Expert Q&A

Protein: Requirements for vegetarians

I'm a vegetarian and I've read a lot of conflicting research about protein. How much do I need? Are there any long term effects if I don't eat animal meat for the next three, five or 10 years?

You're right: There is a lot of conflicting information out there about nutrition; magazines, research papers, and so-called "experts" on TV all say different things. The bottom line is that most people get plenty of protein in their diets without even trying. For vegetarians it may be a little more difficult, but protein is still obtainable if you are diligent. Vegetarians should eat 3 servings per day of non-meat proteins, such as nuts, beans, milk, eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, etc.

The main long-term risk of following a strict vegetarian diet is B12 deficiency. B12 is typically very low in the vegetarian diet, and over time the body can become deficient. This usually takes many years, but it is a dangerous deficiency, as it serves as a vital part of many body chemicals. Non-meat sources of B12 are yogurt, milk, and eggs.

Erin Dummert RD, CD
Contributing Expert

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