Vegetarians need to make sure they get all their essential nutrients

(KOMO file photo)

A plant-based diet – high in fiber and low in saturated fat – has a lot of health benefits. Vegetarians tend to weigh less and have lower cholesterol levels.

"People following a vegetarian diet generally have a lower risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said registered dietitian Amy Reuter, Chief Nutrition Officer at Seattle FoodNut.

Even though they don't eat meat, vegetarians can easily get enough protein. But an all-plant diet can be deficient in some important nutrients.

"The primary one is vitamin B12 because it's only found in animal foods,” Reuter said. “The other nutrients that you need to be careful of and to watch are iron, calcium, Vitamin D and zinc."

Is taking a multivitamin the way to go? That might be helpful. Choosing fortified foods is also good. And be sure to eat a wide variety of leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds.

The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter points out that it's easy to eat an unhealthy vegetarian diet. Lots of junk foods – such as chips, cookies, candy and soda – are vegetarian.

"A vegetarian who eats mostly refined grains, fried foods and sweets, for example, will have a less healthy diet than someone who eats lean meat and dairy in moderation and consumes lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains,” the editors write.

More Info: Vegetarianism the Safe Way

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