6 Great Health Benefits of Vegetarian Foods

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A happy heart

Saturated fat is a major dietary contributor to heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. This type of fat is predominately found in foods of animal origin. Because vegetarian diets have less or no animal foods compared with meat-based diets, people who follow them often have a lower risk of heart disease.

High cholesterol is also a marker for heart disease, and is also related to consuming too much saturated fat. Vegetarians have been shown to have 10 percent lower cholesterol than even health-conscious meat-eaters.

To help reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your cholesterol levels, try “eating vegetarian” more often.

Lower blood pressure

In general, vegetarians have lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians, although it’s not clear why this is the case. Obesity and intake of salt are the most likely reasons. Vegetarians are usually of healthy weight and consume less salt than non-vegetarians. Increased potassium and calcium may also be a factor.
If you have high blood-pressure, try eating making more vegetarian choices in your diet to see if it helps.

Improved weight control

Vegetarians are more likely to have a lower body weight than non-vegetarians as their diet is high in foods which are generally low in fat and calories.

Vegetarian foods also tend to be high in fiber and are therefore more filling than animal-based foods, leading people to eat less.

If you’re wanting to lose weight, try substituting some of your meat-centered dishes for vegetable- and grain-based vegetarian options.

Lower risk of diabetes

The most significant study of vegetarian health in the U.S. has been the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church Study. Researchers in this study found fifty percent fewer incidences of Type 2 diabetes in vegetarians.

Vegetarian diets tend to be high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, found in foods like cereal, grains, fruit and vegetables. These foods have a lower glycemic index and help to maintain ideal blood glucose or sugar levels. The healthy weight and body shape of many vegetarians also contributes to a reduced incidence of diabetes.

If you’re concerned about Type 2 diabetes, choose foods that are often part of a vegetarian diet, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Healthier cholesterol levels

Many studies have demonstrated the low blood-cholesterol levels of vegetarians, some showing unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) levels to be 10 percent lower than even health-conscious meat-eaters.

Cholesterol is only present in meat and animal products. Therefore, vegetarians, and vegans in particular, automatically reduce cholesterol intake through diet. Although a person’s intake of dietary cholesterol may not necessarily affect blood-cholesterol levels, saturated fat – the other dietary culprit for high cholesterol – is also generally lower in a vegetarian diet, leading to the same blood-cholesterol benefits.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat dairy foods and eggs but no meat) still need to be careful of their saturated fat intake in dairy products and highly processed foods, and cholesterol in egg yolks.

Better bowels

Popular vegetarian foods such as cereals, grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes all are high in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps food pass through your digestive system more easily, which in turn helps keep your bowels healthy.

Vegetarians also have lower rates of colon cancer than non-vegetarians. The Seventh-Day-Adventist study showed half the incidence rate compared to meat eaters. Higher fiber intake is the most probable reason for this – it has often been suggested that the high incidence of colon cancer in Western countries is linked to low-fiber diets.

For better bowel health, try to include plenty of foods that are high in dietary fiber. By choosing vegetarian foods more often, you’re likely to increase your fiber intake.

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