How do you get enough protein if you don’t eat meat? It sounds hard at first but there are plenty of great vegetarian proteins that taste amazing and don't require you to eat a bucket full to get the nutrition you need to stay strong.
There are many alternatives to meat that have similar amounts of protein and we've put together a list of the 49 best vegetarian proteins that are as good as meat.
All the vegetarian options we have listed have at least 10g of protein per 100g when raw, putting them right up there with a meat lover’s favorites.i
13 of them have as much as or more protein than chicken.
How much protein is there in meat anyway? Here are some popular choices:
Type of Meat
Protein Content (per 100g raw)
Skinless and boneless chicken breast
Lean lamb loin chop
Single, large hamburger patty
Sliced turkey breast
Bologna (chicken, pork)
Source: Nutrient data provided by USDA SR-28.i
There are plenty of reasons to eat more meat-free meals:
They’re on average cheaper.
You'll be helping to save the planet with each bite.
The health benefits which include a happier and longer life.
You probably know and love a few of the ones on our list already.
For each vegetarian protein we've included three delicious recipes so you can try any of them out today.
With so many tasty vegetarian options now you have plenty of variety to chose from, enjoy!
Maybe you’ve decided to go meatless from time to time. Maybe you've adopted a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, either way you need to keep nutrition on the front burner.
Protein is an extremely important building block in your body. Proteins are needed to repair your body, fight off disease, and keep energy levels high so you can stay alert all day. Making sure you’re eating enough protein is extremely important for your body to function properly.
While it may seem difficult at first to get your full daily dose of protein with vegetarian foods (on average 46g for women, 56g for men), adding a few of these high-protein vegetarian options into your diet can help you stay strong and feel healthier.ii
Many of these foods are higher in protein per ounce than animal sources and include fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
A vegetarian or vegan diet by definition isn't lacking in protein. The truth is, nutrition experts and registered dietitians believe that plant-based diets contain such a wide variety of amino acid profiles that going vegan or vegetarian virtually guarantees you to get all the protein you need with very little effort.
Getting started won't cost you anything more than a visit to your favorite grocery store. On average you'll end up saving by going vegetarian.iii
Average Dollar Savings per Year
Going meatless will cut your grocery bill by $746.46 per year.iii
Average CO2 Savings per Year
If you ate vegetarian one day a week you would cut your carbon footprint by 387 lbs of CO2 and if you did it all year long you would cut 2714 lbs of CO2 when compared to the standard daily diet.iv
Happier and Longer Life: A vegetarian diet improves your mood as well as lowers your risk of death, protecting you from obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.v,vi,vii,viii,ix,x,xi,xii,xiii
You want to stay healthy and strong, so here is a list of the 49 vegetarian proteins that are as good as meat.
Try a couple new dishes, save some money, help the environment and stay healthy while you do it!
Soybeans are a source of eight of the essential amino acids, making it one of the best sources of plant-based protein. Soy is higher in fat than other legumes, however it’s mainly good fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids). Substituting saturated fat sources with unsaturated fats may help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease. Soybeans are also a good source of calcium (healthy bones + teeth), iron (prevents anemia) and magnesium (proper heart, muscle + immune function).
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Parmesan cheese is known for it's rich and nutty flavor but it also provides great nutritional value. A part from being packed with protein, it is easily digested and an excellent source of calcium (healthy bones + teeth). Parmesan is also a good source of vitamin A, which aids in boosting your vision and keeping your skin beautiful. Since it's a low-lactose food, people who are sensitive to dairy may be able to eat it. Although Parmesan is high in sodium you can eat it safely in small amounts to amplify the taste and nutritional value of the dish.
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Hemp seeds have the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in each serving which promotes brain health, while also helping fend off diabetes + heart diseases. As a rich source of magnesium (heart health), zinc (immune system support) and phosphorus (strong bones), hemp seeds are a nutritional power house. They might not be as easy to find as other options on this list; however, you can find them at most health food stores. Although hemp is a variety of cannabis plant, the only "high" you'll get from this seed is a nutritional one. Hemp seeds do not have any adverse affects, they are completely safe and legal to consume.
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Pumpkin seeds have high levels of magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure and prevents strokes, heart attacks + sudden cardiac arrest. They contain L-tryptophan, a compound that improves mood naturally as well as phytosterols which has been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, which plays a role skin health and strong immune system. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent food for improving your skin tone and for treating acne problems.
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Apart from being high in calcium and phosphorus (healthy bones + teeth), Gruyere is also a good source of vitamin B (circulatory + nerve health). This cheese is semi-soft, and its natural hard rind is almost brown in color. The cheese itself is light yellow, full of tiny holes and has a mild nutty flavor. Gruyere is known as one of the finest cheeses for baking, having a distinctive but not overpowering taste.
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Swiss cheese is a yellow semi-hard cheese with holes, which is the main way you can tell it apart from other cheeses. With a mild savory taste it is still low in sodium and has far less salt than many other types out there. Swiss cheese is a good source of B12 which helps your brain function properly, as well as calcium and phosphorus for strong bones.
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Peanuts can be considered to be a good part of a weight loss diet. They are a great source of manganese, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Eating peanuts also appears to be just as potent for preventing heart disease as eating other nuts. Since peanuts generally cost less than nuts like almonds and pistachios, people on lower incomes can reap the health benefits of nuts on a budget.
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Seitan has more protein than many meatless options as well as quite a few meats. It's an excellent source of vegetarian proteins, with almost no fat and no cholesterol. Seitan can be a great substitute for meat in any recipe because of it's texture and consistency. An important note is that this food is usually made from wheat gluten, so it's not for people who are gluten intolerant or wheat sensitive.
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Lentils are a source vegetarian proteins that is cholesterol free, high in fiber, low in fat and low in sodium. Lentils have high amounts of thiamine which has an integral role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and folate which helps protect against developing heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Lentils are very versatile and can be used as a side dish, thrown into a vegetable mix, or even made into patties.
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Kidney beans are an excellent source of folate which is important for good heart health and iron that is necessary to carry oxygen to tissue + muscle cells. These beans are a healthy choice since they are low in fat. They are excellent for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal.
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Mozzarella is now typically made with cow’s milk, although it was originally made with the milk of water buffaloes. Mozzarella contains many vitamins that help maintain healthy skin and vision, as well as vitamins that are important for bone growth, protection of cell membranes, and assists absorption of calcium. Mozzarella has high levels of calcium, since it is a dairy product, and calcium is important for your bones and enamel.
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Green peas are low in fat and sodium but high in fiber. They contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which keeps your eyes healthy. Both the fiber and lutein in peas improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and preventing the buildup of plaque along your artery walls. They also have vitamin C for a strong immune system. The vegetarian proteins and high fiber content in green peas helps with blood sugar regulation by slowing down how quickly sugars are digested.
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Cheddar is a hard cheese that has a range of colors going from white to orange. It gets a sharper taste as it matures and the rule goes that milder cheddars are for melting while sharper cheddars are for adding extra flavor to any dish. Because cheddar cheese is high in calcium, phosphorus and proteins, it's a perfect source of nutrients for bone health.
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Navy beans are very low in saturated fat and sodium, and an excellent source of fiber. Although their name might make you believe they’re blue in color, they’re actually small white beans that are perfect for making baked beans. Navy beans are an excellent source of folate which keeps the heart healthy by lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke and also plays a critical role in protecting the brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
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Peanut butter is high in magnesium which is excellent for bone building and muscle recovery. It's also a good source of niacin which protects against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. For breakfast, you can add peanut butter onto toast or bagels in the morning instead of butter or cream cheese. You can also use it as a great dip for fruits and vegetables.
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Black beans are great because they have a low fat content and allow you to feel fuller for longer. Their high fiber content helps to prevent constipation and improve digestion by keeping your body clear of toxic elements. Black beans are also high in soluble fiber, which fights heart disease by helping to balance unhealthy cholesterol levels.
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Lima beans contain small amounts of isoflavones, which studies have found to protect against breast cancer. They also contain plant sterols that help lower cholesterol levels in the body. Like most beans they are also a good source of fiber, minerals (such as iron, copper, manganese and molybdenum) and folate which is important for good heart health.
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Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin B2 and manganese which helps the body to burn carbs. They also are a rich in phosphorus which is needed for the healthy bones and teeth. Almonds make for an excellent source of vitamin E which nourishes the skin and reduces signs of aging. You can add almonds to yogurt bowls, mix them in with vegetables, use them to add crunch to baked goods or just put some in your pocket and eat them on the go.
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Sunflower seeds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E. This vitamin is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin against damage and reduces the signs of aging. They also contain a high amount copper which helps skin stay youthful and prevents gray hair. Sunflower seeds are extremely high in B vitamins (B1 + B6) which helps calm and maintain your nervous system. It's super easy to get them into your diet by sprinkling the seeds on top of your sandwich, salad or pasta.
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Chickpeas are vegetarian proteins that are high in fiber which keeps you feeling full longer, helping you stay slim and looking your best. They also contain potassium, calcium and magnesium, which is an excellent mix of minerals that strengthens bones. Chickpeas are very versatile, so you can toss them into salads, soups and stir fries, or try roasting them for snacking.
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Tempeh has a higher amount of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins than tofu because it is made from whole soybeans that are fermented. It has a firm texture and a nutty mushroom-like taste. Because tempeh is fermented it contains probiotics which helps with indigestion and boosts your immune system. Tempeh contains a high amount of manganese and vitamin B3, which helps the body to burn carbs. It's also a great source copper which prevents gray hairs and helps your skin to stay healthy.
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Pistachios are a rich source of fiber, protein and have good amounts of mono-unsaturated fatty acids making them an excellent snack that will help you control your weight by limiting your portions. Adding them into your diet helps to lower bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol, keeping your heart health. Pistachios are also a great source of B vitamins (B1 + B6) which helps calm and maintain your nervous system.
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Camembert is a soft and creamy cheese that has a deeper yellowish color. It has a savory and pungent flavor. Camembert is a good source of calcium which is important for healthy bones and teeth. It is also contains vitamin B12 to help you have better concentration, keep your memory sharp and boost energy levels to keep you alert + feeling energized.
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Flaxseeds are small brown golden colored seeds that are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are extremely high in fiber, but low in carbohydrates that allows you to feel full longer. This can help a lot in weight loss. Flaxseeds are also high in lignans which are an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of breast, ovarian and colon cancer.
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Cashews are packed with zinc and copper. These two minerals helps to fight gray hair and protects the skin against premature aging. Cashews also have plenty of magnesium which helps you to have better, longer and more relaxing sleep. Cashews are crunchy with a buttery texture, and have a sweet fruity aroma. They can be eaten alone as a snack but they can also be mixed into pasta, salads, soups and even desserts.
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Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds that has a creamy texture. For those who have problems with dairy products, tahini is a great alternate source of calcium and it is much easier for your body to digest than milk. This combined with the zinc content of tahini both help boosts bone density. As a source of copper it helps to prevent wrinkles and tahini also contains iron so it helps fight anemia.
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Chia seeds are small in size but they pack a strong nutritional punch. Because of their high fiber content, these vegetarian proteins can help with weight loss. Chia seeds are also one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3, which helps reduce inflammation and pain in your joints. Omega-3s also helps improve your memory and reduce cholesterol levels.
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Mycoprotein is the common ingredient in all Quorn products which is a source of vegetarian proteins that is also a good source of fiber. Mycoprotein is low in fat and contains no trans fats or cholesterol. It has a meat-like texture due to having a structure that is similar to animal muscles. Studies suggest that mycoprotein satisfies your appetite longer, with fewer calories.
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Walnuts are said to have cancer-fighting properties, specifically reducing the risk of prostrate cancer and breast cancer. Walnuts also contain amino acids that have vascular benefits, as well as powerful antioxidants that are unique and only found in a few commonly eaten foods. This includes morin, tellimagrandin, and juglone which are all strong cancer inhibitors.
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Wild rice has almost twice as much protein, four times the amount of fiber and about 25% less carbs as white long-grain rice. They are a great source of manganese, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Wild rice is also a good source of magnesium (heart health), phosphorus (strong bones) and zinc (immune system support).
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Feta is a firm white cheese that is tangy and salty. It can be made from sheep, goat or cow milk so it can have quite a range of different tastes and aromas. Feta cheese is a good source of B12 which helps your memory stay sharp and calcium for strong bones. This cheese also has plenty of riboflavin which is used to help burn carbs and fats.
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Egg noodles are typically long strips of dough that contain more egg than regular pasta. They have a little less carbs than regular pasta, making them an interesting option if you are looking to change things up. Egg noodles are a great source of selenium which helps to keep your thyroid healthy, preventing irritability, muscle weakness and fatigue. Selenium also helps fight cancer and boost your immune system to stop infections.
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Sun-dried tomatoes have a more intense taste than fresh tomatoes and help add a bit of a zing to any dish. They are high in fiber and potassium so they reduce the risk of developing heart problems. Sun-dried tomatoes are high in iron which helps prevent the tiredness and muscle weakness due to anemia. They are also a great source of vitamin C which supports the immune system and neutralizes free radicals in the body.
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Quinoa has a nutty flavor and a texture that has a slight crunch. It is a great source of manganese + B vitamins, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Quinoa is a great way to get fiber in your diet as it has 50% more than brown rice and is easier to digest. It is also rich in phosphorus which is needed for the healthy bones and teeth.
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Whole-wheat pasta is a good source of vegetarian proteins, complex carbohydrates + fiber which helps keep you full and looking slim. Fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol levels and lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It is an excellent source of selenium which helps to keep your thyroid healthy, helps fight cancer and boost your immune system to stop infections.
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Pine nuts contain pinolenic acid, which may help with weight loss. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of a hormone, which is known to suppress appetite. Pine nuts are also a good source of magnesium, which helps boost energy. They even contain many antioxidants and nutrients that are considered to be anti-aging, and contributes to heart and vision health.
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Oatmeal is made from oats, which are a whole-grain cereal. They are an excellent good source of fiber. Oats can lower cholesterol levels, and have also been said to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of type two diabetes and obesity. They are also a good source of magnesium (heart health), phosphorus (strong bones) and thiamine (healthy nervous system).
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Whole grain bread contains the wheat germ which contains many nutrients. Whole wheat is much higher in fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and chromium than white bread. Eating at least three servings of whole grains per day is associated with lower risk of death from cancers, heart disease, and stroke.
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Couscous is considered a pasta made of small granules of flour, and is common in North African cuisine. It's a good source of fiber which helps prevent constipation and improve digestion by keeping your body clear of toxic elements. Couscous is extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes such as sautéed vegetables, soups, and even at breakfast as a cereal.
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Hard tofu is a staple in Thai and Chinese cuisine. It's is a great source of calcium which is important for healthy bones and teeth. Tofu also contains iron so it helps fight anemia. Depending on how it is cooked, it can have very different textures. Tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient that can be added to salads, blended into smoothies, thrown it to soups, or grilled as a meat substitute for stir fries.
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Buckwheat is a gluten-free, nutrient-packed seed that is high in fiber + antioxidants that help fight cancer and heart disease. Buckwheat can lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which also encourages a healthy heart. Buckwheat is a good source of vegetarian proteins and magnesium. These both help support the body’s muscle growth and recovery.
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Eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory. They are a great source of selenium which helps to keep your thyroid healthy, preventing irritability, muscle weakness and fatigue. Eggs also contains vitamin B2 + B12 that help you have better concentration and keep your memory sharp. Both zeaxanthin and lutein are found in eggs, these antioxidant help keep your vision clear.
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Cottage cheese is a healthy snack and if you opt for the low-fat version, you'll get the same amount of protein without having to worry about the calorie content. Cottage cheese contains calcium that helps keep your bones and teeth strong as well as help support proper nerve function. There are many ways to incorporate cottage cheese into your diet: as a snack with fruit, in a smoothie, as a substitute for sour cream, or as a spread on toast.
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Bulgur is a type of whole wheat that is common in Middle Easter cuisine. It's a great substitute for white rice because it has more fiber and protein. Bulgur is a good source of niacin which protects against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. It also has plenty of magnesium which helps you to have better, longer and more relaxing sleep.
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When popcorn is air-popped it stays light, fluffy and healthy. It's a good source of dietary fiber, keeping you feeling full longer, which helps with weight loss. Popcorn also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have been linked to reductions in heart disease and certain cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancers.
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Ricotta cheese has a mild, slightly sweet taste with a creamy texture. It is a favorite for savory dishes like pasta but is also used in desserts like cheesecakes or cannoli. Like most cheeses, Ricotta is rich in calcium, which is essential to keeping your bones healthy and strong. Be sure to pick up the part-skim variety, which has fewer calories and less saturated fat than the regular whole-milk version.
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Edamame are green soybeans that taste like a mix between lima beans and green peas. They are a good source of vegetarian proteins + fiber that is low in calories making them a great option for snacks, soups and salads. Edamame is rich in folate which helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and protects the brain from dementia.
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Millet is gluten-free grain that has plenty of fiber, vegetarian proteins and nutrients. It's often found in birdseed mixture, but don’t let that give you the wrong impression of millet! It contains serotonin, which maintains your mood balance. The magnesium in millet can reduce migraines and the chance of heart attacks. Magnesium can also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
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Greek yogurt has a taste that is thicker and creamer than plain yogurt. Since it has around two times the protein content of regular yogurt, it will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Greek yogurt contains probiotics which increases the good bacteria in your gut, keeping colds away and making sure your digestive system runs smoothly. It is also a good source of calcium which helps your bones stay strong and teeth looking great.
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i All protein and nutrient data provided by USDA SR-28. All protein values are per 100g when raw unless indicated otherwise.
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Beltsville, Maryland: USDA ARS, 2016. Internet: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?ds=Standard+Reference
ii Institute of Medicine, National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2006. Internet: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutr...
iii Flynn, Mary M., and Andrew R. Schiff. "Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil." Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 10, no. 4 (2015): 467-482.
iv Scarborough, P., P.N. Appleby, A. Mizdrak, et al. "Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK." Climatic Change 125, no. 2 (2014): 179-192.
v Key, Timothy J., Paul N. Appleby, Francesca L. Crowe, Kathryn E. Bradbury, Julie A. Schmidt, and Ruth C. Travis. "Cancer in British vegetarians: updated analyses of 4998 incident cancers in a cohort of 32,491 meat eaters, 8612 fish eaters, 18,298 vegetarians, and 2246 vegans." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 100, Supplement 1 (2014): 378S-385S.
vi Huang, T., Bin Yang, Jusheng Zheng, Guipu Li, Mark L. Wahlqvist, and Duo Li. "Cardiovascular Disease Mortality and Cancer Incidence in Vegetarians: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review." Ann Nutr Metab 60, no. 4 (2012): 233-240.
vii Barnard, Neal D., Heather I Katcher, David JA Jenkins, Joshua Cohen, and Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy. "Vegetarian and vegan diets in type 2 diabetes management." Nutrition Reviews 67, no. 5 (2009): 255-263.
viii Crowe, Francesca L., Paul N Appleby, Ruth C Travis, and Timothy J Key. "Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97, no. 3 (2013): 597-603.
ix Beezhold, Bonnie L., and Carol S Johnston. "Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: A pilot randomized controlled trial." Nutrition Journal 11, no. 1 (2012): 9-13.
x Melina, V., Winston Craig, and Susan Levin. "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 116, no. 12 (2016): 1970-1980.
xi Orlich, MJ., PN Singh, J Sabaté, K Jaceldo-Siegl, J Fan, S Knutsen, WL Beeson, and GE Fraser. "Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2." JAMA Internal Medicine 173, no. 13 (2013): 1230-1238.
xii Kim, MK., SW. Cho, and YK. Park. "Long-term vegetarians have low oxidative stress, body fat, and cholesterol levels." Nutrition Research and Practice 6, no. 2 (2012): 155-161.
xiii Rizza, W., Nicola Veronese, and Luigi Fontana. "What are the roles of calorie restriction and diet quality in promoting healthy longevity?" Ageing Research Reviews 13, (2014): 38-45.
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