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Understanding Vegetarianism

Plant-Based Nutrition

Eating a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet can be a healthy, exciting alternative to traditional meat-based meal planning. Obtaining proper nutrients from non-animal sources is simple for the modern herbivore. There is a wide variety of vegetarian/vegan-friendly meat/dairy/egg replacements currently on the market. Recipes are abundant on the Internet as well as in a variety of vegetarian cookbooks.

Benefits of a plant-based diet

There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health.

Vegetarians can be classified into 3 groups:

  • Vegans: exclude all animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey.
  • Lacto-vegetarians: exclude meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but do include dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: exclude meat, poultry, and fish but do include eggs and dairy products. Most vegetarians in America fall into this category.

How many Americans are vegetarian?

A 2008 study published in Vegetarian Times entitled “Vegetarianism in America” shows that 3.2% of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian diet. Approximately 0.5%, or 1 million, of those are vegans. In addition, 10% of adults in America, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.

Does a vegetarian diet provide all the necessary nutrients?

If a vegetarian diet is well-planned and balanced, it can be just as nutritious, if not more beneficial to health, than a traditional diet. Obtaining the nutrients listed below from plant, rather than animal foods, eliminates much of the saturated fat and cholesterol found in a meat-based diet.

Recommended Readings

  • Food for Life and Program for Reversing Diabetes, Neal Barnard, MD
  • Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD
  • Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Dean Ornish, MD
  • The China Study, T. Colin Campbell PhD and Thomas M. Campbell III

Informative Websites

Reference

Craig, WJ., Mangels, AR. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. July 2009, vol.109, no. 7.

More Information

Center for Human Nutrition
Digestive Disease Institute
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Cleveland, OH 44195
Appointments: 216.444.3046 (Main Campus) or toll-free 1.800.223.2273, ext. 43046.

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This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

Reviewed: 12/13

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