In recent years more and more people are turning to a vegetarian diet as a means of entering into a healthier lifestyle. Plant based diets are known for being rich in fiber, folic acid, Vitamins C and E and unsaturated fat. While completely giving up meat may seem like a daunting task for some, it’s important to consider the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
Here are the top 3 benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle:
1. Fights cancer
Many studies show a lower risk of cancer in those who follow a plant based diet than those who regularly eat meat. Red meat, as well as processed meats such as turkey and chicken, contain nitrates and nitrites which convert to a cancer causing chemical compound called nitrosamines. Vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fats, high in fiber and full of phytochemicals that help prevent cancer. Simply eliminating red meat from your diet will greatly reduce your risk of colon cancer. In fact, one Harvard study looked at thousands of men and women and found that regular meat consumption increases risk of colon cancer by 300 percent. Researchers from Cambridge University found that there is a link between breast cancer and diets high in saturated fat.
If eliminating meat all at once seems like too much, start by eating smaller portions of meat and larger portions of vegetables with each meals. Another idea is to limit your weekly consumption, by eating meat no more than three times a week.
2. Prevents heart disease
Following a vegetarian diet can also help to prevent heart disease. Animal products are the main source of saturated fat and the only source of cholesterol in the diet and avoiding these products helps to prevent heart disease. In fact, there is no virtually no health benefits to eating animal fat so cutting them out of your diet will eliminate many of the harmful effects such as contributing to a larger percentage of body fat. Vegetarians have been shown to have lower rates of obesity than non-vegetarians, which is a major factor in heart disease. In addition, a vegetarian diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat combined with exercise will also help to prevent hardening of the arteries.
When it comes to the prevention of heart disease, it is best to choose foods such as high fiber whole grains and legumes, as well as nuts which are high in antioxidants and fatty acids. In particular, walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.
3. Helps lower blood pressure
Over 30 percent of Americans deal with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Luckily, following a vegetarian diet is one way to control blood pressure since individuals who follow a vegetarian diet generally have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. In fact, studies show that most people will see a drop in their blood pressure after only two weeks of following this lifestyle. Eating foods rich in potassium, such as spinach, avocado and sweet potatoes will also help lower blood pressure.
Reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and lowering blood pressure are just a few of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Other benefits include preventing diabetes, reducing the chances of gallstones and kidney stones, lower rates of obesity and reducing need for asthma medication.
So perhaps you have decided to ease into a vegetarian lifestyle, but aren’t sure where to begin? Even if you aren’t completely sure whether or not you want to completely eliminate all animal products from your diet, here are a few tips for easing into a vegetarianism.
- Have meat free days
- Find easy vegetarian recipes
- Eliminate temptation from your kitchen
- Plan ahead by checking out restaurant menus before going out to eat
- Have some vegetables, such as carrots, red peppers or broccoli on hand for snacking
“Becoming a Vegetarian”. Harvard Women’s Health Watch 18 March 2016. Accessed 8 September 2017.
Group, Edward. “9 Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet”. Global Health Center. 30 September 2015. Accessed 8 September 2017.
Young, Scott. “How to Become a Vegetarian”. Zen Habits. 17 August 2007. Accessed 10 September 2017.
“Vegetarian Foods: Powerful for Health”. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Accessed 8 September 2017.