Vegetarian eating patterns include plant-based foods such as grains, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. There are several different types of vegetarianism that fall along a spectrum ranging from standard vegetarianism, which includes eggs and dairy products in addition to plant-based foods, to vegan eating, which excludes all animal foods or animal-derived foods.
Research shows that following a plant-based eating pattern can improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower blood glucose levels; therefore, improving many factors that are related to overall heart health.1 The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states that it is important to include a variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes, in vegetarian and vegan eating patterns to ensure that nutrients found in animal-based foods are included. These nutrients include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B 12.
In some cases, vitamin and mineral supplements may be needed. For instance, because vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal-based foods, consuming fortified foods and/or a B12 vitamin supplement is commonly recommended for those following a vegan eating pattern.
Interested in switching to a vegetarian or vegan eating pattern?
Visit the websites linked below or schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.
Vegetarian Resource Group
EatRight.org – Vegetarian Lifestyle
Vegetarian Diets – American Heart Association
The Vegan RD
Vegetarian Diets – Position Paper – Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
MyPlate Tips for Vegetarians
USDA 10Tips – Healthy Eating for Vegetarians
Vegetarian Diet – Mayo Clinic
1. Cullum-Dugan D, Pawlak R. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 May;115(5):801-10.