Adopting a vegetarian diet can be an amazing entry into experiencing better health. “Vegetarian” is defined as avoiding all animal flesh, including fish and poultry. Vegetarians who avoid flesh, but do eat animal products such as cheese, milk, and eggs, are called ovo-lacto-vegetarians (ovo = egg; lacto = milk, cheese, etc.). Those who avoid all animal products are referred to as pure vegetarians or vegans.
Several studies that have compared vegetarian diets to non-vegetarian diets have found that those eating mainly plant-based diets may have increased protection against health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and total mortality.
Let’s explore some of the health benefits of adopting a vegetarian (or vegan) lifestyle.
Reduces risk of heart diseases
A vegetarian diet helps prevent heart disease. Animal products are the key source of saturated fat and the only source of cholesterol in the diet. Typically, vegetarian diets avoid these unhealthy products. Vegetarian diets are also rich in soluble fiber that helps in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Animal products contain no fiber. A higher consumption of fruit and vegetables, which are rich in fiber, folic acid, potassium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals is associated with lower blood cholesterol and a lower risk of mortality from stroke and ischemic heart disease. Vegans also consume a high amount of whole grains, soy, and nuts, all of which provide significant cardioprotective effects.
Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians have a lower risk of many different types of cancer. Meat, as well as dairy products, contribute to several forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, ovaries, and prostate. Vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fat, and high in fiber, vitamins, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals, which help to prevent cancer. These antioxidants destroy free radicals that promote cancer cell formation and growth. Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables provides considerable protection against cancer at many sites.
Prevents and treats diabetes
Diet change is the first line of defense against diabetes. Although a vegetarian diet won’t cure the disease, it can lower the risk by helping maintain weight and improving blood sugar control. Type 2 diabetes can be better controlled and sometimes even eliminated through a low-fat, vegetarian diet along with regular exercise. Such a diet, low in fat and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, allows insulin to work more effectively, resulting in better control of blood glucose levels.
Helps lower blood pressure
People who follow a vegetarian diet tend to have lower blood pressure compared to those who eat meat. Plant-based diets often contain more fiber and less fat and therefore fewer calories, which may explain why vegetarians are generally slimmer than meat-eaters. A healthy weight helps to keep blood pressure in check. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are low in sodium but rich in potassium, which also helps lower blood pressure.
Helps with weight loss
A vegetarian diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, can help with weight loss and be better for maintaining a healthy weight over time. Vegan diets help lower the risk for obesity, help lower BMI, and also reduce obesity-related complications, such as heart problems or metabolic syndrome. For health, it’s important to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s also necessary to replace saturated and trans fats with good fats, such as those found in nuts, olive oil, and canola oil. And keep in mind that if you eat too many calories, even from nutritious, low-fat, plant-based foods, you’ll gain weight.
What are the risks of being vegetarian?
People who avoid meat or fish may lack certain nutrients, particularly if they are also not consuming eggs or dairy products. Nutrients that can be lacking include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Many of these nutrients can be found in vegetarian sources. To get them requires a wide variety of food choices and some planning. Some vegans may need to take supplements.
Becoming a vegetarian cannot guarantee good health. You risk having poor health if you consume too many calories, unhealthy snack and junk foods, too many refined carbohydrates and sugars, and whole milk dairy products.
Disclaimer: All material on Hidoc.co is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.