9 Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Tofu and Vegetarian Stir-Fry

Adopting a vegetarian diet can be a fantastic entry into experiencing better health. A vegetarian diet is associated with a higher consumption of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and countless phytochemicals. This often results in vegetarians having lower cholesterol, being thinner, having lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart disease. Let’s explore some of the other benefits of adopting a vegetarian (or vegan) lifestyle.

1. May Improve Mood

Arachidonic acid is a substance that usually comes from dietary animal sources and, no surprise, vegetarian diets are not high in arachidonic acid. This can be beneficial, as research has shown a link between arachidonic acid and mood disturbances. Researchers at Benedictine University performed a study to investigate the impact of restricting animal products and mood and confirmed that mood improvements do happen when eating meat, fish, and poultry are restricted. [1]

Additionally, Croatia’s Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health conducted mental health surveys amongst vegetarians and found them to have lower levels of neuroticism. [2]

2. May Improve Symptoms of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes skin redness and irritation and can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. However, according to research published by Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, a vegetarian diet may positively improve symptoms. [3]

3. May Reduce Incidence of Diabetes

According to Loma Linda University School of Public Health, vegetarian diets are associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of diabetes. [4] Information published by George Washington University School of Medicine has also confirmed that vegetarian diets offer an important benefit for the management of diabetes and can even reduce the likelihood of development by one half. [5]

4. Reduces Risk of Cataract Development

Oddly enough, research released by the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford has shown a strong relation between the risk of developing cataracts and diet; with a higher risk falling on meat eaters and the lowest risk groups being vegetarians and vegans. [6]

5. Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

According to the JCU University Skin Cancer Research Clinic, there is a relationship between a vegetarian diet and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Why? Most vegetarian diets are full of antioxidant rich foods. Antioxidants are molecules that can reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress, including atherosclerosis. [7]

6. Vegetarians Usually Have Low Cholesterol

There’s no health benefit, at all, to eating animal fat. It should come as no surprise that when you remove it from your diet, you will also remove the detrimental effects it has on your health life. After examining the long term effects of following a vegetarian diet, Korean researchers very comfortably concluded that body fat, and cholesterol levels were lower in vegetarians than omnivores. [8]

7. Less Risk of Stroke and Obesity

There are always exceptions but, in general, vegetarians and vegans tend to be much more deliberate in their food choices and far less likely to binge eat or choose foods based on emotions- two habits that greatly contribute to obesity. According to the University Hospital Ghent Department of Paediatrics in Belgium, following a vegetarian diet is a good way to reduce your chance at having a stroke or being obese. [9]

8. Less Chance of Developing Kidney Stones

New York University Langone Medical Center reports that eliminating animal protein consumption in favor of vegetables will result in a higher urine pH; whereas low urine pH has been associated with stone formation. [10]

9. It Can Satisfy All Your Nutritional Requirements

If you think vegetarians and vegans are nutritionally deficient or always hungry, think again! The official position of The American Dietetic Association is that a comprehensive and well designed vegetarian, or vegan, diet can be nutritionally sound and appropriate for all ages and stages of life, including infants, the elderly, and even athletes. Good health, reduced incidence of disease, and better management of existing health problems are all associated with following a vegetarian diet. [11]

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Beezhold BL, Johnston CS. Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2012 Feb 14;11:9. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-9.
  2. Bobić J, Cvijetić S, Barić IC, Satalić Z. Personality traits, motivation and bone health in vegetarians. Coll Antropol. 2012 Sep;36(3):795-800.
  3. Araujo ML, Burgos MG, Moura IS. [Nutritional influences in psoriasis]. An Bras Dermatol. 2009 Jan-Feb;84(1):90-2. English, Portuguese.
  4. Tonstad S, Stewart K, Oda K, Batech M, Herring RP, Fraser GE. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Apr;23(4):292-9. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Oct 7.
  5. Barnard ND, Katcher HI, Jenkins DJ, Cohen J, Turner-McGrievy G. Vegetarian and vegan diets in type 2 diabetes management. Nutr Rev. 2009 May;67(5):255-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00198.x. Review.
  6. Appleby PN, Allen NE, Key TJ. Diet, vegetarianism, and cataract risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):1128-35. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.004028.
  7. Trapp D, Knez W, Sinclair W. Could a vegetarian diet reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress? A review of the literature. J Sports Sci. 2010 Oct;28(12):1261-8. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.507676. Review.
  8. Kim MK, Cho SW, Park YK. Long-term vegetarians have low oxidative stress, body fat, and cholesterol levels. Nutr Res Pract. 2012 Apr;6(2):155-61. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2012.6.2.155. Epub 2012 Apr 30.
  9. Van Winckel M, Vande Velde S, De Bruyne R, Van Biervliet S. Clinical practice: vegetarian infant and child nutrition. Eur J Pediatr. 2011 Dec;170(12):1489-94. doi: 10.1007/s00431-011-1547-x. Epub 2011 Sep 13. Review.
  10. Heilberg IP, Goldfarb DS. Optimum nutrition for kidney stone disease. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2013 Mar;20(2):165-74. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2012.12.001.
  11. Craig WJ, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82.

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