians consider their nutrient needs based on age, sex and activity level.

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