Vegetarians are often concerned about getting the right amount of iron—with good reason. Iron is an essential mineral found in hemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Without enough iron, our bodies face the risk of iron deficiency anemia, which is associated with weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue and other symptoms - especially in women. (Check your personalized RDA of iron and other nutrients with the USDA's handy interactive tool here.)
Overall, the vegetarian/vegan diet, when conducted with the proper awareness, still promotes far greater health in many ways, according to a 1999 study. To name a few, these include lower rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even gallstones. And meat-eaters still must use caution with regard to their iron sources: While high in heme iron, meat sources are also high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and (unless 100% organic) hormones, pesticides and antibiotics - leading to a higher risk of chronic disease and a substantially greater risk of colon cancer.