It is widely accepted that a vegetarian diet, if properly planned, is healthier and more nutritious than a non-vegetarian diet. Studies also show that people who adopted vegetarian diets are less prone to illness and serious disease compared to people whose diets are largely based on meat products. Below are some benefits associated with vegetarian diets.
Food comprising vegetarian diets generally contains lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, calories and animal protein. Thus, they also have lower risks of contracting diseases associated with high levels of cholesterol, calories, saturated fat, and animal protein. Also, they tend to live longer and healthier.
Vegetarian diets usually have higher levels of fiber, carbohydrates, potassium, magnesium, folate, and antioxidants including vitamins C, vitamin E, and phytochemicals.
People with vegetarian diet tend to have lower or normal body mass index. Whereas meat eaters tend to be more obese, vegetarians tend to be leaner and healthier.
Vegetarians tend to have lower tendency to have cardiovascular diseases. This may attributed to the fact that vegetarians have lower blood cholesterol levels and consumes less saturated fat animal protein. In addition to this, plant food is considerably rich in fiber. Also vegetarian diets have higher levels of antioxidants intake, including vitamins C and E, reducing oxidation of LDL cholesterol and isoflavones that are usually found in soy foods, and other phytochemicals.
Vegetarian diet is also associated with lower blood pressure and lower rates of hypertension. Experts suggest that lower rates of hypertension might be caused by the difference in blood glucose-insulin response due to lower glycemic index of vegetarian diets or by beneficial compounds from plant foods.
Vegetarian diet also reduces the risk for diabetes caused by body mass index of vegetarians and higher fiber intake, which improve insulin sensitivity.
Another benefit is lower incidence of cancer including breast, colon, prostate, colorectal cancer, Vegetarian diets have been found to be similar to the dietary guidelines issued by the National Cancer Institute particularly as regards fat and fiber intakes. Vegetarians also have lower concentration of potentially carcinogenic bile acids and fewer intestinal bacteria.
Osteoporosis is also rarer in vegetarians. There is however no general agreement on why incidence of osteoporosis is lower on vegetarians.
Surprisingly, there are available statistics showing that there are lower rates of dementia among vegetarians. High level of antioxidants in vegetarian diets has been found to protect cognitive function.
Vegetarians are also less likely to develop gallstones irrespective of obesity, gender, and aging.
Vegetarians are also less prone to macular degeneration of the retina, which may lead to blindness.
However, all this benefits does not automatically translate to saying that a vegetarian diet is automatically the healthiest way to eat. Vegetarian diets are prone to deficiencies in vital nutrients if improperly practiced. Thus, vegetarian diets of whatever formed needs to be carefully planned, taking into consideration the general rules of a nutritionally-balanced diet.