What are the advantages and disadvantages of a vegetarian diet? Where do vegetarians get their protein? Learn about the vegetarian diet and how to increase protein intake as a vegetarian.
A vegetarian diet usually refers to the exclusion of animal meat, and in some cases, eggs and dairy products as well. The main types of vegetarian diets are:
Well-designed vegetarian diets can be healthier as they are lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and higher in complex carbohydrates and fibre than the usual diet. As a result, the vegetarian population usually shows lower rates of coronary heart diseases. However, in order to maintain adequate nutrition and avoid nutritional deficiencies, vegetarians, especially vegans, should select their diets carefully. Poorly planned vegetarian diets can lead to iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, as well as insufficient calories and protein.
Compared to animal protein, plant protein is less easily utilised by the body as it does not contain all the essential amino acids that would make it usable.
To overcome this problem, choose two or more plant groups at each meal. By combining them, you would be able to get all the amino acids that you would need.
All vegetarians should include a wide variety of plant foods in their diets and meal plans. Reliance on one plant food source can create a great nutrient deficiency risk. Most vitamins and minerals are sufficient when the diet consists of:
Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells and a deficiency can result in anaemia.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as liver, meat, fish and poultry. Plant foods do not have this vitamin, but eggs and milk are good sources and should be included in the diet if appropriate. A vegan should consume fortified products or take vitamin B12 supplements to prevent risk of Vit B12 deficiency.
Here are some ways to achieve a balanced diet:
When planning your diet, try to include a variety of foods from each of the food groups below for healthy eating (amounts shown = 1 serving):
Dairy Products 2 servings daily
Grains & Cereals 5 servings daily (wholegrain products preferred)
Milk Cheese Yogurt
1 cup 1 slice 1/2 cup
Bread Rice Cereal Noodles Beehoon
1 cup 1/2 cup 5 tbsp 1/2 cup 1/2 cup
Legumes, Nuts & Seeds 2 servings daily 4 servings for vegans (ovo-vegetarians - add 2 eggs)
2 servings of fruits + 4 servings of vegetables (1 serving of dark green variety) daily
Beans Nuts (any kind) Seeds (any kind) Beancurd Soy Milk (fortified)
7 tbsp 2 tbsp 2 tbsp 2 tbsp 2 tbsp
Broccoli Orange Spinach Grapefruit Tomato Cantaloupe Carrot Banana
1/2 cup 1 small 1/2 cup 1/2 small 1 medium 1 medium 1/2 cup 1 small
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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