Health and vegetarians

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fitness-332278_1280Vegetarians and Heart Disease

No matter what your reasons for eating a more vegetarian diet, there’s no denying the obvious health benefits that are derived from the elimination of red meat from your diet. On average, vegetarians have lower levels of the blood fats, cholesterol and triglycerides than meat eaters of similar age and social status have.
High levels of blood fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, those who eat eggs and dairy products, which contain cholesterol-raising saturated fats and cholesterol, have higher cholesterol levels than do vegans, as those who abstain from all animal foods are called. But even among lacto-ovo vegetarians, cholesterol levels are generally lower than they are among meat eaters.
Researchers have found that older men who eat meat six or more times a week are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who abstain from meat.
Among middle-aged men, meat eaters were four times more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack, according to the study. As for women, who are partly protected by their hormones and generally develop heart disease later in life than men do, the risk of fatal heart disease has been found to be lower only among the older vegetarians.
In a 1982 study of more than 10,000 vegetarians and meat eaters, British researchers found that the more meat consumed, the greater the risk of suffering a heart attack.
Though eliminating meat from the diet is likely to reduce your consumption of heart-damaging fats and cholesterol, substituting large amounts of high-fat dairy products and cholesterol-rich eggs can negate the benefit.
To glean the heart-saving benefits of vegetarianism, consumption of such foods as hard cheese, cream cheese, ice cream and eggs should be moderate. And the introduction of more vegetables, fruits and raw foods will definitely enhance the benefits of abstaining from eating meat.

Vegetarians and Cancer

You might have a general idea that eating a vegetarian diet is more healthy for you. But do you really know how much less the incidence is of certain types of cancers among vegetarians?
Vegetarian diets—naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and replete with cancer-protective phytochemicals—help to prevent cancer. Large studies in England and Germany have shown that vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters.
In the U.S., studies of Seventh-Day Adventists, who are largely lacto-ovo vegetarians, have shown significant reductions in cancer risk among those who avoided meat. Similarly, breast cancer rates are dramatically lower in nations, such as China, that follow plant-based diets. Interestingly, Japanese women who follow Western-style, meat-based diets are eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who follow a more traditional plant-based diet. Meat and dairy products contribute to many forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, ovaries, and prostate.
Harvard studies that included tens of thousands of women and men have shown that regular meat consumption increases colon cancer risk by roughly 300 percent. High-fat diets also encourage the body’s production of estrogens. Increased levels of this sex hormone have been linked to breast cancer.
A recent report noted that the rate of breast cancer among pre-menopausal women who ate the most animal (but not vegetable) fat was one-third higher than that of women who ate the least animal fat. A separate study from Cambridge University also linked diets high in saturated fat to breast cancer.
One study linked dairy products to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The process of breaking down the lactose (milk sugar) evidently damages the ovaries. Daily meat consumption triples the risk of prostate enlargement. Regular milk consumption doubles the risk and failure to consume vegetables regularly nearly quadruples the risk.
Vegetarians avoid the animal fat linked to cancer and get abundant fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals that help to prevent cancer. In addition, blood analysis of vegetarians reveals a higher level of “natural killer cells,” specialized white blood cells that attack cancer cells.

 

Bowels and Stomach Digestion

Many of the health benefits derived from a vegetarian diet have to do with creating a healthy environment in the bowels and stomach. Our digestive systems, from prehistory on, were designed to metabolize vegetable matter, more than animal products.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts provide the kind of dietary fiber our digestive systems need to function properly. The Western diet that’s high in processed and refined flour and sugar, and in animal products that are laden with hormones and antibiotics, are actually anathema to our insides.
When the digestive system doesn’t function and work as it’s intended to, that leads to opportunistic diseases or changes in the DNA of cells in the stomach and colon. And there are more practical considerations as well. When we don’t get enough of the fiber we need, we incur a host of digestion and elimination problems, such as constipation and hemorrhoids that are a result of straining.
These diseases and syndromes are much less evident in a vegetarian population than in a meat-eating population.
Other diseases of the bowel that occur less frequently in a vegetarian population include irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic ulcerative colitis, mostly likely due to the increased fiber content in a vegetarian diet. And of course a diet that’s higher in dietary fiber that comes from a vegetarian diet will decrease the likelihood or risk of colon cancer.
When you consider the risks that come with a diet that includes meat and animal products, and the benefits that come from a vegetarian diet, does the prospect of a steak or burger or bacon really sound that good to you? Doesn’t it at least make sense to reverse the portion sizes and proportions of meats to vegetables and side dishes? In other words, if you must continue to eat meat, then make meat your side dish, or just incidental to your meal, such as in a stir fry. Increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in your diet can only be good for you.

Weight

Think about it, have you ever seen a fat vegetarian? Probably not. In fact, for most of us, vegetarian is almost synonymous with lean and healthy, isn’t it? And when you start any diet, what’s the first thing the experts tell you? Generally it’s to increase the amounts of vegetables you’re eating and to eat limited amounts of meat, especially high-fat red meat and pork.
And what happens when you resume your old eating habits? Generally the weight will come right back on. Even the greatest will-power can’t overcome the unhealthy effects of eating high-fat meat.
When you eat a diet that’s higher in dietary fiber, that’s primarily if not totally vegetarian, you’re naturally healthier. You’re feeding your body and getting it the nutrition it needs to run efficiently.
You have more energy and stamina; you wake up more easily and more refreshed. It’s easier to exercise, because you’re not so weighed down by digesting the high fat and excessive protein that comes from eating a carnivorous diet.
Many diets fail because we think of them as depriving ourselves of food we love. The trick is to change that thinking. There are so many compelling reasons to eliminate meat from our diet, so why not forget about losing weight? Focus instead on eating healthier, or eating in a way that’s in balance with the earth, and that doesn’t need to subsist on the suffering of animals. You’ll probably find you’ll start to lose weight without even thinking about it!
And when you do lose weight, so many other health risks can fall by the wayside as well. You’ll find your blood pressure falls into a healthier range and your risk for Type II diabetes can decrease. You’ll look better and feel better and probably never go back to your old ways of eating!