Healthy Benefits of Vegetables

Research shows that vegetarians may have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. However, vegetarian diets are not automatically healthy.

Styles of Vegetarianism

There are many different styles of vegetarianism, including:
Vegans: people who do not eat any animal products at all, including eggs and dairy products. It’s best to consult a nutritionist before allowing your child to become a vegan.
Lactovegetarians: people who eat only plant foods, cheese, and other dairy products.
Ovo-lactovegetarians: people who eat milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs.
Semi-vegetarians: people who don’t eat red meat but do eat chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
Vegetarians need to pay special attention to their daily intake of the important nutrients they need to grow and develop. These include:
Protein: While animal products are good sources of protein, there are many other ways to get enough protein, including from whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and soy.
Iron: Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency. Dried beans, spinach, enriched products, and dried fruits are all plant sources of iron.
Vitamin B-12: This vitamin is found naturally only from animal sources but it can also be found in some fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and soy beverages as well as in vitamin supplements.
Vitamin D: Vegetarians who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.
Calcium: Studies show that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli and some legumes and soybean products are good plant sources of calcium.
Zinc: Zinc is needed for growth and development. Good plant sources include grains, nuts, and legumes. Shellfish are another good source of zinc. If you use supplements, they should contain no more 15 to 18 mg of zinc.
NOTE: If your child is considering becoming a vegetarian, make sure he/she understands basic nutrition information and knows what nutrients she will need to consume every day. It is also a good idea to encourage your child to learn how to cook.
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