Vegetarian Diet Nutrition
According to the American Dietetic Association's
position paper on vegetarian eating, properly balanced vegetarian diets
are healthy, nutritionally adequate, and offer significant health benefits
in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
Balanced, Varied Diet is Key to Healthy
Meat contains 'complete' protein, fat,
some B-complex vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorous. Fish also
provides vitamins A, D, and E, and iodine. Thus meat/fish is a useful
one-stop source of nutrients and good nutrition.
Plant foods are less nutrient-dense than
meat, which is why you need to eat a balanced variety of them to get your
full nutritional requirements.
General Nutritional Advice for Vegetarians
- Eat a variety of foods, including whole
grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds.
- Minimize intake of highly sweetened,
fatty, and heavily refined foods.
- Vegans should include a regular source
of vitamin B-12 in their diets along with a fortified source of vitamin
D if sun exposure is limited.
- Solely breast-fed infants should have
supplements of iron after the age of 4 to 6 months and, if sun exposure
is limited, a fortified source of vitamin D.
- Breast-fed vegan infants should have
vitamin B-12 supplements if the mother's diet is not fortified.
- Dietary fat should not be restricted
in children younger than 2 years. For older children, include some foods
higher in unsaturated fats (eg, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, avocado,
and vegetable oils) to help meet nutrient and energy needs.
- Plant sources of protein alone are adequate
if a variety of plant foods are consumed and energy needs are met. Research
suggests that complementary ('combined') proteins do not need to be
consumed at the same time and that consumption of various sources of
amino acids over the course of the day should ensure adequate nitrogen
retention and use in healthy persons.
- Calcium is well absorbed from many plant
foods, and vegan diets can provide adequate calcium if the diet regularly
includes foods rich in calcium.
Related Topics on Vegetarian Nutrition
- American Dietetic Association, Vegetarian Diets - Position of ADA J
Am Diet Assoc. 1997;97:1317-1321.
- Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant Proteins in Relation to Human Protein and
Amino Acid Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994; 59 (suppl 5):1203S-1212S.
- Weaver CM, Plawecki KL. Dietary calcium: Adequacy of Vegetarian Diet.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59(suppl): 1238S-1241S.