Vegetarians exhibit a wide diversity of dietary practices, often described by what is omitted from their diet. When a vegetarian diet is appropriately planned and includes fortified foods, it can be nutritionally adequate for adults and children and can promote health and lower the risk of major chronic diseases. The nutrients of concern in the diet of vegetarians include vitamin B(12), vitamin D, ω-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc. Although a vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients, the use of supplements and fortified foods provides a useful shield against deficiency. A vegetarian diet usually provides a low intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and a high intake of dietary fiber and many health-promoting phytochemicals. This is achieved by an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts, and various soy products. As a result of these factors, vegetarians typically have lower body mass index, serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and blood pressure; reduced rates of death from ischemic heart disease; and decreased incidence of hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers than do nonvegetarians.
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