FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT
is a Vegetarian?
A vegetarian does not eat animal flesh including
meat, poultry and fish or other sea animals.
Why do people become vegetarians?
People become vegetarians for a number of
reasons including concerns about animals, the environment, their health and world hunger.
How do vegetarians get enough protein in
This is not a problem if you eat a varied diet
and are getting enough calories to meet your energy needs. Vegetarian foods highest
in overall proteins include dried beans and peas, soy products of various kinds (tofu,
tempeh, meat analogs) and some nuts. At one time, some nutritionists thought it was
important to eat complementary proteins at the same meal, but more recent studies have
show that this is unnecessary.
What about amino acids? Dont they
only come from animal products?
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are
found in all plants, and this includes the eight essential amino acids humans must obtain
Where do vegetarians get their vitamins
Most vitamins and minerals are found in abundance in plant
Iron can be obtained from leafy greens, dried fruits (such
as apricots, prunes and raisins), broccoli, wheat, peas and beans. Iron absorption
is increased when iron-rich foods are eaten with a source of Vitamin C.
Calcium is abundant in dark leafy greens, broccoli,
almonds, chick peas, soybeans, figs, carob and sea vegetables. The amount of calcium
that is unused or excreted by the body increases dramatically in those people who eat a
diet high in protein, especially dairy products and meat which are also high in
phosphorus. Dairy products, claimed to be good sources of calcium, are actually
calcium inhibitors because of their high protein content. The highest rates of
osteoporosis are found in countries where calcium intake is greatest and most of the
calcium comes from protein-rich dairy products.
Vitamin B12, which is produced by bacteria, is needed in
microscopic amounts and is essential for the nervous system and all cell growth.
Deficiency can lead to spinal cord degeneration and death. Almost every case of B12
deficiency is caused by malabsorption by the individual, not by a deficient diet.
Some foods, such as cereal, are fortified with B12, however B12 tablets (derived from
non-animal sources) are available as a supplement.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone and not a true vitamin.
It is related to calcium metabolism. Deficiency can lead to rickets in
children. Our bodies are designed to obtain vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluable and can be stored in the body, reasonable time spent in
the sunshine during warmer months (as little as 15 minutes per day) should provide enough
to last the winter. Dark-skinned children and those who live in northern latitudes
or in cloudy or smoggy areas should be sure to have reliable dietary sources of Vitamin D.
How come vegetarians seem to eat more and
yet are not overweight?
Some vegetarians do gain weight, but most keep a
stable weight even though they eat a greater volume of food than meat-eaters. This
is because meat and dairy products are calorie dense and most of those calories come from
protein and fat. Vegetable foods contain far fewer calories for the same quantity of food
and those calories come primarily from complex carbohydrates. Dietary fat tends to
be converted into body fat faster than carbohydrates.
Can children be raised safely on a
A vegetarian diet provides more than ample
nutrition for children and may actually help protect them from some illnesses, including
those caused by pesticides and contaminants in foods. Parents should make sure that
children eat enough calories from unrefined whole foods, not junk foods.
Arent people physically designed to
Animals closest to us physiologically are
vegetarian or nearly vegetarian as were our not too distant evolutionary ancestors.
Unlike most species, humans can choose their diet, which is dictated more by tradition and
culture than by physical restrictions. One of the best indications that humans are
best suited to a vegetarian diet is the many health benefits found with plant-based diets
and the many diseases and illnesses linked to eating meat.
Werent animals put here for food?
Animals have their own lives and destinies
separate from human needs. While some people interpret religious teachings to mean
that humans have dominion over animals, many believe having dominion does not mean we have
to kill animals for food. Many religions have vegetarian subdenominations and having
compassion for animals doesnt contradict the teachings of any of the major
Wont a vegetarian diet cost more money?
It is cheaper to eat a balanced vegetarian diet
than a nutritionally-equivalent meat-based diet. As a rule it is cheaper to buy
plant proteins than the equivalent amount of animal protein. The cost of food is not
the only factor to consider. There are a number of hidden costs, including medical
costs for those people suffering from diet-related diseases, lost productivity, and higher
taxes. A portion of every American tax dollar goes to subsidize animal agriculture,
including the costs of water, feed, grazing land and cleaning up the resulting pollution.
Dont people get tired of eating
just lettuce and carrots?
This is a common misconception. Vegetarians
often eat a wider array of foods than many meat-eaters.
Doesnt it take a long time to
prepare vegetarian food?
For some people there may be a period of
adjustment, especially if they are trying unfamiliar foods. But many meals, such as
spaghetti, vegetables and salad take no longer to prepare. Grocery and health food
stores sell vegetarian convenience foods that can cut down on preparation time. For
vegetarian recipes, visit
International Vegetarian Union
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Isnt it hard to shop?
It doesnt have to be. All of the
staples of a vegetarian diet can be found in regular supermarkets. Many vegetarian
products can also be found in the gourmet, specialty, ethnic and health food sections.
Health food stores and co-ops found in most areas, offer vegetarian staples and
convenience foods. Mail-order companies also provide vegetarian foods. Visit NoMeat.com to order meat substitutes.
What about eating out?
Growing consumer demand has prompted many
restaurants and airlines to offer vegetarian entrees. Ethnic restaurants often offer
meatless options. Most restaurants are willing to adjust the ingredients or cook
something that isnt listed on the menu.
Where do I get started?
Begin by assessing your current diet. Look
for meat-free versions of foods you already enjoy, such as chili without meat, or tofu
cutlets instead of chicken. L ook through vegetarian cookbooks or check out the local
health food store for ideas. Some people make the switch gradually; others make the
switch overnight. To get started, you can take the Veg Pledge.
What are some of the changes I can
You may eat more food.
You may lose weight.
You may be less constipated.
You might have more energy.
You might experience withdrawal this should pass
within a few days to a month.
You will feel better knowing that your diet is not
contributing to animal suffering, environmental destruction or world hunger and that you
are also protecting your own health.
*The information contained on this page was provided in
part by the
North American Vegetarian Society.