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Vegetarian? With a little planning, it’s
easier than ever
Newswise — There’s more to being a
vegetarian than cutting meat from the menu.
The February issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s
HealthSource offers suggestions for a
well-balanced vegetarian diet -- and some
reasons why it’s worth considering.
The vegetarian menu emphasizes the food that
U.S. dietary guidelines say all Americans
should eat regularly -- fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, beans and other legumes.
Vegetarian diets often are lower in calories
than the typical American diet.
So it’s no surprise that on average,
vegetarians are thinner than their
And eating a mainly
plant-based diet can reduce the risk of
heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2
diabetes and certain types of cancer.
The increasing variety of meat-free options
makes the transition to vegetarian easier
than ever before. With a little planning, a
vegetarian diet can meet all nutritional
needs. Important nutrients to include are:
Protein: Eggs, dairy products, soy products,
legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole
grains fill this important role. Meatless
products such as tofu dogs, soy burgers and
texturized vegetable protein can be
excellent sources of protein.
Many meat substitutes, such as tofu and
tempeh, are made from soybeans. Soy offers a
balance of all essential amino acids, just
as meat does. These meat substitutes often
are lower in calories and saturated fat than
Calcium: Low-fat dairy and dark green
vegetables such as collard greens, kale and
broccoli are good sources of calcium. Tofu
enriched with calcium and fortified yogurt
and juices also are options.
Vitamin B-12: This is found almost
exclusively in animal products including
milk, eggs and cheese. Vegans -- those who
eat only plant-based foods -- can get B-12
from enriched cereals, fortified soy
products or by taking a supplement.
Iron: Dried beans and peas, lentils,
enriched cereals, whole-grain products,
baked potatoes with skin, dark leafy
vegetables and dried fruit are good sources
of iron. Eating foods high in vitamin C
(strawberries, citrus fruits) along with
iron-rich foods can help increase iron
Zinc: Zinc is found in whole grains, soy
products, legumes, nuts, wheat germ,
mushrooms and peas. It’s also found in dairy
foods and eggs.
Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource is
published monthly to help women enjoy
healthier, more productive lives. Revenue
from subscriptions is used to support
medical research at Mayo Clinic. To
subscribe, please call 800-876-8633,
extension 9751, or visit