Depending on the restrictions, a vegetarian diet typically excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
A vegetarian diet, which is a healthy alternative to a meat-based diet, is focused mainly on getting nutrition from plant-based food. Based on the restrictions, a vegetarian diet can come in the following forms:
- Vegan diet: This type of diet excludes all types of animal products, such as:
- Dairy products
- Fish and other seafood
- Lacto-vegetarian diet: In this diet, dairy products and honey are included, but other animal products are not allowed, which include:
- Fish and other seafood
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Most Americans follow this type of diet, which includes eating eggs, dairy and honey. However, it excludes other animal products, such as:
- Fish and seafood
- Pescatarian diet: This diet allows fish but excludes other foods, such as:
- Ovo-vegetarian diet: This diet allows eggs but excludes foods, such as:
- Seafood and fish
What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet?
- A healthy weight. Studies conducted on weight loss found that people on a vegetarian diet lost more weight compared to those who were on a meat-based diet.
- Lowered risk of heart disease. Saturated fats cause an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. A vegetarian diet may help lower LDL cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the risk of heart diseases, and maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Decrease in the overall rate of cancer. A vegetarian diet has a high content of fibers, phytochemicals and isoflavones that may have anticancer effects.
- Reduced risk of type II diabetes. Vegetarians are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). Additionally, high fiber in a vegetarian diet helps improve insulin sensitivity.
How do you get proper nutrition while on a vegetarian diet?
A diet that is rich in saturated fats and low in unsaturated fats can increase cholesterol, blood sugar levels and weight. However, while following a vegetarian diet, people should make sure they get all the nutrients that they would otherwise lose out on by restricting their diet.
Pay attention to your intake of foods that contain nutrients, including:
- Protein. Proteins can be obtained from pulses, milk, beans (black beans or chickpeas), cheese and soy products, such as tofu.
- Calcium. If on a vegan diet (that excludes dairy), you may be lacking in your daily intake of calcium. Such a diet should include calcium-rich foods, including:
- Dark leafy greens, such as bok choy, spinach, kale and broccoli
- Cereals and juices or soy yogurts that have been fortified with calcium
- Iron. Eat iron-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, soybeans, lentils, whole grains and blackstrap molasses.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron by six times, includes sources of foods such as:
- Citrus fruits (kiwi, strawberry, orange, grapefruit)
Does a vegetarian diet have any disadvantages?
Vegetarian and vegan diets do not have significant disadvantages. However, the diets that do not include dairy products and eggs may lack certain vitamins, including:
- Vitamin B12. Vegans need to get the required amount of vitamin B12 from:
- Vitamin B12-fortified cereals and soy milk and yogurts
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified tofu
- Vitamin B12 supplements
- Vitamin D. Typically added to milk, a vegan can get their vitamin D from:
Medically Reviewed on 9/15/2021
Mayo Clinic. Vegetarian Diet: How to Get the Best Nutrition. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/vegetarian-diet/art-20046446