Eating vegetarian these days may seem like you’re following a trend, but a vegetarian diet offers many healthy benefits, especially for those who struggle with other health concerns. For example, someone struggling with heart health may need to eat less red meat.
A complete vegetarian diet eliminates meat as a staple, but some vegetarian diets include animal byproducts such as milk, cheese or eggs. A lactovegetarian diet includes plant food, dairy products and eggs.
In many cases, there are delicious substitutes and recipes for those who must avoid these, such as almond milk in your coffee or a tofu “egg” scramble. Semi-vegetarians typically avoid red meat but eat chicken and fish, along with other animal byproducts.
You don’t have to be a total vegetarian to gain some of the benefits of being a vegetarian. Around 70 percent of diseases are connected to diet, and a plant-based diet will help decrease risks for diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, obesity, lung cancer and breast cancer.
Eating a healthier, more vegetarian-like diet will help improve your overall health in various ways.
- Better Heart Health
A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome sufferers experience three of five major heart risk concerns: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol and increased weight gain.
A study featured in Diabetes Care discovered only 25 percent of 700 participants on a total vegetarian diet suffered from metabolic syndrome, compared with 39 percent of non-vegetarians and 37 percent of semi-vegetarians. Heart health benefits from a vegetarian diet include fewer calories, which reduces weight gain, increased fiber for improved cholesterol and more vital nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
- Reduced Cancer Risk
Vegetarian diets are naturally high in fiber, low in saturated fat and contain cancer-protective phytochemicals, which prevent and fight cancer. Research conducted in Germany and England revealed vegetarians are less likely by 40 percent to have cancer compared with those who eat meat.
In Japan, women who eat a western-style, meat-heavy diet are more than eight times at risk for breast cancer than those who adhere to a traditional plant-based diet.
For colorectal cancer, a vegetarian diet is linked with a reduced risk of the disease. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers studied the eating habits of over 70,000 people. Those who ate a vegetarian diet presented a 22 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer, and those who included seafood (pescovegetarian) had a 43 percent reduced risk.
- Prevent or Reverse Diabetes
It’s possible to reverse diabetes in some sufferers and reduce the risk of diabetes overall with a plant-based diet, which improves blood sugar levels. In 2014, researchers found changing to a vegetarian diet may be used as an alternative plan of treatment for type 2 diabetes.
They discovered a vegetarian or vegan diet decreased HbA1c (blood protein glycated haemoglobin) on average by 0.4 points and up to 0.7 points. By eating vegetarian, animal fats are removed and insulin sensitivity improves.
Other research indicates benefits of a plant-based diet for increased well-being for suffers of asthma, kidney stones and other ailments. Eating vegetarian for one meal a day or on certain days of the week may also help improve overall health.
To gain the full benefits and maintain a well-balanced diet, vegetarians need to consume a wide variety of plant proteins and nutrients. A vegetarian diet may be unhealthy if you’re eating highly saturated fat and too many calories. Soy protein is equivalent to animal protein, and plant proteins naturally provide enough non-essential and essential amino acids.
Those on a vegetarian diet need to particularly watch levels of iron and vitamin B-12, the same goes for plant based or vegan diets. Surprisingly to non-meat eaters, vegetarians generally retain and absorb more calcium through plants than non-vegetarians do, especially when calcium sources are spinach, kale and other leafy green plants.
If you decide to make the transition to a vegetarian diet, reduce sweet and fatty foods, pick whole or nutrient-fortified grains and eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. The benefits of a vegetarian diet, or at least a semi-vegetarian diet, are proven to improve everyone’s overall health.