Question: How do the vegetarian diets differ from the typical American diet in terms of nutrient content?
The typical American diet is high in protein and sugars and fairly high in saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, total fat, and total calories. Meat consumption is relatively high. Fruit and vegetable intake is less than optimal, at approximately 2-3 servings daily. The diet is low in fiber and relatively low in omega-3 fatty acids. American dietary habits result in low-to marginal intakes in some population groups for calcium, vitamin D, folate, B6, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron. The groups most commonly lacking adequate nutrient intake include infants, teenage, girls, women, and the elderly.
Removing meat from the diet not only decreases protein but also fat, calories, and iron. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in protein, saturated fat cholesterol, and total calories and higher in omega-6 fatty acids and dietary fiber than the typical Western diet. Total calories, total fat, and micronutrient intakes of vegetarians may vary greatly according to the individual’s dietary practices. Vegan diets tend to be lower in total fat and calories than lacto-ovo diets but must also be more carefully selected than more permissive types of vegetarian diets to meet micronutrient needs. Fruit and vegetable intake is greater in all types of vegetarian diets than in standard diets.