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Choosing a healthy vegetarian diet

Updated on January 10, 2017

In most parts of the world today, a healthy vegetarian diet is seen as a fad that should be avoided, as the meals do not offer much of an alternative to people looking for a healthier diet. The reasons to turn vegetarian are diverse and may include concern for animals slaughtered for meat, environmental conservation, personal choice, health, losing weight to culture or even religion.

What do the scientists say

Research has however proved in recent times that with increased risk of lifestyle diseases, there is need for a whole new look at vegetables as the one definite shot that is guaranteed to offer success and reduce the incidence of the said diseases. Statistics indicate that in the USA alone, there are about 10% vegans who strictly avoid foods derived from animals, opting for plant based foods. Another emerging group of vegans are those who are referred to as Lacto vegetarians. These people avoid eating animal product such as fish, meat, poultry and their products. They however make use of dairy products which are used to prepare meals with different plants.

Irrespective of the healthy vegetarian diet plan chosen, it is important to ensure that adequate nutrition is provided. Over reliance on one item in the diet touted to be health can have long lasting and far reaching effects on the well-being and productivity of the body. It ought to be noted that there is much more to a vegetarian diet rather than just avoiding meat in the diet. In as much as there is no one sure way of ensuring the diet recommendations are met, a perfect balance need be formulated to meet all the body’s requirements for the optimum functioning of the body. Different food for longevity is needed to ensure and guarantee of a healthy and long life. The chosen meal plan also needs to be personalized according to the specific characteristics of a person and food intolerance.

Benefits for diabetics

Research according to the American Dietetic Association suggests that a healthy vegetarian diet plan is heavily associated to be related with a healthier population, this especially in relation to Type 2 diabetes. People that eat healthy food for longevity have been shown to have a lower blood cholesterol level, heart problems, lower blood pressure and lower prostate and colon cancer instances.

The main issues that have been shown to contribute to the benefits shown include a low carb vegetarian diet, which has lower saturated fats that have been shown by research to significantly increase the instances of heart problems. It is therefore recommended that a higher increase of fiber, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables as well as phytochemicals in the diet be included. Just what percentages of food groups amount to a healthy diet? Below are the functions of each food groups and the specific needs of a normal human being.

For healthy vegetarian diet, the protein intake needed is approximately 10 – 20% of the total calories consumed. Earlier arguments from some nutritionists argued that there was need to take specific combinations of foods to ensure that all essential amino acids were consumed. This argument has however been dispelled. Eating a wide variety of different protein sources ensures you get the desired nutrients solely from plants.


The total fat intake consumed needs to be not more than 30% of the total calories consumed in the diet. Of the 30%, saturated fats need not exceed 7% of the total calories, ensuring the blood fat levels are low. It is for this reason that low fat dairy products and egg whites are preferred as food for longevity. Plant based fats such as olive oil and avocados ought to be used when planning for a healthy vegetarian diet plan. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to be a good source of health oils that prevent heart disease.


A low carb vegetarian diet is the key to health, with the problem being the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates, thus higher instances of obesity and weight associated ailments. The use of whole grains is suggests over the highly processed carbohydrates, mainly due to the higher fiber content which has higher nutrient contents, is digested slowly and helps in the elimination of cholesterol. Some good sources of carbohydrates include amaranth, millet, whole wheat, whole grain bread, oatmeal, barley, wild rice and low fat yoghourt.

Vitamins and minerals

A balance of well planned minerals and vitamins is also required for overall health. Most of these vitamins needed for proper function of the body cells will be found through the different vegetables used in a healthy vegetarian diet plan. The only exception needed from animal products is vitamin B12. This vitamin occurs naturally in animal products such as milk, poultry eggs and meat. The function of vitamin B12 cannot be understated, especially in the formation of red blood cells. It is thus recommended that use of fortified Vitamin B12 foods be used. Among some good sources include Vitamin B12, breakfast cereals and some vegetarian burgers.

Among some of the most important minerals to focus on when choosing on a healthy vegetarian diet plan include calcium for building strong bones and aiding in muscle contractions. Calcium is present in a wide variety of foods such as dairy products, kale, cabbage nuts, dried fruits, soy products and orange juice.

Iron is also an important mineral in the body. Its main function is in aiding the generation of hemoglobin, a pigment responsible for transport of oxygen from the lungs to the different tissues. The best sources of Iron for a vegetarian are through animal products such as milk and poultry products. Plant sources for strict vegetarians are also available. Among some of the possible foods to use include tomatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, Straw berries and peppers.

Zinc is also an important mineral that ought not to miss when talking choosing a healthy vegetarian diet plan. The main function of zinc in the body is to enhance proper growth and development, boost the immune system as well as assist in development of proper smell and taste senses. Zinc from animal sources is easily absorbed from the body. There are however plant options that can ensure you get to enjoy the recommended levels. Among the best plant sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, whole grains, dried beans, sesame seeds, green peas, dairy products, oysters and lobsters. Choosing the right healthy vegetarian diet ensures you get to enjoy the best health and diet possible.


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    • Davidnjoroge profile image

      David Njoroge 3 years ago from Nairobi

      I couldn't agree with you more Jaye. Having various options for your diet is the best way to stay healthy as a vegetarian.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      The key is to include a broad variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, and a small amount of healthy fats in one's diet and to cook tasty dishes that do not make you feel deprived. No one can stay healthy by consuming a limited number of foods. Eating a healthy plant-based diet is actually very easy. It just takes a bit of practice.

      Voted Up++


    • Davidnjoroge profile image

      David Njoroge 3 years ago from Nairobi

      Thank you for taking the time to read. I will continue posting relevant content. Come back soon :)

    • Beverly Stevens profile image

      Beverly Stevens 3 years ago from College Station

      Great article! The information is very helpful. I've been vegetarian (mostly vegan) for over 27 years and am in very good health, but I agree that we need to be aware of what we put into our mouths for nutritional reasons.