Exploring the Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Logo_Dave_AppleA study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism suggests that vegetarians may have an advantage over non-vegetarians when it comes to protection from dying of heart disease or getting cancer.  This may not come as a surprise, especially to fans of our Real Food Therapy Guide, which has numerous references citing the health benefits and disease prevention qualities of plant power.

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Vegetarians Have the Edge?

Research has shown that vegetarians tend to have better health in terms of cholesterol levels and lifestyle habits compared with nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of some diseases such as diabetes and obesity. In this meta-analysis researchers reviewed the data from several studies of vegetarians, which included 124,706 participants, looking for links between a vegetarian diet and risk of death and cancer incidence.

Results showed that vegetarians had a 29% lower rate of death from ischemic heart disease (blockage in the arteries that carry blood to the heart) and 18% lower cancer incidence compared with non-vegetarians. Death from all causes was 9% lower in vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians.

The study authors point out that “High-fat diets are implicated in the onset of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity,” and healthy vegetarian diets tend to be low in saturated fats. But they also caution that more research is needed to understand the full impact of a vegetarian diet on long-term health.

More on Being a Vegetarian

  • Vegetarian defined – A healthy vegetarian is a person who eats plenty of plant-based foods such as fruits and veggies and includes other sources of protein and other foods rich in nutrients in their diet, but who also does not eat meat, poultry, or fish.Vegans are people who follow a vegetarian diet, but who also avoid foods and beverages that contain animal products such as milk, eggs, and butter.
  • Vegetarian options – This study, along with others, suggests that a vegetarian diet may be especially helpful in preventing chronic disease. But don’t worry—if you can’t part with meat, chicken, or fish, diets such as the Mediterranean-style diet have also been linked to health benefits. The most important diet is a healthy and balanced diet. So whether following a vegetarian, Mediterranean, or another diet, it is important to eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and to get the balance of nutrients needed to optimize health and prevent disease. It’s also important to avoid junk food, excess fat or sugar, and excess alcohol.
  • Consult with a dietitian – If you are a vegetarian, it is wise to talk with a knowledgeable dietitian or nutritionist to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients and protein that you need to stay healthy. This is particularly true for parents who have children on a vegetarian or vegan diet who may need to a multivitamin supplement containing certain nutrients like vitamin B12 to ensure adequate nutrition. Pregnant and lactating women are other groups of people that should also consult with a healthcare professional when considering or following a vegetarian diet.

REFERENCE CITED: (Ann Nutr Metab 2012;60:233–40)

 

About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 25,000 hours of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 20 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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