Eating for Life
Why? Vegetarians generally have lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly lower ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol, resulting from their lower dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Heart-friendly foods that are prominent features of a healthy vegetarian diet include:
These foods provide both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, many antioxidants and other important phytonutrients.
Less Obesity - Vegetarians are, on average, thinner than non-vegetarians.
Why? This may be due to a greater emphasis on a healthier lifestyle by vegetarians, including more physical activity as well as their higher intake of dietary fibre and lower intake of animal fat.
Lower Blood Pressure - Some studies show that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians, and that vegetarian diets can reduce high blood pressure.
Why? This may be due to a number of factors including the fact that vegetarian diets are generally higher in fibre, fruits and vegetables, lower in saturated fat/higher in polyunsaturated fat and higher in potassium and magnesium. Vegetarians also generally have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegetarians.
Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis - A high animal protein intake has been linked with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Why? Large amounts of protein - particularly from animal products - have been shown to increase the loss of calcium from bones. However, recent research suggests higher protein diets may not be detrimental so long as there is an adequate calcium intake.
Protection from Cancer - The cancer rate in vegetarians from western countries is lower than that of meat eaters. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that the incidence of cancer can be reduced by 30-40 per cent if people consume plant-based diets, are physically active and maintain a healthy body weight.
Why? Not only do plant-based diets exclude or limit meat products (especially red and processed meats), they also generally include a larger quantity of highly protective foods such as, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, that are rich in antioxidants and other important phytochemicals as well as fibre.
Lower Risk of Diabetes - Vegetarian diets result in a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why? This could be due to their higher content of wholegrains and legumes, which promote a slower rise in blood sugar and subsequently, insulin levels. Or the fact that vegetarians also have a lower BMI and usually consume more nuts than non-vegetarians.
Protection from Other Diseases - Vegetarian diets are also helpful in preventing gallstones, kidney stones and bowel disorders including constipation and diverticular disease.
Why? This is mainly because they are generally high in dietary fibre and don’t contain excessive amounts of protein, especially animal protein.
What is it about plant-based diets that make people so healthy?
Generally, a well-balanced plant-based diet features an abundance of wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and legumes and a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables.