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Can vegetarian eating supply your body with enough nutrients?

The answer is yes. Both vegetarian and nonvegetarian eating styles can be healthful. The bottom line depends on your food choices over time. Studies show a positive link between vegetarian eating and health.

In general, heart disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer tend to develop less often among vegetarians than nonvegetarians.

In a joint statement, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada say:

It is the position of the ADA and DC that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

The statement reaffirms and updates ADA’s position on vegetarian diets. It details the most current science regarding key nutrients and how to obtain them through a vegetarian diet. Numerous health benefits are also cited such as lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

“Vegetarians have been reported to have healthier body weight than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels and lower rates of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and prostate and colon cancer,” says registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Cynthia Sass. 
 
“Planning a healthy vegetarian diet doesn’t need to be complicated, but steps should be taken to ensure the diet is nutrient-dense,” Sass says. “Just as with a meat-based diet, the key to ensuring the body meets all its nutritional needs is to choose a wide variety of foods.”

What is a Vegetarian?

Vegetarian. Eats grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Eats both dairy products and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

Lacto-vegetarian. Eats dairy products but not eggs.

Vegan. Does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other animal product. 

source: American Dietetic Association

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