For either religious, cultural or health-related reasons many people, athletes and non-athletes alike, avoid or even restrict meat or other
animal products from their diets.
For athletes, it is often the recommendation of a diet rich in carbohydrate that leads
to some form of a vegetarian diet.
For vegetarians, there are many different types of diets to choose from. A vegan, the most strict vegetarian diet, eats no animal products at all. Lactovegetarians add cheese, milk and other
dairy products to an all-vegetable diet. Ovolactovegetarians eat eggs as well as milk products.
A newer group that could be called semi-vegetarian, avoid red meat, such
as pork and beef, but eat poultry and fish in addition to an ovolactovegetarian
Emphasis is often placed on foods that are unrefined, unprocessed
and organic. Obtaining a balanced intake of nutrients has always been the major concern about vegetarian diets. While an ovovegetarian
and lactovegetarian diet might cover all nutritional needs, in a strictly vegetarian diet there could be a shortage
of iodine, calcium, iron, selenium, riboflavin, zinc, vitamin B 12 and vitamin
D. Because of the lack of haem iron from meat sources, a more absorbable kin that improves the absorption from vegetable sources, iron intake may also be low in a lactovegetarian
A higher dietary content of vitamin C can help enhance iron absorption, while large amounts of tea and coffee could reduce the iron availability.
Green vegetables, cereals and some legumes have a relatively
high amount of non-haem iron.
It is important for vegetarians to eat vegetables that possess 'mutual supplementation' of dietary protein, in order to receive a balanced distribution of essential amino acids.
In this nutritional strategy, vegetable foods with low contents of amino acids, like cereals, are eaten with foods high in the same amino acids, like milk or beans.
The following food combinations are recommended to obtain and intake of good quality proteins:
1. Lentils and bread
2. Rice and beans
3. Potatoes with egg or cheese
4. Cereals with milk or egg
5. Rice and milk pudding
6. Pasta with cheese
If a wide variety of foods is included with the right combination of foods, vegetarian diets, excluding the strict or 'pure' diets, can be nutritionally adequate and won't harm one's performance.