- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 6, 2008

As a dietitian, I applaud Americans who choose whole grains and other plant-based foods over the high-fat, high-cholesterol meat dishes that are fueling our nation’s obesity epidemic (“Going with the grain,” Plugged in Living, Wednesday). People choose meatless meals for a variety of reasons, but they will all reap the wide-ranging health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

A diet of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables is low in cholesterol, high in fiber and easily can provide all the protein our bodies need. (The average American consumes about double the recommended amount.) We now know it’s not necessary to eat certain plant foods together to obtain the essential amino acids.

There’s more good news about a vegetarian diet, too: Studies indicate that people who follow a plant-based diet are slimmer than meat eaters and have a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. I’m glad more Americans are opting for meatless meals - this healthy dietary change certainly could help turn around our country’s deteriorating health.

SUSAN LEVIN

Staff dietitian

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Washington