Vegetarianism isn’t new. Some thousand years ago, the original diet was meatless. Probably consisting of nuts, papayas, strawberries, beans, tomatoes and water as the favourite beverage of choice. Today, there are a growing number of people committing themselves to a meatless, healthy diet. Why then, are people turning vegetarians? The reasons range from environmental concerns to animal rights but the most plausible reason is for health benefits. Various studies show that people who eat plant based diets tend to maintain a healthier body weight compared to those on meat based diets. There is a lot of research that show vegetarians are less likely to suffer from heart disease, and have lower blood pressures with a lower risk for adult-onset diabetes. They have also fewer problems with constipation and diverticular disease than non-vegetarians. Here are several reasons scientists believe vegetarians benefit from their diet.

1. Since vegetables are rich in fiber, these help create bulky waste products that move quickly through the body. Since there is quick removal of waste from the body, the toxins that are produced during the digestive process are therefore eliminated quickly as well. Studies also show that fibers bind with cholesterol, which in turn may lower the risk of heart disease. Diabetics also benefit from a vegetable diet because fibers help control the high level of sugar in a diabetic’s blood. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good source of fiber.

2. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene are known antioxidants. These are usually obtained from a balanced vegetarian diet. There are compounds that alter or destroy the body’s cell, these are called free radicals. Antioxidants assist the body by immobilizing these free radicals that are associated with the formation of cancer, the development of certain heart disease and various conditions associated with aging. Grapefruit, guava, kiwifruit, orange, lemon, mango, melon, honeydew, papaya are just some of the good sources of Vitamin C. Mustard green, pumpkins, turnip greens, almonds, hazelnuts and grains contain vitamin E while carrots, cantaloupe are rich sources of beta-carotene.

3. Plants contain phytochemicals that may help the body fight cancer. The more commonly known phytochemicals are lycopene found in tomatoes, isothiocyanates from broccoli and sulforophane from red cabbage.

Vegetarianism offers a lot of health benefits but poor diet planning may create health problems. Here are a few ideas to get started if you are planning to adopt the vegetarian lifestyle.

1. Be creative and discover ways to include more vegetables in your diet and subsequently replace animal products. Ask friends, read books, research in your library for vegetarian recipes. Always update yourself with new food recipes so that you will not get bored repeatedly eating the same type of menu. When dining out, try to substitute meat products with vegetables. For instance, instead of eating a regular burger try to substitute it with garden burgers and other plant based entrees. Selecting the way food is prepared will also help lower the fat in your diet. Broil, boil and bake instead of frying foods.

2. Try to choose a plan, whether to just gradually increase wholesome plant foods in your diet and decrease meat intake, or totally stop eating meat foods altogether.

3. Always eat a balanced diet. Beans, peanut butter, tortillas and meat analogs can be good replacements for meat proteins. Experts recommend six to eleven servings of whole grains and bread and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

4. Take multivitamin and mineral supplement. Our body needs some vitamins and minerals that a total vegetable diet cannot supply. Taking supplements will compensate for that deficiency.

Live longer and enhance your life by adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, this might just be what your body needs.

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