If you want to boost your health, switching to a vegetarian diet may be one of the best things you can do.
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat or fish, but there are different types of vegetarians. Some consume dairy products, others even have eggs. The strictest kind, called vegans, do not eat any products derived from animals, including eggs and dairy.
A vegetarian diet has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, leading to a longer life expectancy.
Let’s explore some of the health benefits of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle.
Helps reduce the risk of heart disease
- Compared with animal products, plant products are generally lower in saturated fat and have no cholesterol at all.
- Plant products are also rich in soluble fibre that helps in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Animal products contain no fibre.
- A higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are rich in fibre, folic acid, potassium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals helps lower blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of stroke and ischemic heart disease.
Helps prevent cancer
- Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians have a lower risk of some 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 fibre, 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.
Helps prevent and treat diabetes
- Diet change is the first line of defence 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 fibre and complex carbohydrates, allows insulin to work more effectively, resulting in better control of blood glucose levels.
Helps lower blood pressure
- Plant-based diets often contain more fibre 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 have no cholesterol at all, and are low in sodium but rich in potassium, which also helps lower blood pressure.
Helps with weight loss
- A high-fibre and low-fat vegetarian diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, can help with weight loss and is better for maintaining a healthy weight over time.
- Such a diet also helps lower the risk of obesity, helps lower BMI (Body Mass Index), and also reduces obesity-related complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- But 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 a 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 B12, calcium, iron, zinc, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. But most of the other nutrients can be found in vegetarian sources. Vegetarians, therefore, need to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure that they meet their nutritional requirements.
Some vegetarians may need to take supplements
Becoming a vegetarian cannot guarantee good health. A diet of soda, pizza, and fries, after all, is “vegetarian”, but unhealthy. So it’s important to control what and how much you eat and also engage in regular physical activity.
Disclaimer: All material on Hidoc 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.