I am not a vegetarian. However, my better half (my wife) is. So I can at least pretend to know how it is to eat as a vegetarian.
Appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
“Appropriately planned” is the operative term.
A diet of soda, cheese pizza, and candy, after all, is technically “vegetarian.” Not healthy though.
Few questions my patients ask me about vegetarian diet:
Can becoming a vegetarian protect you against major diseases?
Maybe. But there still aren’t enough data to say exactly how a vegetarian diet influences long-term health.
What about bone health?
People who follow a vegetarian diet and especially a vegan diet may be at risk of getting insufficient vitamin D and vitamin K, both needed for bone health.
Certain vegetables can supply calcium, including bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, and kale. Although green leafy vegetables contain some vitamin K, vegans may also need to rely on fortified foods, including some types of soy milk, rice milk, organic orange juice, and breakfast cereals. I suggest taking Vitamin D supplement.
What about the health risks of being vegetarian?
Protein: generally adequate daily intake– There are many plant sources that can help vegans meet their protein needs, including peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, soy products, and whole grains (for example, wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice).
Vitamin B12: Deficient– Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products and deficiency can cause neurological problems as well as Pernicious Anemia. You should eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 (certain soy and rice beverages and breakfast cereals) or take a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid a deficiency
Iron: Deficiency possible. Vegetarians get the same amount as meat-eaters. However, Iron in meat is more readily absorbed.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Deficient if you take no fish or eggs due to low in EPA and DHA. Suggest you take DHA-fortified breakfast bars and soy milk. Our bodies can convert ALA in plant foods to EPA and DHA. Good ALA sources include flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and soy.
Becoming a vegetarian requires planning and knowledge of plant-based nutrition. Here are some resources that can help: