Eating a diet that excludes meat and fish, and sometimes all other animal products. Humans do not need to eat meat or animal products to maintain health as long as the nutrients supplied by plant foods provide a balanced diet (see nutrition). However, people who exclude all animal products (vegans) need to plan their diet carefully or take supplements to avoid vitamin B12 or calcium deficiency. Vegetarian diets are relatively rich in fibre, which may help protect against diverticular disease and cancer of the intestine (see colon, cancer of; rectum, cancer of). Vegetarian diets are low in fats, especially saturated fats (which may contribute to coronary artery disease and possibly some forms of cancer). These diets are also likely to contain less sodium and more potassium, and vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than people who eat meat.


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