We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. People following a vegetarian diet do not eat meat or fish but may continue to eat eggs and dairy products. A person does not have to eat meat to get all the nutrients they need for good health. A meat-free diet can lead to better health for several reasons. One reason is that many people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to consume a high proportion of fresh, healthful, plant-based foods, which provide antioxidants and fiber. When a person decides to follow a meat-free diet, they often become more active in making overall healthy choices. Studies show that a vegan or vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer. A non-meat diet may also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity and type 2 diabetes. This article will focus on the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which includes dairy products and eggs. Click here to learn about some other popular diets.
People become vegetarians for many reasons, including health, religious convictions, concerns about animal welfare or the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock, or a desire to eat in a way that avoids excessive use of environmental resources. Some people follow a largely vegetarian diet because they can’t afford to eat meat. Becoming a vegetarian has become more appealing and accessible, thanks to the year-round availability of fresh produce, more vegetarian dining options, and the growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant-based diets. Traditionally, research into vegetarianism focused mainly on potential nutritional deficiencies, but in recent years, the pendulum has swung the other way, and studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating. Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses. According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Unless you follow recommended guidelines on nutrition, fat consumption, and weight control, becoming a vegetarian won’t necessarily be good for you. A diet of soda, cheese pizza, and candy, after all, is technically “vegetarian. It’s also vital to replace saturated and trans fats with good fats, such as those found in nuts, olive oil, and canola oil.
Recently, vegetarian diets have experienced an increase in popularity. A vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated. Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease. However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients of special concern for the vegan include vitamins B and D, calcium, and long-chain n-3 omega-3 fatty acids. Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals.