The term "vegetarian" refers to diets that differ based on the types and amounts -- if any -- of animal-based foods that a person eats.
There are no animal products included in a vegan diet. The pollo-vegetarian includes chicken, and the semi-vegetarian diet includes occasional servings of meat.
All vegetarian diets emphasize plant-based foods. These foods are associated with lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, decreased weight, less heart disease and lower risk of some cancers.
The clinic recommends that anyone who's considering a vegetarian diet get information from a doctor or dietitian first.
It adds that people eating vegetarian diets need to:
- Include enough protein: Good sources include lentils, beans, soy, nuts, nut butters, whole-grain breads and cereals. It was once believed that vegetarians had to eat certain foods in combination to get enough protein. But research has shown that's not the case.
- Include enough iron: You can get it from beans, peas, whole-grain breads, spinach, raisins, apricots, peaches, nuts and seeds.
- Beware of fat: You can load up on too much fat and too many calories if your vegetarian diet include french fries, ice cream, whole milk, cheese and lots of nuts.
Here's where you can learn more about vegetarianism.