Before we start I just want to say that I am NOT saying everyone should be a vegetarian.. I myself am not (I just don’t eat red meat, but i do eat fish and seafood). I’m just pointing out the health benefits and things to look out for if you are, or partly are, a vegetarian.
Health Benefits of Vegetarianism:
Studies show that vegetarians have:
- lower blood cholesterol
- lower risk of heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- lower risk of hypertension
- lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- lower body mass index (BMI)
- Lower risk overall of getting cancer
There are many types of vegetarians.. leading to different health implications..
Health Connections to Vegetarian Diet:
- Good source of antioxidants (Vit A, C, E, Phytochemicals from consuming a lot of fruit & veg)
- Lower blood cholesterol levels and LDL levels
- Lower incidence of hypertension
- Lower incidences of lung and colon cancer (Diet is high in fibre which helps to remove waste & toxins)
- Lower estrogen levels in vegetables may be protective against breast cancer.
- Weight loss (because vegetables are generally lower in calories than meat).
Look at these charts from a study done by William Harris in the US 1999, showing a correlation between the meat intake vs cancer rate in certain countries:
This study shows that the country that consume less meat products (i.e, Japan) have much lower cancer rates than those consuming a lot (i.e, Canada & US)
Therefore, vegetarianism can be very beneficial IF you are eating properly and plan your diet carefully!!
Nutritional concerns for vegetarianism:
- Too low in calories (if you consume too little calories you will slow down your metabolism and you won’t have enough energy for your normal body functions)
- Too low in protein
- Low in vitamin B12
- Low in calcium
- Low in zinc
- Low in iron
- May be too low in fat
It is needed for hormones, water balance, enzymes, bones, skin, hair. immunity, PH levels, and energy.
9/12 amino acids are essential (not made by our bodies so we must take them in)
Sources for vegetarians: Grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, SOY (soy is most equivalent to meat because all essential amino acids are present).
Key nutrient in maintaining the brain and nervous system. It is an active component of producing energy.
Sources for vegetarians: Fortified foods and supplements (i.e, fortified soy milk- Must be fortified!), eggs, milk & milk products (depending which type of vegetarian you are).
** Absorption of B12 becomes less efficient with age, so older vegetarians should consider a supplement.
For bone structure, nerve function, blood clotting, muscle contraction (cramps= low calcium), and cellular metabolism.
Sources for vegetarians: FORTIFIED soy milk, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, milk.
***Excessive fibre and oxalate interfere with calcium absorption
For skin, wound healing, immunity, and breakdown of carbs.
Sources for vegetarians: nuts, legumes, pumpkin seeds, whole grain breads & cereals, egg yolks, milk products, and tofu.
** Plant fibre, and calcium & iron supplements hinder zinc absorption
For blood, immunity, and the brain & nervous system.
2 types: Heme (animal source), Non-heme (plant source- less is absorbed by body!)
Sources for vegetarians: Enriched & whole grain breads & cereals (a lot of cereals are very high in added iron now!), seeds, legumes, nuts, raisins, prune juice, green leafy vegetables, and tofu.
** Take these foods with Vitamin C, because vitamin C enhances iron absorption. For example add some lemon juice to your chick peas, or add some strawberries to your cereal!
** Plant fibre, caffeine, and calcium supplements interfere with plant iron absorption.
For protection of organs, satiety value (feeling of fullness), sensory quality, energy, micronutrient carrier, and hormones.
Essential fatty acids:
EPA: preventing inflammatory diseases
DHA: Brain and vision (especially important for pregnant woman/ children)
GLA: Decreases LDL cholesterol, reduces PMS symptoms, treats Atopic Eczema
AA: Brain and vision
Sources for vegetarians: Oils, soybeans, tofu, avocado, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, butter.
Key: Try to eat a variety of foods in moderation. Try not to use supplements as excess can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients.
As you may have read before, I am not a full vegetarian. I do eat fish and seafood, which helps to make my nutrient/ vitamin levels more balanced. I do believe that people should cut down their meat intake.
Japanese Kabocha (Squash)- My favourite vegetable!
So try it out! Start with one day a week for you and your family to eat vegetarian! Check out recipes online or go to a vegetarian restaurant! If you have kids that don’t like eating veggies try: shopping & preparing food together, make the vegetables into fun shapes.
You will benefit with some weight loss, warding off disease, saving some money, sparing chemicals, saving animals, helping world hunger issues (it takes so much grain to feed livestock, all that grain could be used to feed people), and maybe living longer!