Rich vegetarian diet has all you need
Rich vegetarian diet has all you need

It's official: a vegetarian diet can tick all the nutrition boxes, provided your version of it is not chocolate, chips and soft drink.

A scientific review published in the Medical Journal of Australia last month found a diet rich in legumes, wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds would not lack protein and iron and could meet the nutritional needs of children and adults, including pregnant women.

The bonus is that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and bowel cancer.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, who wrote an accompanying editorial to the review, said she would happily recommend a vegetarian diet.

"Most of the potential dangers of vegetarian diets occur not because people are vegetarian by choice but because they basically haven't got any food," she said.

"We have extrapolated from those people who are very poor and can't afford animal foods ... to think their problems are our problems but they are not."

As with many things, variety was the key and a mix of foods should be consumed over the course of a day.

"An extremist view of a vegetarian diet is just as bad as an extremist view of a meat diet," Dr Stanton said.

"Someone who eats only vegetables will not get enough vitamin B12 and really does need to have a supplement."

Good sources of vitamin B12 are dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, plus eggs and vitamin B12-fortified foods.

Vitamin B12 intake is particularly important in pregnant women and the elderly.

A common - unfounded - worry was whether children and teenagers would get sufficient protein.

"But there's loads of proteins in grains, legumes, seeds and nuts," Dr Stanton said.

"They also worry about iron, yet in Australia there is no more iron deficiency in vegetarians than there is in meat eaters."

Adequate iron can be obtained if nuts, dried fruits, legumes, wholegrains, iron-fortified cereals and green, leafy vegetables are included in the diet.

"I'm rather in favour of a plant-based diet and if somebody wants to add some meat or fish or chicken, I think that is fine a couple of times a week," she said.

"I don't believe small amounts of red meat are a problem but there is heaps of evidence that large amounts of red meat are a problem, especially for bowel cancer."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Change location


- °

Lifestyle Videos

Follow Us

More from The West