A vegetarian diet typically excludes meat from all sources. It is characterized by the inclusion of grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, and oils and may or may not include dairy products or eggs. A strict vegetarian or vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, milk, and cheese. Data document that individuals following a vegetarian dietary pattern typically have lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI). This places them at a lower risk for many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. Individuals following a vegetarian diet tend to be leaner than their omnivore counterparts. This is potentially accomplished by avoiding meat and focusing instead on a low-calorie, high nutrient-density diet. The nutrients with the most positive eﬀects come from plant sources including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, and legumes. The nutrients include dietary ﬁber, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals. It appears that the vegetarian dietary pattern can naturally induce weight loss and also maintain healthy weight status long term.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June 2011; 111(6):816-8 [Thedford K et al.]