Eat, Drink & Be Happy

Vegetarian Background

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.”

While all nutrients are important for healthy function, the United States Department of Agriculture and Mayo Clinic suggest that vegetarians pay special focus on including iron, calcium, protein, zinc and vitamin B-12.

  • Protein contributes to growth and maintenance of bones, muscles and organs. Eat nuts, nut butters, beans, soy products, beans, meat substitutes and whole grains. Milk and eggs are also good options for lacto- and lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  • Iron carries oxygen in the blood. Vegetarians should consume spinach, kidney beans, lentils, whole wheat breads, fortified breakfast cereals and dried apricots, prunes and raisins. Additionally, vitamin C—found in foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli—aid in absorption of non-animal sources of iron.
  • Calcium maintains bone and teeth strength. Fortified breakfast cereals, calcium-fortified orange juice, soy products, collard greens and mustard greens are good options for vegetarians. Lacto vegetarians should include milk and other low fat dairy products into their diets.
  • Zinc contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Beans, fortified breakfast cereals, soy products, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ provide zinc. Milk is an additional option for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B-12, which prevents anemia and helps produce red blood cells, is predominately found in animal products, although fortified breakfast cereals may contain it. To get adequate amounts of the vitamin, vegetarians should eat the before mentioned cereal, veggie burgers, soy-based beverages and nuturional yeast. Milk, cheese and eggs are an additional option for lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Consider taking a supplement that contains the vitamin.

People choose to become vegetarian for a number of reasons. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), people choose the lifestyle for reasons that include sympathy for animals and concern over their treatment, health benefits, concern over the impact of animal production on the environment, ecological well being, religious instruction, belief in non-violence and economic limitations. For many people, the choice to become vegetarian is a combination of these concerns.

A 1998 survey of Vegetarian Journal revealed that approximately 82% of readers chose vegetarianism due to health; 75% chose the lifestyle because of the environment, ethics and animals rights; 31% because of flavor; and 26% because of economics.


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