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The Organic Vegetarian Menu

By William Misner Ph.D.


Organic food tastes better because mineral profiles are superior to pesticide-grown food.

Smith reported in the Journal of Applied Nutrition a comparison the difference in nutritional value of organic foods with commercial foods and found that there are significant differences between the two. Apples, pears, potatoes, corn, and wheat were purchased in the Chicago area and analyzed for 22 nutrients and 4 toxic elements over a period of two years. The analysis showed that "the organic pears, apples, potatoes, and wheat had, on average, over 90% more of the nutritional elements than similar commercial food." The researchers did not include corn in the averages because the nutrient difference was over 2.5 times greater for the organic corn. Many factors, such as soil nutrients, use of chemical fertilizers, harvesting times, or post-harvest differences in handling, can impact the nutrient levels in food. Soils typically treated with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium may be seriously deficient in minerals. Organic fruits and vegetables contain 400% more trace elements, 1300% more selenium and 2000% more calcium and magnesium than non-organic produce. In addition to being less nutritious, supermarket produce contains more harmful toxic minerals as +40% aluminum, +29% cadmium, and +28% rubidium more than that found in organic produce [1].


Researchers postulated that consumption of the heat-treated food by omnivores could be reflected by higher plasma levels of ADVANCED GLYCATION END PRODUCTS (AGE) in comparison with vegetarians, who in cooking (by keeping away from meat) use lower temperatures and less time for heating. The following table present what they found:

N(EPSILON)-(CARBOXYMETHYL)LYSINE [CML] 427.1 514.8 525.7 492.6

ADVANCED GLYCATION END PRODUCTS AND N(EPSILON) (CARBOXYMETHYL) LYSINE=[CML] were significantly lower in omnivores than in vegetarians. Plasma glucose, parameters of renal function (plasma concentration of creatinine and cystatin C, calculated glomerular filtration rate--GFR) as well as C-reactive protein levels were within the normal range and did not differ significantly between the groups. Thus, neither decline of kidney function nor inflammatory processes contributed to the rise in plasma AGEs. Enhanced plasma AGE levels in vegetarians in comparison to omnivores are herein presented for the first time. Mechanisms of AGE elevation and potential pathophysiological relevance of this finding are to be elucidated in prospective studies [2].That AGE and CML are observed to increase proportionate to vegetarian food and inversely proportionate to Omnivore protein from meat would suggest that life span would be shortened in vegetarians, however that is not the general consensus reported.

Compared with non-vegetarians, western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI (by about 1 kg/m2), a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l), and a lower mortality from IHD (by about 25%). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis. No differences in mortality from common cancers have been established. There is no evidence of adverse effects on mortality. Much more information is needed, particularly on other causes of death, other morbidity including osteoporosis, and long-term health in vegans. The evidence available suggests that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet could prevent approximately 40,000 deaths from IHD in Britain each year [3].


Researchers studied hemostatic and inflammatory cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF), and total plasma homocysteine (tHcy) in 26 vegetarians (23 lacto- or ovolactovegetarians and 3 vegans), matched by age, sex and socioeconomic status with omnivorous controls. Vegetarians had significantly lower proportion of EICOSAPENTAENOIC (EPA) and DOCOSAHEXAENOIC (DHA) acids in plasma lipids, significantly shortened bleeding time, and increased blood platelet count and in vitro platelet function (aggregation and secretion). Plasma levels of all coagulation or fibrinolytic factors and natural inhibitors synthesized in the liver were lower in vegetarians than in controls. Whereas for some factors this decrease was statistically significant (fibrinogen, factor VIIc, antithrombin III, protein S, plasminogen) for the remaining (factors VIIIc, Vc, prothrombin, protein C) a trend in the same direction was found. For hemostatic proteins of predominantly extrahepatic origin (von Willebrand factor. tPA, PAI-1) this tendency was not present. No significant differences in inflammatory proteins (C-reactive protein and alpha1-protease inhibitor) were detected in both groups. tHcy was significantly increased in vegetarians, and correlated only with cobalamin levels. The increased platelet function and tHcy found in vegetarians may counteract the known cardiovascular health benefits of vegetarian diet (VD). [4] Adding Fish, DHA/EPA Omega-3's, or Vitamin B-12 may result in hypothetically healthier blood serum lipids and homocysteine levels.


Observational studies primarily based on diet questionnaires or food records have reported that vegetarians can have a very low Iodine intake. However, analytically ascertained data on the possible degree of Iodine deficiency with this form of diet is lacking. Six healthy adult volunteers participated in the present controlled experimental diet study carried out in four separate 5-d diet periods. The study diets, normal, protein-rich, lactovegetarian, and repeat of the initial normal diet, were almost isoenergetic and contained NO FISH, SEA FOOD, IODIZED SALT or food fortified with Iodine. During the last 48-h of each diet period two 24 h urine samples were obtained from each subject. Iodine analyses were performed in the urine samples and in representative samples taken from all ingested diets.


LACTOVEGETARIAN DIET 15.6 micrograms/d
PROTEIN-R ICH DIETS 44.5 micrograms/d
LACTOVEGETARIAN DIET 36.6 micrograms/d
PROTEIN-RICH DIETS 50.2 micrograms/d

These results provide experimental confirmation of literature findings indicating that Iodine supply is higher with non-vegetarian than with vegetarian diets. Specifically, the extremely low intake and urinary output of Iodine as analytically determined for one exemplary vegetarian diet, demonstrate that dietary Iodine may be limiting when strict forms of vegetarian dietary practices (no iodized salt, no I supplements) are followed. Therefore, the first diet-experiment-based pointer to the potential danger of I deficiency disorders due to strict forms of vegetarian nutrition, especially when fruits and vegetables grown in soils with low Iodine levels are ingested. [5]


A group consisting of 89 LACTO-OVO-VEGETARIANS (age 38.7 +/- 0.6 years, average duration of vegetarianism 7.8 years). Control group on traditional diet (OMNIVORES, n = 84) was formed as an average sample. People on alternative diet have low plasma levels of risk lipid parameters and significantly higher levels of antisclerotic substances. As a result of significantly higher intake of fruits and vegetables, plant oil, sprouts, seeds, and whole-grain food the plasma levels of antioxidative vitamins are in vegetarians higher than threshold, reducing the risk of the free-radical disease. On the other hand, vegetarians have deficits in Methionine intake. Vegetarian diet is optimal for prevention of free-radical diseases, especially those of the cardiovascular system. It may bring a risk from the point of view of low iron and calcium absorption, low intake of methionine and occurrence of mild forms of hyperhomocysteinemia. In traditional diet, total lipid content should be lowered, amount of vegetable oil with alpha-linolenic acid should be elevated as well as fruit and vegetable consummation. Whole grain food and oily seeds should be included into the daily food [6]:

CHOLESTEROL 62.8 mg 512.2 mg
OMEGA-3 0% 68%
B-12 DEFICIENCY 28% 12%


Researchers studied the effects of newly developed antiatherogenic vegetarian diet enriched with soya bean products on clinico-hemodynamic characteristics of elderly patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). Clinico-hemodynamic parameters, lipid blood spectrum and plasmic hemostasis were studied in 28 elderly CHD patients divided into groups by dyslipidemia type (IIA, IIB, IV). The antiatherogenic vegetarian diet promoted normalization of central hemodynamics, lowering of blood atherogenic lipids, positive changes in blood rheology. The proposed balanced antiatherogenic vegetarian diet proved to be an effective monotherapy of dyslipidemia in elderly patients with coronary heart disease.


Researcher investigated of the long-term effects of a shift from a mixed diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet and of a return to a mixed diet on the mutagenic activity in urine and feces. The participants were 20 normal weight, non-smoking subjects. Dietary surveys and urinary and fecal samples were collected before and 3, 6 and 12 months after the dietary shift as well as 3 years after termination of the lacto-vegetarian diet period. Fecal samples were assayed for direct acting mutagens with the fluctuation test for weak mutagens and the urinary samples were assayed with the same assay but with a metabolic activation system, the so-called S9 fraction. The dietary data showed an increase in consumption of fruits, vegetables and dairy products and a decrease in meat, fish, eggs, sweets and biscuits during the vegetarian diet period. These changes led to an increase in total carbohydrates, fibre, vitamin C and calcium and a decrease in fat and protein intake. MUTAGENIC ACTIVITY IN BOTH URINE AND FAECES DECREASED after shift to the vegetarian diet and mutagenic activity in feces increased when the volunteers returned to a mixed diet. These data indicate that dietary factors may effect mutagenic activity in urine and feces. However, it is still not clear whether a decrease in animal products, a change in other nutritional factors or a decrease in frying are the main contributors to this change [8].


A vegetarian diet is not proven to be associated with improved aerobic endurance performance; however, other benefits make this dietary regimen worthy of consideration by serious athletes. A plant-based diet facilitates high-carbohydrate intake, which is essential to support prolonged exercise. A well-planned vegetarian diet can provide athletes with adequate amounts of all known nutrients, although the potential for suboptimal iron, zinc, trace element, and protein intake exists if the diet is too restrictive. However, this concern exists for all athletes, vegetarian or nonvegetarian, who have poor dietary habits. Athletes who consume diets rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains receive high amounts of antioxidant nutrients that help reduce the oxidative stress associated with heavy exertion. Whereas athletes are most often concerned with performance, vegetarian diets also provide long-term health benefits and a reduction in risk of chronic disease. In 2 studies, a combination of regular physical activity and vegetarian dietary practices resulted in lower mortality rates did than a vegetarian diet or exercise alone. [9]


A-Women consuming a predominantly vegetarian macrobiotic diets have modestly lower circulating estrogen levels, suggesting a LOWER RISK OF BREAST CANCER [10].

B-Diets characterized by high contents of oleic acid (18: 1n-9), alpha-linolenic acid (18: 3n-3) and fish or fish oil and near-vegetarian diets have REDUCED CARDIOVASCULAR MORBIDITY and mortality in patients with coronary heart disease [11].

C-After adjusting for smoking, body mass index, and social class, DEATH RATES WERE LOWER in non-meat-eaters than in meat eaters for each of the mortality endpoints studied for all causes of death, for ischemic heart disease, and for all malignant cancers [12].

D-AVOID HARMFUL FOODS WHILE EATING HEALTHY FOODS MEANS BALANCED NUTRITION. Evidence accumulated in the past 10 years emphasizes the importance of adequate consumption of healthy good dietary factors-rather than just the avoidance of harmful factors-by including an abundance of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and regular consumption of vegetable oils, including those from nuts. Current knowledge provides general guidance toward healthy diets, accumulated evidence now strongly indicates that diet has a powerful yet complex effect on health [13].

E-Compared with non-vegetarians, vegetarians have a LOWER MEAN BMI (by about 1 kg/m2), a LOWER MEAN PLASMA TOTAL CHOLESTEROL concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l), and a lower mortality from IHD (by about 25%). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis [14].

F-Within a cohort of 10,771 VEGETARIANS, daily consumption of fresh fruit was associated with SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED MORTALITY from ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and for all causes combined [15].

G-Data is strong that VEGETARIANS ARE AT LOWER RISK for obesity, atonic constipation, lung cancer, and alcoholism. Evidence is good that risks for hypertension, coronary artery disease, type II diabetes, and gallstones are lower. Data are only fair to poor that risks of breast cancer, diverticular disease of the colon, colonic cancer, calcium kidney stones, osteoporosis, dental erosion, and dental caries are lower among vegetarians. Reduced risks for chronic degenerative diseases can also be achieved by manipulations of omnivorous diets and lifestyles. Risks of dietary deficiency disease are increases on vegan but not on all vegetarian diets. [16].

H-In general, the HIGH-CHO NATURE OF THE VEGETARIAN DIET may help the endurance athlete in heavy training maximize body glycogen stores and thus the ability to perform. A balanced vegetarian diet provides the athlete with added reduction in coronary risk factors while meeting all known nutritional need [17].

I-SERUM HORMONE FACTORS MAY IMPACT HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE. Serum sex hormones and endurance performance after a lacto-ovo vegetarian and a mixed diet. The effect of a lacto-ovo vegetarian (V) and a mixed, meat-rich (M) diet on the level of serum sex hormones, gonadotropins, and endurance performance of eight male endurance athletes was investigated in a 2 x 6 wk cross-over study. The energy contribution from carbohydrate, fat, and protein was nearly the same. A Vegetarian diet results in a lower total T level 13.7, compared with the Meat diet of 17.4 nmol.l-1. During exercise after 6 wk on the diets total T was also significantly lower on the V than on the M diet. Serum free testosterone, however, did not differ significantly during the 6 wk dietary intervention periods and neither did serum concentrations of sex hormone binding globulin, dihydrotestosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate, 4-androstenedione, estrone, estradiol, estrone sulphate, or gonadotropins. ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE TIME WAS HIGHER for 6 and lower for 2 after the mixed diet compared with the vegetarian diet. This was not significant, however. In conclusion, 6 wk on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet caused A MINOR DECREASE IN TOTAL TESTOSTERONE AND NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE IN MALE ENDURANCE ATHLETES compared with 6 wk on a mixed, meat-rich diet [18].

J-The influence of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet versus a meat-rich Western diet on in vitro measures of IMMUNE FUNCTION was studied in eight male endurance athletes. Subjects consumed two different diets for 2 x 6 wk, separated by 4 weeks on an ad libitum diet, in a crossover design. Both diets consisted of 57% carbohydrates, 14% protein and 29% energy from fat. One diet was a mixed meat-rich diet (M) prepared with 69% animal protein sources, whereas the other diet (V) was a LACTO-OVO VEGETARIAN DIET prepared with 82% vegetable protein sources. Blood for determination of LEUKOCYTE SUBPOPULATIONS and in vitro function was collected at the end of each diet period 36 hours after the last training bout. Fiber content and P/S ratio of fatty acids were twice as high on the Vegetarian diet as on the Meat diet. Training volume was similar on the two diets, and maximal aerobic capacity did not change during diet periods. The number of CD3+ (pan T-cells), CD8+ (mainly T suppressor cells), CD4+ (mainly T helper cells), CD16+ (natural killer cells), and CD14+ (monocytes) WAS SIMILAR after the two different diets. Similarly, proliferations of mononuclear cells after stimulation with interleukin-2 (IL-2), phytohemagglutinin, and purified derivative of tuberculin (PPD), as well as activity of natural killer cells in the unstimulated state and after stimulation with IL-2, indomethacin, and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha); IMMUNE MARKERS WERE IDENTICAL AFTER THE TWO DIET PERIODS [19].


The vegetarian diet generates loss of fat mass with an improved body mass indices, offers an improved potential for increasing life span. The gain in health outcome are desirable such as reduced risks of: hypertension, coronary artery disease, type II diabetes, gallstones, breast cancer, diverticular disease of the colon, colonic cancer, calcium kidney stones, osteoporosis, dental erosion, and dental caries. However, strict vegetarian protocols may create deficiencies in Cholesterol, Protein, Zinc, Vitamin B-12, Folate, DHA/EPA Omega-3's, Iodine, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin B-12, and trace elements. Adding fish, seafood, or complimentary supplements to the vegetarian menu may accommodate hypothetical deficiencies generated providing a model for enhancing the both quality and quantity of life.

If a balanced vegetarian menu is employed, will it support athletic performance? Apparently so, since some of the greatest athlete vegetarians known are:

Hank Aaron [Hall of Fame Baseball Player]

Natascha Badman [Hawaii 1998 Ironwoman Champion]

Ruth Heidrich [Triathlon Champion]

Sixto Linares [Triathlon Champion]

Thomas Hellriegel [Ironman Champion]

Dave Scott [Hawaii Ironman 4-time Triathlon Champion]

Rob De Costella [Olympic Marathon Runner]

Christ Evert [Tennis Champion]

Serena Williams [Tennis Champion]

Estelle Gray [Cyclist]

Sean Yates [Professional Cyclist -Tour de France Stage Winner]

Cheryl Marek [Cyclist]

Desmond Howard [Pro Football Player]

Donnie LaLonde [Former Light Heavyweight Champion of the World]

Silken Laumann [Olympic Rower]

Carl Lewis [Olympic Champion Sprinter]

Edwin Moses [Olympic Champion Hurdler]

Paavo Nurmi [Olympic Champion Distance Runner]

Larry Bird [NBA Basketball Star]

Robert Parish [NBA Basketball Star]

Bill Walton [NBA Pro Basketball Player]

Robert Sweetgall [World Champion Ultradistance Walker]

Murray Rose [4x Olympic Gold Swimmer]

Bill Pickering [English Channel Swim Record]

Surya Bonaly [French Olympic Figure Skater]

Chris Campbell [Olympic Medallist Wrestler]

Stan Price [World Record Holder Bench Press]

Bill Manetti [Powerlifting Champion]

Bill Pearl [4x "Mr Universe"]

Roy Hilligan ["Mr America"]

Would these athletes have done better had they been omnivores [meat-eaters]? We will likely never know, though one suggested conclusion is that being a vegetarian did not inhibit them from great performances in both endurance and strength sports.


[1] Smith BL, Organic Foods Vs. Supermarket Foods: Elemental Levels. J Applied Nutr 1993;45:35-39.

[2] Sebekova K, Krajcoviova-Kudlackova M, Schinzel R, Faist V, Klvanova J, Heidland A.,

Plasma levels of advanced glycation end products in healthy, long-term vegetarians and subjects on a western mixed diet. Eur J Nutr. 2001 Dec;40(6):275-81.

[3] Key TJ, Davey GK, Appleby PN. Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):271-5.

[4] Mezzano D, Munoz X, Martinez C, Cuevas A, Panes O, Aranda E, Guasch V, Strobel P, Munoz B, Rodriguez S, Pereira J, Leighton F. Vegetarians and cardiovascular risk factors: hemostasis, inflammatory markers and plasma homocysteine. Thromb Haemost. 1999 Jun;81(6):913-7.

[5] Remer T, Neubert A, Manz F. Increased risk of iodine deficiency with vegetarian nutrition. Br J Nutr. 1999 Jan;81(1):45-9.

[6] Krajvcovivcova-Kudlavckova M, Ginter E, Blavzicvek P, Klvanova J, Babinska K. [Nutritional status in adults on an alternative or traditional diet] Cas Lek Cesk. 2001 Mar 15;140(5):142-6.

[7] Ivanov AN, Medkova IL, Mosiakina LI. [The effect of an antiatherogenic vegetarian diet on the clinico-hemodynamic and biochemical indices in elderly patients with ischemic heart disease] Ter Arkh. 1999;71(2):75-8.

[8] Johansson G, Holmen A, Persson L, Hogstedt B, Wassen C, Ottova L, Gustafsson JA. Long-term effects of a change from a mixed diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet on human urinary and faecal mutagenic activity. Mutagenesis. 1998 Mar;13(2):167-71.

[9] Nieman DC. Physical fitness and vegetarian diets: is there a relation? Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):570S-575S.

[10] Kushi LH, Cunningham JE, Hebert JR, Lerman RH, Bandera EV, Teas J. The macrobiotic diet in cancer. J Nutr. 2001 Nov;131(11 Suppl):3056S-64S.

[11] Johnson LK, Hjermann I, Tonstad S. [Diet and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease--are our recommendations good enough?] Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2001 Mar 30;121(9):1092-8.

[12] Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):525S-531S.

[13] Willett WC. Convergence of philosophy and science: the third international congress on vegetarian nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):434S-438S.

[14] Key TJ, Davey GK, Appleby PN. Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):271-5.

[15] Key TJ, Thorogood M, Appleby PN, Burr ML. Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up. BMJ. 1996 Sep 28;313(7060):775-9.

[16] Dwyer JT. Health aspects of vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Sep;48(3 Suppl):712-38.

[17] Nieman DC. Vegetarian dietary practices and endurance performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Sep;48(3 Suppl):754-61.

[18]Raben A, Kiens B, Richter EA, Rasmussen LB, Svenstrup B, Micic S, Bennett P. Serum sex hormones and endurance performance after a lacto-ovo vegetarian and a mixed diet. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 Nov;24(11):1290-7.

[19] Richter EA, Kiens B, Raben A, Tvede N, Pedersen BK. Immune parameters in male atheletes after a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and a mixed Western diet. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 May;23(5):517-21.

*Bill Misner Ph.D is the Director of Research & Product Development for Hammer Nutrition, LTD.

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