8 health benefits of turning vegetarian
Bommanahalli, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
From weight loss to protection against cancer, being a vegetarian helps you lead a healthy life
Are you one of those who cannot imagine living without eating meat? Probably you need to give it another thought. While each type of food (including meat and fish) has its own benefits and risks, overall it has been found that being a vegetarian is the healthiest way to lead life. Before getting to the benefits of a vegetarian diet, let’s understand what exactly defines a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian diet.
A vegetarian diet ideally means a diet that primarily includes vegetables, while non-vegetarian diet is inclusive of animal products. But depending on personal choices, vegetarians are broadly categorized into vegans, semi-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians and lacto-ovo-vegetarians.
Vegans: These individuals avoid eating all kinds of animal products including dairy products
Semi-vegetarians: They eat fish and/or chicken
Lacto-vegetarians: They eat all dairy products except eggs
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: They eat both dairy products and eggs
So, why do you need to try turning vegetarian?
1. Lowers your cholesterol levels: The fact that plant sources do not contain cholesterol is enough to highlight the advantage of eating a vegetarian diet for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Your body produces cholesterol in some amounts and with daily intake of chicken or red meat your blood cholesterol levels will increase to level that it starts depositing on the walls of the blood vessels, giving rise to atherosclerosis.
2. Lowers your risk of heart disease: Animal products are rich sources of saturated fats which make them closely associated with coronary heart disease (CHD). A study analysing the association between risk of heart disease and diet found that vegetarians had a 24% lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who eat meat. The risk was the lowest in lacto-ovo vegetarians (34% lower risk).
3. Reduces your risk of hypertension: Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians have equal chances of suffering from hypertension. But, vegetarians naturally enjoy a low sodium and low fat diet making them less likely to suffer from hypertension.
4. Prevents and controls diabetes: Being a vegetarian or vegan cuts down several risk factors like obesity that are linked to diabetes. According to a study non vegetarians are twice likely to suffer from diabetes compared to vegetarians. If you’re a diabetic, you can control your sugar levels better by switching to vegetarianism. A vegetarian diet makes your body more responsive to insulin.
5. Helps to control weight: Obviously, with low fat, cholesterol and triglycerides, a vegetarian diet will help you keep your weight under check. A low-fat vegetarian diet will also you lose weight if you’re obese, according to a study.
6. Reduces the risk of colon cancer: Colon cancer in rampant in people who consume less amount of legumes and fiber. Because vegetarian diet is rich in fibre and legumes, the risk of colon cancer is less among vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians. Not just colon cancer, vegetarians get natural protection against prostate, stomach, breast and lung cancer.
7. Reduces the risk of kidney stones and gall stones: Non-vegetarian diet is undoubtedly rich in protein. But sometimes this excess amount of protein can cause the body to excrete more amounts of calcium, oxalate and uric acid. These substances form the main component of kidney stones and gall stones.
8. Reduces your risk of death: Although debatable, being a vegetarian is thought to be associated with reduced risk of death (excluding other factors like smoking and alcohol consumption).
Although a vegetarian diet is beneficial for staying healthy, often due to lack of balanced diet vegetarians suffer from deficiencies of mirconutrients. You need to understand that shifting to vegetarianism is not enough to lead a healthy life; a balanced diet plays an equally important role. It’s not the restriction of meat that makes vegetarian healthy. It’s the variety of foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains) you choose to include in your diet that keeps you healthy.