It is quite hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment when I became vegetarian. My parents have always complained that they had trouble getting me to eat meat as a child. As I grew older, I went through moments of eating white meat and fish, combined with eating mostly plant-based food.
In general, the vegetarian diet consists of eating plant-based food, as well as dairy and eggs. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds make up the bulk of this diet. Some choose to be pesco-vegetarian (or pescatarian) while some choose to be pollo-vegetarian. Thanks to changes in diet, vegetarians are thinner, have lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease than meat eaters.
With that being said, let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
A vegetarian diet is high in antioxidants
The term antioxidant is mostly used for natural chemicals found in food, that inhibit the oxidation of the molecules. The most well-known antioxidant is ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Almost all plant-based foods offer a high number of antioxidants, which help stop the progression of diseases. The vegetarian diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains, provides a lot of nutrients, including antioxidants, such as flavonoids and beta-carotene.
A vegetarian diet may improve symptoms of psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes skin redness and irritation. In the late stages, it is debilitating for those who suffer from it. However, studies have shown that thanks to the anti-inflammatory proprieties of the vegetarian diet, it may positively improve symptoms.
A vegetarian diet may improve your mood
Arachidonic acid (or the omega-6 fatty acid) comes from animal sources. And while vegetarians may still eat cheese and eggs, their levels of the arachidonic acid are low. Why is that good? High amounts of arachidonic acid can lead to mood swings (among other not-so-nice side effects).
A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
According to yet another study, there’s a relationship between a vegetarian diet and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The reason? Most vegetarian diets are full of antioxidant-rich foods, which have a lot of health benefits.
Also, research has shown that there’s a link between a high-fiber diet – such as a vegetarian diet – and being protected against high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
More so, vegetarian diets can be beneficial in lowering the body mass index as well as lowering blood pressure.
A vegetarian diet may protect you against cancer
Multiple studies have shown that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. There is strong evidence that vegetarians have a lower incident of cancer than their meat-eating counterparts.
With that being said, simply eliminating the red meat will eliminate the risk of colon cancer; therefore, whether you are a pescatarian or pollo-vegetarian, you are still beating the odds against those who still eat red meat.
A vegetarian diet may help you lose weight
Because plant-based foods – such as fruits and vegetables – are very low in calories but high in volume, they take a lot of space in the stomach and prevent overeating. Therefore, they are tied with a lower rate of obesity and lower BMIs. Sure, you must remember that it counts what you put on those veggies when you eat them. An olive oil based vinaigrette is a better choice than a cheese-based sauce.
A vegetarian diet is sustainable for the environment
Plant foods require fewer natural resources to produce, thus having a lower carbon footprint. We all know what growing cattle does to the environment, and let’s not mention how damaging the sheep are to the land they graze on.
A vegetarian diet satisfies almost all your nutritional requirements
If you are already a vegetarian, you may have been asked the dreaded question: “but where do you get your protein from if you don’t eat meat?” If I was to get a dollar each time I’ve been asked, I’d be a millionaire by now.
So let’s answer that question first. Not only are there many options for vegetarians, but there are also a lot of vegan sources of protein, which include: hemp, non-dairy milk, greens, quinoa, nut butter, tofu, lentils, beans, tempeh, and sprouted-grain bread.
Meeting the nutritional requirements on a vegetarian diet is not as hard as many would think. The important vitamin B12 comes from dairy and eggs; iron comes from eggs, legumes, greens, nuts, and seeds; whereas zinc is found in cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
With that being said, people who follow a vegetarian diet may be at risk of getting insufficient vitamin D and K, so talk to your doctor and consider taking a supplement.
Looking to make some changes in your lifestyle? Try a general detox program!