Nutrition: Vegetarianism

Go veg the right way.

By Eric Chen, WAC Nutritionist and Wellness Coach

In the last decade, a vegetarian diet has become much more popular because of a combination of environmental and health reasons. We’re seeing many more athletes and celebrities supporting vegetarian eating. On top of that, evidence shows that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

It’s great to see a positive shift toward healthy eating and reducing greenhouse gases from livestock production, but it can be concerning when individuals go vegetarian without enough information.

A poorly planned vegetarian diet can lead to low protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and calcium levels. On the flip side, a well-planned vegetarian diet can be nutrient-dense and low in calories. This can help individuals lose weight, improve lipid panels, decrease risk of heart disease, and slow down the onset of age-related diseases.

If you or any of your family members follow a vegetarian diet, here are a few recommendations to help minimize deficiency. Nutrients to consider include protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D.

  • Beans, nuts, dairy, and eggs are an excellent sources of protein for vegetarians.
  • Dark leafy greens, nuts, legumes, and fortified dairy should be staples in the vegetarian diet.
  • Consuming some citrus, citrus juice, or tomatoes with a meal helps improve your iron absorption.
  • Look for food fortified with calcium and vitamin D such as milk, juices, or milk alternatives.
  • Eggs are a great source of B vitamins and vitamin D.

—Published April 6, 2017

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