The purpose of this study was to investigate nutrient intakes of Seventh-Day Adventist elderly women who were similar in many demographic and life-style factors except for choice of diet. Twenty-three vegetarian and 14 non-vegetarian elderly women (mean +/- standard error ages 72.2 +/- 1.3 and 71.1 +/- 1.4 years, respectively) were recruited on the basis of several selection criteria, including race, religion, education, geographic area, Quetelet index, self-reported absence of major chronic disease and use of medications, and physical activity. Average years +/- SE of adherence to dietary regimens were 47.0 +/- 2.9 and 71.2 +/- 1.4 in the vegetarian and non-vegetarian groups, respectively. Results from analysis of 7-day food records showed that vegetarians consumed significantly less cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, and caffeine but more carbohydrate, dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamins E and A, thiamin, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganese than non-vegetarians (p less than .05). On the basis of group means, 67% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance was met for all nutrients except zinc and vitamin D in both groups, and vitamins B-6, folacin, and vitamin E in the non-vegetarians. Compared with non-vegetarians, vegetarians had significantly lower serum glucose (5.18 +/- 0.11 vs. 4.65 +/- 0.09 mmol/L), low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (4.08 +/- 0.25 vs. 3.34 +/- 0.19 mmol/L), and total cholesterol levels (6.46 +/- 0.27 vs. 5.62 +/- 0.21 mmol/L) (p less than .05). In summary, when healthy elderly vegetarian women were compared with closely matched non-vegetarian peers, the vegetarian diet was associated with improved nutrient intake and associated reductions in blood glucose and lipid levels.