The vegetarian diet does appear to be better for our health when compared with the typical omnivore (meat and plant eater) as it typically contains less saturated fat and greater amounts of nutritious foods such as whole grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. It's these dietary components that research shows may provide better protection against chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes and certain cancers.
Whilst there are many benefits to adopting a vegetarian way of eating, it's important that you plan your diet carefully as avoiding meat (and dairy products) may result in an imbalance of key nutrients if the right foods are not substituted.
If you are following a meat free diet it is also important to complement your proteins by combining foods such as legumes, bean, pulses and soy to get all of the essential amino acids required to help with the growth and repair of the body’s cells and tissues.
Vitamin B12, iron and zinc may be lacking in a meat-free diet if it is not properly balanced and varied as these nutrients are typically found in foods of animal origin. Whilst heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids(essential fatty acids that must be obtained from the diet) are primarily obtained from oily fish (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahxanaeoic acid (DHA)) they can also be gleaned from non-meat foods such as chia and flax seed oils, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. The omega 3 fatty acid found in these foods is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) some of which is converted into EPA and DHA in the body (although this process is not very efficient)