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Benefits of Vegetarian Diet

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Benefits of Vegetarian Diet.

Vegetarian diets are those that eliminate animal foods, replacing them with plant-based foods. So, a vegetarian would exclude meat and fish, and replace them with veggies, fruits, legumes/beans tubers, whole grains and healthy fats. Some vegetarians choose to still include dairy, eggs or fish in their diets.

It may not be necessary to completely exclude all animal proteins from your diet. To prevent issues like vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency anemia and low protein intake, it may be best to still consume some eggs, dairy or fish. A well-balanced vegetarian diet should also include lots of raw and cooked veggies, limited processed foods, low amounts of added sugar, and little refined grain products.

Understanding Vegetarian Diet

How does a vegetarian diet work to promote heart health, weight loss and health benefits? And are there any risks involved in cutting out the majority of animal-based foods in your diet? What can you eat on a vegetarian diet?

While there are many versions of vegetarian diets, most consist of eating plant-based foods along with moderate amounts of eggs and dairy (but no meat). The staples of a balanced vegetarian diet include a variety of plants like fresh or cooked veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.

Because plants are low in calories but high in essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, vegetarian diets can be very nutrient-dense. Vegetarian diets are relatively low in protein, saturated fat, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, retinol, vitamin B12 and zinc and usually rich in carbohydrates, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E and magnesium.

However, there’s no guarantee that a vegetarian diet will result in health improvements. Ultimately it all depends on the specific foods someone chooses to eat, plus his or her individual reaction to cutting out most, or all, animal products.

Benefits

Weight Loss

Because plant-based foods like fresh veggies and fruit are very low in calories yet are high in terms of volume and therefore take up lots of room in your stomach, they are filling and keep you from over-eating. People who eat a high amount of vegetables and fruit daily tend to have the best protection against weight gain as they age. Plant-based (or “mostly plant-based”) diets are tied to a lowered risk for obesity, lower BMI status and reduced complications related to obesity, such as heart problems or metabolic syndrome.

Even if your diet is overall low in fat, try to still get about 20 percent or more of your daily calories from healthy sources of fat. To make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, include at least one of the following in each main meal: nuts and seeds (like almonds, walnuts, hemp, chia or flax), avocado, olive oil, coconut oil or coconut cream/milk, and butter or ghee if you include dairy products.

Heart Health

Vegetarian diets can be beneficial for significantly lowering high blood pressure, high body mass index, high obesity rates, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and diabetes risk. Plant-based foods provide help to lower inflammation, a root cause of heart disease, and also provide dietary fiber. Research has shown that there’s often a link between eating a high-fiber diet and having increased protection against high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Higher intake of a plant-based diet index rich in healthier plant foods is associated with substantially lower coronary heart disease risk.

Eliminates Carcinogens

Vegetarian diets eliminate processed meats, which are also considered carcinogenic. These include foods like packaged cold cuts, hot dogs, salami and cured meats. There has been found a link between consumption of highly processed meat products and higher risk for cancer. When meat is cooked at high temperatures, certain chemical compounds called heterocyclic amines can be created that may have carcinogenic effects. The higher the cooking temperature of meat, the greater chance of these byproducts being created.

On the other hand, plant-based proteins offer amino acids (the specific types and amount differs from food to food) in addition to fiber and antioxidants, but without the carcinogenic effects.

 

Many people can benefit from adding more raw foods to their diets, assuming their digestive systems tolerate them well. You don’t have to follow a strict raw vegan food diet to reap the benefits of eating more plant foods. “Raw foods” in the context of a vegetarian/vegan diet consist of those that have not been heated over 46º C or 115º F.