The health benefits of vegetarianism

By James Belford- The Brock Press

veganismcolourContrary to popular belief and the information released by meat, dairy and egg industries, a vegetarian and vegan diet has many health benefits compared to one that consists of animal products. Despite the fact that many people believe meat is a requirement for a healthy lifestyle, vegetarians and vegans have a lower chance of contracting heart disease, colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and developing obesity according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In fact, vegetarian diets are prevalent in many parts of the world.

Reduced risk of developing heart disease

Cardiovascular disease  is a very serious condition, with approximately 17 million people dying of it each year and 2400 deaths every day in the United States.  Vegetarians and vegans are significantly less at risk of this disease.

Many studies have shown that there is a strong link between cholesterol consumption and the odds of contracting heart disease. People who are vegetarian and vegan have significantly lower levels of cholesterol than their omnivorous counterparts. One study showed that plasma total and low density lipids (LSD) cholesterol, a harmful form of cholesterol, were 32 to 44 percent lower in vegans than in omnivores.

Animal products like meat, eggs and milk contain a high fat concentration and are loaded with cholesterol. In addition, vegan and vegetarians also have lower cholesterol levels due to their high intake of plant foods. Vegetables contain a lot of fiber that helps to clean out the body and “flush away” cholesterol by scraping it away.

The end result is a group of people with a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease and its effects. The British Medical Association has reported that lifelong vegans have a 57 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease. Also, the mortality rate for heart disease is three times higher in meat eaters than in vegetarians.

Reduced risk of cancer

Increased total amount of fruits and vegetables, legumes, tomatoes, allium vegetables, fiber and vitamin C are all factors that can reduce one’s risk of cancer. Vegetarians and vegans  tend to eat significatnly more fresh foods than meat eaters.

Obesity makes individuals more susceptible to cancer. Since vegetarians and vegans have a lower Body Mass Index than most omnivores, they are less at risk of developing cancer.

Studies have found that fruits and vegetable consumption helps protect against lung, mouth, esophagus and stomach cancer. Allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, help prevent colorectal cancer. Tomatoes also reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Researchers have found that vegetarians are between 25 percent and 50 percent less likely to suffer from cancer.

If you want to learn more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet or want to meet other like-minded students, check out Fed Up, a food program run by OPIRG-Brock every Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Fed Up serves free and delicious vegan meals to students.

There are many health benefits to eating a vegetarian and vegan diet. The healthier alternative sources of protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12 all contibute to well-rounded lifestyle.

Besides the health benefits, the average vegetarian saves about 100 animals per year from confinement and slaughter. You can be vegetarian or vegan to protect animals and also rest easy knowing that you are living a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on the health benefits of not eating animal products, see the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at www.pcrm.org

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