Many believe consuming meat and animal products is crucial to maintaining a well-rounded and nutritious diet that supports the development of robust muscles. Those who turn away from this traditional eating method and choose a vegetarian diet are often considered “granola-head hippies”…or just plain odd.
But more and more people are discovering the many health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Additionally, more physicians and scientists prescribe and endorse plant-based meals to promote health, prevent and treat certain diseases, and even reduce weight.
Although vegetarianism may seem like a modern fad, its health benefits have been known for centuries in many cultures worldwide. India and many Asian countries comprise the most significant percentage of the world’s vegetarians for health and spiritual reasons.
One group of people, the Hunza — who live near the Himalayan Mountains — have an exclusively vegetarian diet. Members of their community reportedly often live to be over 100 years old. The American Dietetic Association states that the benefits of a vegetarian diet include:
1) lowered cholesterol
2) lower levels of saturated fat
3) Higher levels of essential minerals and antioxidant vitamins
4) lower body fat
5) lower rates of heart disease
6) Lower blood pressure
7) lower rates of type-2 diabetes and
8) lower instances of some cancers.
Obesity, one of the significant health concerns in this country, can be addressed with a vegetarian diet that eliminates excess protein and animal fat consumption and increases fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Those who consume a vegetarian diet maintain a lower body mass index (BMI), which significantly aids in treating and managing other chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
One common question anyone considering a vegetarian diet asks is: “Will I get enough protein? That is certainly a valid concern, as protein is necessary for the building, maintaining, and functioning of all body cells.
However, according to the American Dietetic Association, a varied and well-balanced vegetarian diet provides all the protein the body needs from eating whole grains, beans, nuts, and soy products.
Meat-based diets typically provide excess protein, which may be harmful. A leading gerontological journal reports that too much protein can cause a person to lose about 30% of their kidney function by the time they become elderly.
It can also cause systemic acidity, which the body attempts to counter by pulling calcium out of the bones. It can, unfortunately, lead to osteoporosis. Becoming a vegetarian does not mean you are limited to eating celery sticks, apples, and nuts.
Many types of vegetarians eat meatless diets in a variety of combinations. Some of the more common types include:
. Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat or eggs but do eat dairy products such as milk and cheese.
. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat but will eat dairy products and eggs.
. Ovo vegetarians do not eat meat or dairy products but will eat eggs.
. Vegans do not eat meat, dairy products, eggs, or animal products.
Many medical and health organizations promote, endorse, and support people on a path toward changing their dietary lifestyle to one that includes more plant-based foods. Additionally, many restaurants and grocery stores provide vegetarians with meals and products, making choosing this healthy lifestyle simpler.
Research and information exist on the internet, as well as through medical providers and vegetarian organizations. The bottom line is that vegetarianism is OK; the benefits may enhance or even save your life!