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Vegetarian Diets for Health and Environment

Aug 18, 2008
It's been well documented through the years that vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat. Vegetarians are less likely to be obese, or to have high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or colon cancer. They are also less likely to die from heart disease.

The first major advantage of a vegetarian diet is increased heart health. Vegetarians, on average, consume more nuts (often as a supplemental form of protein). Nuts contain "good" fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6. This promotes good heart health by reducing "bad" cholesterol and unclogging arteries.

Vegetarians have lower blood pressure even when they eat the same amount of salt as meat eaters and exercise less. Many studies show that vegetarians have less instances of colon cancer, due in large part to the differences in the bacterial flora that is present in the colon.

There are many factors in the vegetarian diet that contribute to better health. Vegetarians consume two to three times as much fiber as do meat-eaters, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and protect against colon cancer. They also consume more antioxidants, which are found in a wide variety of plant foods and protect cells from oxygen-induced damage and reduce the risk for heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and other diseases.

Vegetarians eat more isoflavones than do meat eaters. These compounds, found mostly in soy foods, are a type of phytochemical. Research shows that isoflavones may reduce the risk for prostate cancer and may improve bone health. Vegetarians also consume much less saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat eaters, resulting in significantly lower levels of blood cholesterol, decreased instances of heart disease and possibly for diabetes and cancer. And, since vegetarians do not eat meat, they are not exposed to heme iron, a type of iron found in meat that may increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and replete with cancer-protective phytochemicals helps to prevent cancer. Large studies in England and Germany have shown that vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters. In the U.S., studies of Seventh-Day Adventists, who are largely lacto-ovo vegetarians, have shown significant reductions in cancer risk among those who avoided meat.

And lastly, vegetarianism is not only optimally healthy for your body, but your environment and the planet's animals. It allows you to live more harmoniously with the world around you, which improves mental and emotional health accordingly.
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