A study of almost 72,000 people and their diets has brought very reassuring results. It examined the nutrient intake of people who belonged to one of these groups: non-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian and strict vegetarian (people who don’t eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy products at all or less than once per month). Average protein and vitamin B12 intake was similar in all groups. It’s interesting that strict vegetarians had a slightly higher intake of iron than meat-eaters and their calcium intake was at the recommended daily dose – these results are uprooting many myths about vegetarians and vegans. Compared to the other groups, strict vegetarians had a higher intake of fibre and vitamins and minerals found mostly in plant-based foods and their diet was lower in fat. They were also the only group within normal BMI range whilst all the other diet groups were in the overweight range. This is of particular interest given that total energy intakes were similar for all groups, because it demonstrates that what we eat is more important than how many calories we consume in a day.
Rizzo, N.S., 2013. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 113(12) 1610-1619.