Vegetarians: Myths vs. Facts

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Vegetarians are often seriously misunderstood. It's time to debunk some of the most common vegetarian myths!

Myth: Vegetarians don't get enough protein

Fact: It's actually pretty easy for vegetarians to meet their needs for protein, even if they choose not to eat eggs and dairy products. Thanks to plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, lentils and what's found in whole-grains breads and cereals, getting enough protein can be deliciously simple.

Myth: All vegetarians eat the same foods

Fact: Many folks who follow a vegetarian diet still choose to incorporate dairy and eggs (or even fish or chicken) into their meal routine. There's really no right or wrong when it comes to these choices, and whichever foods they do choose to eat will expose them to important vitamins and minerals. For example, calcium can be found in dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese, but it's also in tofu, leafy greens and calcium-fortified orange juice. (Learn more about the types of vegetarian diets.)

Myth: Vegetarian diets are always low in fat

Fact: A well-rounded vegetarian diet includes healthy fats from foods like olive oil, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. But less than healthy foods like french fries and doughnuts fall into the vegetarian category as well. So even vegetarians needs to watch which fats they take in.

Myth: Meat substitutes are better for you than the real thing

Fact: From bacon to ground meat to hot dogs, there's a veggie imposter for just about every type of meat. While these options may lack animal protein and be low in cholesterol, they're often made from highly processed ingredients and contain large amounts of sodium and fat (that doesn’t sound so healthy, now does it?).

Myth: Vegetarians are iron-deficient

Fact: It's possible for both vegetarians and meat-eaters to become iron-deficient, but there are plenty of ways to get iron from plant-based foods like beans, tofu and spinach. Eating these plant foods along with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance iron absorption. (Learn more about getting enough iron in your daily diet.)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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