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Healthy Balanced Vegetarian Diet

A Balanced Vegetarian Diet

A low-fat vegetarian diet can be good for your heart, but make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need.

While nutrition experts recognize that a well-balanced vegetarian diet can have health benefits, the Institute of Medicine, composed of U.S. doctors elected to the prestigious group, reports that people who don’t eat any meat products may have to make certain adjustments to ensure they’re getting enough nutrients.

That’s because nutrition from plant sources isn’t as easily absorbed by the body. You may need to eat more of some foods to get the same amount of nutrition as you’d get from meat or dairy products. Vitamin A is one of these nutrients.

The Institute of Medicine doctors say strict vegetarians should eat more dark orange or dark green vegetables to get an adequate intake of vitamin A. Good sources include carrots, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Vitamin A deficiency may lead to vision problems or birth defects.

Iron is another nutrient that’s found in vegetables, but in a form that’s not as easily absorbed by the body as that found in meat products. It takes twice the amount of iron from vegetables and grains to equal the amount from meat. Pregnant vegetarians may need to take iron supplements to prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say a visit with a dietitian might be a good idea to help you plan a vegetarian diet that gives you all the nutrients you need.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

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