Vegetarianism Is Making a Comeback
The days of being limited by vegetarian choices are over; the vegan and vegetarian community is making a comeback and rightfully so. With heart disease topping the chart for the leading cause of death in the U.S., cancer trailing not far behind, stroke coming in at number four and diabetes sixth, more Americans are considering a plant-based diet.
Three cohort studies, with more than 96,000 participants from the US and Canada, tracked the dietary practices and health outcomes of non-vegetarians, vegetarians, vegans and other variations of vegetarianism. Compared to non-vegetarians, the likelihood of vegetarians developing hypertension was 55 percent lower, 25 to 49 percent lower for type two diabetes and approximately 50 percent lower for developing metabolic syndrome (a collection of conditions that increases a person's risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Even more remarkable is that vegans experienced greater risk reductions compared to non-vegetarians and vegetarians. Threats of death from ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease were 26 to 68 percent lower in vegetarians (pescovegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and vegan).
Still not convinced that a plant-based diet might be the way to go? Research has shown that obesity is a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease and cancer. The studies showed that lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans had a lower body mass index compared to non-vegetarians. Cancer risks were also lower for participants who practiced a plant-based diet; vegetarians decreased their chances of developing cancer by eight percent. Colon cancer risks were approximately half the amount compared to non-vegetarians, while there was a 35 percent risk reduction for prostate cancer.
What can you do to decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases and early death? Diets that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts help play a role in lowering serum cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. It is also worth noting that these foods are low in trans and saturated fats.
According to the research, in addition to proper dietary habits, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, getting adequate rest, participating in physical activity and other lifestyle practices contributed to longer and healthier lives. Trying to live a healthier life can be overwhelming, and you might not know where to begin; small changes can have significant results. If you are considering moving to a more plant-based diet and don’t know where to start, try this tasty, nutrient filled recipe and the health tips below. Finally, always consult with your doctor before making any changes.
Go nuts! Have ¼ cup of unsalted nuts as a healthy snack.
Think like a PRO! There are plenty of plant-based foods to meet your PROtein needs: quinoa, lentils, beans, tofu, soymilk, tempeh and nuts.
Incorporate calcium-rich foods: Look for bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens and calcium-fortified foods.
Add a little variety to your life: Try a new recipe every week.
Don’t forget your vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products. However, you can purchase fortified foods, soy products or supplement your diet with a vitamin B12 supplement.
Written by: Nadine Brooks, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern, Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.