Vegetarians have been found to have lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. However, these health benefits only hold true if a person consumes a healthy vegetarian diet including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant based protein sources (beans, tofu, tempeh), and healthy fats.
It is important to be aware that nutrient deficiencies can be a problem for people consuming vegetarian diets. Nutrients of greatest concern include riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Tips to make sure you’re getting enough Calcium: If you do not consume dairy products, you may not be getting enough calcium. Fortified soy and rice beverages are a good source of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include broccoli, soybeans, almonds, tofu, figs, bok choy and kale.
Tips to get make sure you’re getting enough Iron: The iron in plant foods is not as readily available to our bodies as the iron in meat. Iron is found in eggs, dried beans and lentils, whole grains, iron-enriched cereals and pasta, dark green leafy veggies, dried fruit and some nuts and seeds. To help better absorb iron, make sure to include a vitamin C-rich food (such as citrus fruit or juice, tomatoes or tomato juice, broccoli, cauliflower, red or green peppers, melons, berries or kiwi fruit) at each meal.
Boston University’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center offers free nutrition counseling to students, so if you are thinking about becoming vegetarian/vegan or you are already vegetarian/vegan and want to make sure you are getting everything that you need, make an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians.
Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Resources:
Havala, Suzanne. Being Vegetarian for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. Indianapolis, IN, 2001.
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