Diets: Facts and Fiction
our meat and potatoes or hamburger and fries American diet, there is often
concerned about the health of those who eat mostly plant-based foods. The
following will help separate the fiction from the facts.
Myth 1: All
plant-based diets are about the same.
FACT: No. Vegetarians who eat milk or eggs are called "lacto-ovo-vegetarians".
Those who eat no animal products are called "vegans", or strict or total
vegetarians. There are many variations of these two main types of
When someone declares
himself/herself a "vegetarian" it is best to ask the person exactly which
foods are eaten and which are avoided. Most likely, the person is a
There are very
FACT: Recently it is estimated that about 10% of the USA is
vegetarian. Restaurants report that about 27% of the customers want a
vegetarian option when they order.
A diet without
meat is nutritionally deficient.
FACT: All vegetarian diets can provide all the essential
nutrients to a person choosing from an abundant food supply. However, as
a diet becomes more restrictive, it may be more difficult to get all the
necessary nutrients. Following the guidelines outlined in the Vegetarian
Food Pyramid provides most nutrients in adequate supply. Remember that the
adequacy of any diet depends on the variety and the amount of foods that
are included. Consult a registered dietitian for accurate diet
The nutrients of
greatest concern in the vegan or macrobiotic-type diets are vitamin B12,
vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Nutrient needs are greatest
during periods of growth.
One can't possibly get enough
protein without meat and/or milk and eggs.
FACT: It is difficult not to get enough protein if one eats sufficient
amounts and variety of food to maintain a healthful body weight. All
foods, except sugar and oil, contain some protein. Plant-based diets get
protein from legumes (dried peas and beans), seeds, nuts, whole grains,
and for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian, also from milk and eggs.
Myth 5: Certain
combinations of foods have to be eaten at the same meal to get the right
amino acids (the building blocks of protein).
FACT: There is no
need to combine foods at meals to get right proteins in the diet. If one follows the
recommended amounts and number of servings of the Vegetarian Food Pyramid,
one will be getting adequate amounts of the protein..
All vegetarian diets are low in
FACT: Vegetarian diets may or may not be low in fat. It all depends
upon the choices one makes. Some high fat foods commonly used by
vegetarians are avocadoes, olives and olive oil, nuts, nut and soy based
milk type beverages and seeds. These fats are moderate to low in
saturated fats. They can also choose cheese, egg yolks and cream which
are foods high in saturated fat.
Vegetarian diets are dull and
FACT: A diet can become boring when one eats the same foods every
day. With the abundance of foods to choose from and the variety of ways
to prepare them, a diet without meat need not be either dull or boring.
Vegetarian diets can cure cancer
and heart disease.
FACT: Because most lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are nutritionally sound,
higher in fiber, lower in cholesterol and contain more fruits and
vegetables, this diet pattern can reduce a person's risk of many cancers
and certain types of heart disease. However, even vegetarians must follow
all the precautions physicians prescribe for decreasing the risk of these