A Vegetarian-Style Dietary Pattern Is Associated with Lower Energy, Saturated Fat, and Sodium Intakes; and Higher Whole Grains, Legumes, Nuts, and Soy Intakes by Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2013-2016


Shanthy A Bowman

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Consumer demand for plant-based foods is increasing though the reasons may vary. Plant foods are sole sources of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and flavonoids and good sources of vitamin B1, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. They are low in saturated fat, and do not contain cholesterol and vitamin B12. Plant foods are associated with better body weight and healthy blood lipid profile. This cross-sectional study used nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013-2016 data and compared nutrient and food pattern food group intakes of adults eating a vegetarian-style diet with adults eating a nonvegetarian diet. Adults 20+ years (N = 10,064) were grouped using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 definition of vegetarian-style diet, which is modelled as lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. Trained dietary interviewers collected self-reported dietary intake data using a 24-h recall and an automated multi-pass method. Means were compared using linear contrasts (p < 0.01). On average, the vegetarians ate an estimated 419 fewer kilocalories, 7 g less saturated fat, and 1274 mg less sodium. The vegetarian-style diet was higher in micronutrient density, except for vitamin B12 and zinc. The vegetarians ate more whole grains, legumes, nuts, and soy products. Fruit, vegetables, and dairy intakes were similar for both groups. A vegetarian-style diet may be advocated to control energy, saturated fat, and sodium intakes.