More than 16 million people are following some form of vegetarian diet. Plant diets are known to have many health benefits including reduced risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers.

To answer any questions about a vegetarian diet, you must first distinguish between being vegan or vegetarian. While vegans avoid eating all kinds of animal products, including dairy and eggs, some vegetarians do eat dairy and eggs.

What is the Definition of Vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is a diet that generally excludes meat, poultry, and fish. It is a diet that is comprised of plants foods, including, fruit, grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and vegetables.

There are different types of vegetarians. Veganism is the strictest form and excludes all foods and by products that come from animals (eggs, honey, dairy), and they do not use any products made from animals, like silk and leather. Some vegetarians choose to include or exclude eggs or dairy from their menu plans. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy while ovo-vegetarians will consume eggs.

Do Vegetarians Use Animal-based Materials?

While vegans will not eat or use any products that are derived from animals, vegetarians typically do not mind making use of such animal products as wool or leather goods. Veganism is more a philosophy than a diet that holds a general reverence for life of any kind.

What is Pescetarianism?

Pescetarianism is a type of vegetarian diet that includes vegetables, whole grains and fruits as well as fish in the menu.

What Type of Foods are Used to Replace Meat in the Vegetarian Diet?

Foods that replace meats may include soy products, like tofu and tempeh. Additionally, some vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds ad many beans are quality protein sources. Each of these plant proteins contain the building blocks of protein, known as amino acids. Amino acids contribute to the repair of cells and muscle growth.

How Much Protein is Contained in Vegetarian Foods? How Does It Compare to Beef?

You will receive a healthful amount of protein in any vegetarian-based protein source.

Protein varies in vegetarian foods, based on the category and the portion size. However, most foods will provide you, on average with 8 to 15 grams of protein. Soy foods provide the highest amount of protein with edamame containing 29 grams (as much as beef) and tempeh offering 21 grams for each 4-ounce serving. Complete sources of protein, or those that contain all nine essential amino acids include quinoa, soybeans, buckwheat and hemp seed.

What Fruits Contain the Highest Amounts of Protein?

While vegetables and legumes contain more protein than fruits, several fruits are a good source of protein for anyone wishing to avoid meat.

  • Dried Apricots – 5% protein per ounce
  • Prunes (4% protein per ounce)
  • Dried Zante Currants (4% protein per ounce)
  • Dried Figs (3% protein)
  • Guava (3% protein)
  • Raisins (3% protein)
  • Dates (2% protein)
  • Avocados (2% protein)
  • Passion fruit (2% protein)

Why Do Vegetarians Limit their Protein Consumption?

High protein intake has been proven unhealthful. A vegetarian diet is naturally low in fat and high in carbohydrates and provides just the right amount of protein in such sources as soy, legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains. Contrary to popular belief, high levels of protein actually contribute to health issues and other diseases.

What Health Problems Result When Protein Intakes Are Too High?

High protein levels in the diet can lead to such health conditions as osteoporosis, cancer, kidney problems, and cardiovascular disease. High protein consumption can also encourage urinary calcium loss. When eaten in beef, a high amount protein can lead to the development of heterocyclic amines, substances that are known to cause cancer over time.

What are the Recommended Servings for Each Food Group in a Vegetarian Diet?

  • 5 to 12 servings of grains
  • 6 to 9 servings of vegetables
  • 0 to 2 servings of cheese, milk and yogurt
  • 0 to 1 serving of eggs
  • 0 to 2 servings of healthy fats and oils
  • 1 to 2 servings of nuts and seeds
  • 3 to 4 servings of fruits
  • 1 to 3 servings of legumes and soy

These servings enable vegetarians to receive all their vital nutrients as well as adequate amounts of protein.