Vegetarian Nutrition & Reasons For Choosing A Vegetarian Diet

I find it interesting to see how vegetarianism is becoming increasingly popular in our world today. Many people are recognizing the value of eating a healthy vegetarian diet and reducing the intake of meat. It’s common to think that if we omit meat from our diet that we will run the risk of having nutritional deficiencies; or we may believe that we will always feel hungry and unsatisfied. Well, the truth is—all of the nutrients that our bodies need are easily obtained from a plant-based diet. And in fact research shows that in many ways a plant-based/vegetarian diet is healthier than that of a typical meat-eater. With a proper diet as well as healthy eating habits all of our nutritional needs can be met.
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The American Dietetic Association has said in its Position Statement: (1) Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of essential and non essential amino acids, assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied and that caloric intake is sufficient to meet energy needs. Whole grains (such as wheat, corn, rice, barely, etc.), legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas, and other beans), vegetables (such as the ones we’ve been talking about), seeds (such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds); and nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) they all contain essential and non-essential amino acids.

Nutrients are usually divided into five classes: carbohydrates, proteins, fats (including oil), vitamins and minerals. We also need fiber and water. All are equally important to our well-being, although they are needed in varying quantities, from about 250g of carbohydrate a day to less than two micrograms of vitamin B12. Carbohydrate, fat and protein are usually called macro-nutrients and the vitamins and minerals are usually called micro-nutrients. Most foods contain a mixture of nutrients (there are a few exceptions, like pure salt or sugar) but it is convenient to classify them by the main nutrient they provide. Still, it is worth remembering that everything we eat gives us a whole range of essential nutrients. Meat supplies protein, fat, some B vitamins and minerals (mostly iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorous). Fish, in addition to the above, supplies vitamins A, D, and E, and the mineral iodine. All these nutrients can be easily obtained by vegetarians from other sources, as this Information Sheet shows:

Protein: Women need about 45g of protein a day (more if pregnant, lactating or very active), men need about 55g (more if very active). Evidence suggests that excess protein contributes to degenerative diseases. Vegetarians obtain protein from:

Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, etc.
Seeds: sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, flax, etc.
Pulses/legumes: peas, beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.
Grains/cereals: wheat (in bread, flour, pasta etc), barley, rye, oats, millet, sweet corn, rice, etc.
Soy products: tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, veggie burgers, soya milk
Dairy products: milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. (butter and cream are very poor sources of protein, they are classified as fats).

Amino acids are the units from which proteins are made. There are twenty different amino acids; twelve are made naturally by our bodies. The eight that cannot be made need to be provided through our diet; they are called essential amino acids. All eight essential amino acids can be found in the vegetable kingdom. Whole grains are a great source of protein, but the queen of whole grains when it comes to protein content is quinoa. Unlike many sources of vegetarian protein, quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein”. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber. Side note: Quinoa is not a “true” grain. True grains are grasses whereas quinoa is not a grass; it is a plant with edible seeds. Quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Carbohydrate: Carbohydrate is our main and most important source of energy, and is mostly provided by plant foods. There are three main types: simple sugars, complex carbohydrates or starches and dietary fiber.

The sugars or simple carbohydrates can be found in fruit, milk and ordinary table sugar. Refined sources of sugar are best avoided as they provide energy without any associated fiber, vitamins or minerals and are also the main cause of dental decay. Consuming large quantities of refined sugar may also cause various blood sugar diseases. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, pasta, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat, rye) and some root vegetables, such as potatoes and parsnips. A healthy diet should contain plenty of these starchy foods as a high intake of complex carbohydrate is now known to benefit health. The unrefined carbohydrates, like whole grain bread and brown rice are best of all because they contain essential dietary fiber and B vitamins. The World Health Organization recommends that 50-70% of energy should come from complex carbohydrates. The exact amount of carbohydrate that you need depends upon your appetite and also your level of activity. Contrary to other schools of thought, a slimming diet should not be low in (complex) carbohydrates. In fact, starchy foods are very filling relative to the number of calories that they contain.

Dietary Fiber: Dietary fiber or non-starch polysaccharide (NSP), as it is now termed, refers to the indigestible part of a carbohydrate food. Fiber can be found in unrefined or wholegrain cereals, fruit (fresh and dried) and vegetables. A good intake of dietary fiber can prevent many digestive problems and protect against diseases like colon cancer and diverticular disease.

Fats & Oils: Eating the right amount of the ‘right’ kind of fat is necessary to maintain proper balance; to keep our tissues in good repair, to manufacture hormones, and to act as a carrier for certain vitamins. However, eating the ‘wrong’ type of fat may be detrimental to our health. Like proteins, fats are made of smaller units, called fatty acids. Two of these fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acids, are termed essential as they must be provided through our diet. This can be easily done as they are widely found in plant foods.

Fats can be either saturated or unsaturated (mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated). A high intake of saturated fat can lead to a raised blood cholesterol level and this has been linked to heart disease. Vegetable fats tend to be more unsaturated and this is one of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive oil or peanut oil, are best used for frying as the poly-unsaturated fats, like sunflower or safflower oil are unstable at high temperatures. Animal fats (including butter and cheese) tend to be more saturated than vegetable fats, with the exception of palm oil and coconut oil.

Vitamins: Vitamin is the name for several unrelated nutrients that the body cannot synthesize either at all, or in sufficient quantities. The one thing they have in common is that only small quantities are needed in the diet. The main vegetarian sources are listed below:

Vitamin A (or beta carotene): Red, orange or yellow vegetables like carrots and tomatoes, leafy green vegetables and fruits like apricots and peaches. It is added to most margarines.

B Vitamins: This group of vitamins includes B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalmin), folate, pantothenic acid and biotin.
All the B vitamins except B12 occur in yeasts and whole cereals (especially wheat germ), nuts & seeds, pulses and green vegetables.Vitamin B12 is not present in plant foods, but is present in dairy products. Only very tiny amounts of B12 are needed and vegetarians usually get this from dairy produce. It is sensible for vegans and vegetarians who consume few animal foods to incorporate some B12 fortified foods in their diet. Vitamin B12 is added to yeast extracts, soya milks, veggie burgers and some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C: Fresh fruit, salad vegetables, all leafy green vegetables and potatoes.

Vitamin D: This vitamin is not found in plant foods but humans can make their own when skin is exposed to sunlight. It is also added to most margarines and is present in milk, cheese and butter. These sources are usually adequate for healthy adults. The very young, the very old and anyone confined indoors would be wise to take a vitamin D supplement especially if they consume very few dairy products.

Vitamin E: Vegetable oil, wholegrain cereals.

Vitamin K: Fresh vegetables, cereals and bacterial synthesis in the intestine.
Minerals: Minerals perform a variety of jobs in the body. Details of the some of the most important minerals are listed below:

Calcium: Important for healthy bones and teeth. Found in dairy produce, leafy green vegetables, bread, tap water in hard water areas, nuts and seeds (especially sesame seeds), dried fruits, cheese. Vitamin D helps calcium to be absorbed.

Iron: Needed for red blood cells. Found in leafy green vegetables, whole-meal bread, molasses, eggs, dried fruits (especially apricots and figs), lentils and pulses. Vegetable sources of iron are not as easily absorbed as animal sources, but a good intake of vitamin C will enhance absorption.

Zinc: Plays a major role in many enzyme reactions and the immune system. Found in green vegetables, cheese, sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils and wholegrain cereals.

Iodine: Present in vegetables, but the quantity depends on how rich the soil is in iodine. Dairy products also have plenty of iodine. Sea vegetables are a good source of iodine for vegans.

There are many different reasons for choosing a vegetarian diet. I’d like to share the following information to encourage individuals who are concerned about the environment, health, and undue suffering to consider transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle or at least reducing the consumption of meat products.


Number of people worldwide who will die as a result of malnutrition this year: 20 million.
Number of people who could be adequately fed using land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%: 100 million.
Percentage of corn grown in the U.S. eaten by livestock: 80.
Percentage of oats grown in the U.S. eaten by livestock: 95.
How frequently a child dies as a result of malnutrition: every 2.3 seconds.
Pounds of potatoes that can be grown on an acre: 40,000.
Pounds of beef produced on an acre: 250.
Percentage of U.S. farmland devoted to beef production: 56.
Pounds of grain and soybeans needed to produce a pound of beef: 16.


Primary cause of greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels needed to produce meat-centered diet vs. a meat-free diet: 3 times more.
Percentage of U.S. topsoil lost to date: 75.
Percentage of U.S. topsoil loss directly related to livestock raising: 85.
Number of acres of U.S. forest cleared for cropland to produce meat-centered diet: 260 million.
Area of tropical rainforest consumed in every quarter-pound of rainforest beef: 55 sq. feet.
Current rate of species extinction due to destruction of tropical rainforests for meat grazing and other uses: 1,000 per year.


Increased risk of breast cancer for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week: 3.8 times.
For women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week: 2.8 times.
Increased risk of fatal ovarian cancer for women who eat eggs 3 or more times a week vs. less than once a week: 3 times.
Increased risk of fatal prostate cancer for men who consume meat, cheese, eggs and milk daily vs. sparingly or not at all: 3.6 times.


Most common cause of death in the U.S.: heart attack.
How frequently a heart attack kills in the U.S.: every 45 seconds.
Average U.S. man’s risk of death from heart attack: 50 percent.
Risk of average U.S. man who eats no meat, dairy or eggs: 4 percent.
Amount you reduce risk if you eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from your diet: 90 percent
Average cholesterol level of people eating meat-centered-diet: 210 mg/dl.
Chance of dying from heart disease if you are male and your blood cholesterol level is 210 mg/dl: greater than 50 percent.

Natural Resources

User of more than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S.: livestock production.
Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of wheat: 25.
Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of California beef: 5,000.
Years the world’s known oil reserves would last if every human ate a meat-centered diet: 13.
Years they would last if human beings no longer ate meat: 260.
Calories of fossil fuel expended to get 1 calorie of protein from beef: 78.
To get 1 calorie of protein from soybeans: 2.


Percentage of U.S. antibiotics fed to livestock: 55.
Percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin in 1960: 13.
Percentage resistant in 1988: 91.
Response of European Economic Community to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: ban.
Response of U.S. meat and pharmaceutical industries to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: full and complete support.


Fewer than 1 out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical
Percentage of U.S. mother’s milk containing significant levels of DDT: 99.
Percentage of U.S. vegetarian mother’s milk containing significant levels of DDT: 8.
Contamination of breast milk, due to chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in animal
products, found in meat-eating mothers vs. non-meat eating mothers: 35 times higher.


Number of animals killed for meat per hour in the U.S.: 660,000.
Occupation with the highest turnover rate in U.S.: slaughterhouse worker.
Occupation with the highest rate of on-the-job-injury in U.S.: slaughterhouse worker.

Spiritual Consciousness

Food is the source of the body’s chemistry, and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential pattern. If we want to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then we should
consider not eating meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs.

Karmic Consequences

Major religions around the world such as Buddhism and Hinduism teach that all of our actions including our choice of food have karmic consequences. By involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, even indirectly by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused.

So by minimizing the amount of unnecessary violence that we cause to others, we can help create a more peaceful and harmonious existence—and stop the karmic cycle of pain, abuse, and suffering that continues to go on and on and on……

I have been a vegetarian for 25 years now and my health is great! I have lots of great recipes and ideas for eating great vegetarian cuisine–so if at some point you become interested in making a transition, I’d love to help and share with you all that I have learned…and all the things that I eat to maintain good health.

Change how you eat and change the world!!!

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