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Taking a daily vitamin mineral supplement that provides complete amounts of the above nutrients is another way to ensure adequate nutrition. And getting plenty of sunshine is one way to satisfy the body's requirement for vitamin D.

If you adopt a vegan diet, you also need to understand the concept of complementary proteins. Animal protein is complete, meaning it contains all the amino acids essential to a healthy diet. Plant foods contain plenty of protein, but their amino acids are incomplete. So to make sure you're getting complete protein, eat different plant foods in combination -- for example, by having beans along with your rice. Vegans need to pay close attention to their diets to make sure they are nutritionally adequate.

The plan outlined in the Dean Ornish, MD, lifestyle diet book, Eat More, Weigh Less, is a vegetarian diet designed to help you reverse heart disease and lose weight. Ornish has published several scientific studies to document the effectiveness of his diet, which is high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables and very low in fat. This low-fat, vegetarian approach can be difficult to adhere to for a long periods of time. But if you can stick with it, the benefits are outstanding.

"A vegetarian diet may be just as effective as statin drugs in lowering bloodcholesterol."

Why Be a Vegetarian?

Most people who convert to vegetarianism now do so for health reasons. Others are vegetarians because of religious, moral, environmental, and/or ethical motivations.

Vegetarian lifestyles are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, many types of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Not only do most vegetarians eat more healthfully than meat eaters, they tend to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco and to exercise regularly. Clearly, a lifestyle that includes these good habits is one that will help you control your weight.

A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated the effectiveness of a vegetarian diet in lowering bloodcholesterol levels. This diet was low in fat and included soy, nuts, margarines containing plant sterols (such as Benecol), high-fiber grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

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