Vegetarianism has become immensely popular in recent times, with many non-vegetarians turning into vegetarians and some even choosing to follow a vegan lifestyle where they stop consuming all kinds of animal products, including milk and honey. The change in many cases can be closely linked to the desire to have a healthier life and protect animals; whatever is the reason, going vegetarian has a very deep impact on one’s health and behaviour.
In earlier times, the benefits associated with following a vegetarian lifestyle were mostly based on principles and philosophy, but during the last couple of decades, the health benefits of a plant-based diet have been clinically established. The most important thing to note here is that avoiding meat and other animal products is just a part of the bigger frame; to get the true benefits of a vegetarian diet, the key is to include all sorts of plant foods in your daily diet. This would also ensure a decent intake of fibre, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other vital phytochemicals.
By following a vegetarian lifestyle, you can:
Keep your weight under control: Many researches have successfully established that vegetarians tend to have a leaner body frame when compared to their meat-eating counterparts. People who continue to eat non-vegetarian foods tend to gain more weight over a period of time and also face challenges while trying to lose weight and/or maintain it. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what your diet should include – cutting down on meat to move to an all-time veggie pizza or cheese sandwich diet would bring no benefit, it is absolutely important to eat foods that provide fibre and antioxidants which are included in a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Manage cholesterol levels and improve heart health: Studies suggest that being on a specific plant-based diet has a cholesterol-lowering effect, which is similar to drug treatment. Animal foods are the only dietary sources of cholesterol and are also rich in saturated fat; a vegetarian diet can save one from these dangerous components and help improve the cholesterol profile and heart health. A 2013 study conducted on 44,000 subjects reported that vegetarians are 32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease. Another study indicated that a low-fat high-fibre vegetarian diet combined with regular exercises can actually reverse atherosclerosis.
Manage cancer: Vegetarians have a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer, in comparison to meat-eaters. Studies have established that vegetarians are at reduced risk of developing prostate and colon cancer. It was also discovered that vegetarians have a 50% less cancer-related deaths.
Avoid developing several diseases: Plant-eaters are less likely to develop diseases caused or communicated by consuming animal products. The US Food and Drug Administration states that protein-rich animal foods are repeatedly involved in food-borne illnesses among the population.
Increase longevity: Vegetarians have a lower risk of developing health issues related to diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, apart from maintaining healthy body weight. These factors, together with an active routine, can help improve life expectancy.
Reduce risk of developing kidney and gall bladder stones: Non-vegetarian diets cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate and uric acid, the major components of renal stones. Following a vegetarian diet helps reduce the formation of these stones and hence prevent the formation of kidney stones. High cholesterol and fatty meat diets are directly linked with the formation of gallstones, especially in women.
The above-mentioned benefits of following a plant-based diet are well established and quite a good number of people have actually turned vegetarian to get maximum benefits from this lifestyle. Yet, there are a few who are reluctant to take a U-turn, mostly because they are concerned about the nutritional composition and nutrient quality of the vegetarian diet. It is important to note here that a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetarian foods is sufficient to meet your daily nutritional requirements. It is however, recommended that vegans include nutrient-fortified foods in their routine to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
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