Recent researches, various studies and the new evidences all point towards the fact that, adopting a vegetarian diet can actually lead to better health and a better quality of life. Risks of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, along with their resultant complications, both behavioural and quality of life related, are strongly related to lifestyle and particularly to dietary choices.
The question that we often face is how a vegetarian or a vegan diet is better than a non-vegetarian diet?
The answers are numerous:
- Vegetarian or the vegan diets are usually high in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, iron, and many phytochemicals, They also have lesser calories, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. This is the reason why vegetarians are at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers.
- Effective weight loss can be achieved by following a vegetarian diet, without causing associated deficiencies. In a study reported in the Nutrition Reviews, it was shown that weight loss in vegetarians is not even dependent on exercise and that there was less likelihood for them to gain back the lost weight. Weight loss shown to be up to I kg per week.
- In a Lifestyle Heart Trial, by Dr Dean Ornish, it was proved that about 82% of the patients of atherosclerosis, who followed a comprehensive lifestyle change, mainly that of following a vegetarian diet, were benefitted. After following the changed lifestyle (vegetarian diet) for only a year, regression of atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries due to fat deposition) was seen even in the severe most cases.
- Data from various studies shows that on-vegetarians are at a greater risk of both colo-rectal and prostrate cancer as compared to the vegetarians. A vegetarian diet provides a variety of cancer-protecting dietary factors, including phytochemicals and fibre.
- The use if hormones and antibiotics for livestock in order to increase food production has been proven to be a public health threat. When anti-biotics that are vital for the health of human beings are given to animals on a large scale, it may lead to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria that can cause hard-to-treat human disease.
- Recent studies have shown that by restricting meat and its products leads to improvement in mood. This is, firstly, due to the fact that, vegetarian food has less of Arachidonic acid which is associated with mood disturbances. And secondly, also due to increase in the number of good bacteria in the gut, which is also considered the second brain. These good gut bacteria produce various biologically-active compounds, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, which cause mood enhancement.
- The main concern that people have is that of getting proper amounts of protein from a vegetarian diet. Generally, people on a plant-based diet are not at a risk of protein deficiency. Following a properly-planned- balanced-vegetarian diet will ensure adequate amount of proteins (inclusion of all essential amino acids) in daily diet and any protein deficiency.
- There are also evidences that a vegetarian diet is an alkaline diet and that an alkaline foods improve health better as compared to the acidic foods of a non-vegetarian diet. Fruits, vegetables, soy, legumes, wholegrains and nuts are all alkaline-ash producing foods. Alkaline ash diet helps one lose weight faster and also avoids many cancers, arthritis and osteoporosis.
An appropriately planned, balanced vegetarian diet not only is nutritionally sufficient, but also reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. In order to be healthy and to get sufficient amounts of all required nutrients, it is important to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts in the daily diet. It is equally imperative, to replace saturated and trans fats with good fats such as those found in nuts, olive oil and canola oil. It is a good practice to read labels and avoid consumption of high quantities of fast foods cheese and too much refined sugar, sweetened sodas along with practicing portion control, in order to get maximum benefit from a vegetarian diet.