Looking for A Healthier Diet? Consider Going Vegetarian or Limiting Red Meat
For many people, switching to a vegetarian diet may seem unimaginable. Giving up meat can seem counterintuitive, but the vegetarian diet can be both incredibly healthy and easy to do.
With vegetarian options becoming more readily available, and more recipes focused on turning vegetarian options into more than just side dishes and putting them in the spotlight of a viable change in lifestyle.
According to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, approximately 6 to 8 million adults in the U.S. do not consume meat or seafood. These numbers only grow when we look at the several million that have eliminated just red meat, and another two million that have become vegan.
While the term vegetarian diet may seem stringent, applying only to one diet, the truth is there are quite a few divisions to be made in what some vegetarians eat and some do not:
- Vegans: Do not consume meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or any products that come from animals, this includes eggs, dairy, gelatin, and honey.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Do not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, but they do eat eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or eggs, but they do consume dairy products.
- Ovo vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or dairy products, but do eat eggs.
- Pescatarian: Avoid meat but may consume fish or seafood.
- Pollo-vegetarian: Avoid red meat and pork, but may consume poultry.
Several of these diets have been known to increases life expectancy and reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses.
Changing your lifestyle to something more akin to a vegetarian diet, even if it is more pescatarian or pollo-vegetarian based, can have a deep impact on your personal health. Even eliminating some meat from your diet can be incredibly beneficial for your health.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough
It should be noted that those looking to participate in the diet should keep an eye on certain vitamins that may be deficient when first taking part in the vegetarian diet.
- Protein: Foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, quinoa, and lentils should all be considered to keep protein levels in a healthy state.
- Iron: Foods such as beans, lentils, leafy greens, brewer’s yeast, dried fruits, coconut milk, dark chocolate, and olives are all great in keeping iron levels in good shape.
- Calcium: Foods such as dark green vegetables, legumes, beans, broccoli, edamame, and kale can keep vegetarians healthy in calcium.
- Zinc: While it is best for vegetarians to consume supplements to maintain zinc levels foods such as whole grains, nuts, and legumes have also been shown to maintain healthy zinc levels.
Traditional research on the vegetarian diet mainly focused on nutritional deficiencies and have neglected to examine the other sides of a vegetarian diet. However, more recent studies have shown the ability of a vegetarian diet to be not only nutritionally sufficient but also a way to reduce risks of chronic illness.
Furthermore, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has explained that a vegetarian diet “may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” Compared to meat eaters, vegetarians are more likely to have bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a lower BMI.
On the other side of things, those following a vegetarian diet tend to consume more vitamin C and E, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals. The presence of these nutrients may mean participants of this diet enjoy a longer lifespan, suffering from fewer illnesses.
Evidence has shown that a vegetarian diet can lower the risk for cardiac events, including heart attack, and death from cardiac issues. In a study completed by EPIC-Oxford, researchers found that vegetarians had a 19% lower risk of death from heart disease.
A vegetarian diet high in whole grains and legumes can maintain steady blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol, both of which are linked to heart disease. However, should be consumed moderately if you have Type 2 Diabetes.
Nuts are also important in heart disease reduction, as they have a low glycemic index and may contain antioxidants, vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fatty acids. That said, nuts should be consumed in lesser amounts as they do have high-fat content.
Several studies have shown that vegetarian diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain strains of cancer. Specifically, the pescatarian diet has been noted by EPIC-Oxford and Oxford Vegetarian to indicate a lower risk of cancer when compared to meat eaters and pure vegetarians. Simply removing red meat from your diet can drastically reduce the risk of colon cancer, which is simple when you adopt a vegetarian diet.
Type 2 Diabetes
Research has shown that a vegetarian diet or predominantly plant-based diet can minimize your chance of acquiring type 2 diabetes. In studies of religious vegetarians, the risks of type 2 diabetes were slashed by half when compared to nonvegetarians. A similar result was found by a Harvard-based Women’s Health Study that examined a similar correlation between those that consume red meat and those that do not.
Is a Vegetarian Diet For You?
The vegetarian diet may not be the easiest of diets, but it is incredibly hard to ignore the health benefits associated with this lifestyle. Whether the diet is adopted for religious, personal, or ethical reasons, it should also be considered by anyone looking to increase their personal health.
A reduction in meat can have positive influences on a person and is simple enough as reducing meat consumption to just a few meals in a week.