Is a vegetarian diet good for you?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is a vegetarian diet good for you?” and will discuss the benefits associated with a vegetarian diet.

Is a vegetarian diet good for you?

Yes, a vegetarian diet is good for you. A vegetarian diet has been shown to provide several health advantages, according to many studies. A vegan or vegetarian diet may lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer, according to research.

The metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity and type 2 diabetes, may also be reduced by a non-meat diet. Vegetarianism has become a popular lifestyle choice among Americans of all ages, with 5% of the population describing themselves as a vegetarian in Gallup’s 2019 survey.

In fact, plant-based diets have been increasingly recognized for their health benefits and role in cardiovascular disease prevention. However, plant-based diets vary widely in their composition and could negatively impact cardiovascular health if they contain primarily low-quality plant foods such as refined carbohydrates and added sugars (1).

To date few studies have investigated the prevalence of vegetarian and vegan nutrition. The reported prevalence rates have been highly variable, ranging from 0.77% in China to 0.79% in Italy, 2.4% to 3.3% in the US, 3% to 8% in South Australia, 3.8% to 15.6% in Scandinavia, up to 33% in South Asia, and 36% in India (4).

Is there a certain diet that vegetarians adhere to?

While a vegetarian diet may include a broad range of wholesome and nutritious meals, the individual consumers will depend on the sort of diet they are following and their particular dietary preferences. 

In addition, not all vegetarian diets are equally healthy. Excluding meat and including only plant-based foods in the diet may be beneficial when the right plant-based foods are selected. Refined grains and highly processed food are not considered healthy, although they are plant-derived. A healthy vegetarian diet includes high-quality plant foods associated with health benefits (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, tea, and coffee). A low-quality vegetarian diet includes low-quality plant foods associated with higher chronic disease risk (fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets/desserts) (1).

Under the umbrella word “vegetarian,” there is a range of diets:

·         Dairy and eggs are permitted in the diet of lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who forgo meat and fish.

·         Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but exclude eggs from their diet.

·         Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy products.

Fish may be eaten by vegetarians and vegans alike. This is not a vegetarian diet; rather, it is a fish-based one. All animal products are banned from a vegan diet.

The nutrients of concern in the diet of vegetarians include vitamin B12, vitamin D, ω-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc. Although a vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients, the use of supplements and fortified foods provides a useful shield against deficiency (2).

To achieve their nutritional needs on a vegetarian diet, people must make cautious food selections. Supplements may be necessary for certain persons.

Benefits of vegetarian diet

Adherence to a vegetarian diet goes beyond food. Vegetarianism can be considered a social identity, as it reflects the motivations, feelings, and attitudes of those who choose to adopt it. The main motivations for choosing a vegetarian diet are related to ethical and health aspects. Animal welfare is the main motivator, followed by concerns with major environmental impacts caused by the production and consumption of food of animal origin (3).

The Gallup study suggests that more and more young people are choosing a vegetarian diet. Because of the following reasons, they could do this:

·         It’s good for your health.

·         It is a more environmentally-friendly choice

·         They are concerned about animal cruelty.

·         since it’s part of a larger lifestyle decision

For religious reasons, some individuals refrain from eating meat and animal products. A person’s health may be improved by eliminating animal products in several ways.

Weight loss

According to a 2016 meta-analysis, a vegetarian diet may help people lose weight, at least in the near term. A long-term study is needed to determine how a vegetarian diet affects body mass index (BMI). 

It appears that one must follow a vegetarian diet for about 5 years before its benefits are seen. Weight management appears to be more effective when subjects choose a vegetarian diet or one containing fewer animal foods, as it was concluded in research studies (2).

Cholesterol

People who eat a vegetarian diet are more likely to have lower cholesterol levels, according to a 2015 systematic study.

According to studies, a vegetarian diet high in soy protein, soluble fiber, nuts, and phytosterols was shown to be as effective as a low-saturated fat diet plus a statin drug for lowering serum LDL cholesterol levels. When subjects switch from their usual diet to a vegetarian diet, they typically experience a reduction in serum total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (2).

Cancer

Nearly 70,000 people’s medical records were examined for evidence that vegetarians had a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians. A non-meat diet may give some protection against cancer, according to scientists.

Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that regular consumption of plant foods, such as fruit and vegetables, is strongly associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes contain a complex mixture of phytochemicals possessing potent antioxidant, antiproliferative, and cancer-protective activity (2).

Heart health

Vegetarians in India had a decreased risk of cardiovascular illness, according to research published in 2014. Similar outcomes have been found in studies conducted in western nations.

According to studies, the source of dietary fat (plant vs. animal) can also influence cardiovascular health. Investigators modeled isocaloric replacements of refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats with monounsaturated fat (MUFA) from plant or animal sources. While the substitutions with plant-source MUFA (mainly from vegetable oils and nuts) were associated with lower coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, the same substitutions with animal-source MUFAs (primarily from red and processed meats) were not (1).

Type 2 diabetes

 Vegetarians may have a lower risk of developing the disease. As a result, there may be a greater consumption of whole grains and fruits and vegetables in addition to a decreased intake of unhealthy fats. Higher intakes of plant foods, such as vegetables, whole grain foods, legumes, and nuts, but not fruit juice, have been associated with a substantially lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and improved glycemic control in either normal or insulin-resistant individuals (2).

 When a person quits eating meat, these advantages will not be immediately apparent. People who follow a vegetarian diet should also:

·         Make sure you’re getting enough calories

·         Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all good sources of nutrition.

·         keep processed food and alcohol to a minimum

·         Consume foods that are low in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt.

·         participate in a healthy lifestyle that includes a lot of physical activity

·         Smoking is a bad habit to get into.

Sustainability

According to scientists, eating a plant-based diet is more environmentally friendly than eating a meat-based diet since it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

In general, plant-based diets are more sustainable than those based on animal foods, as they require fewer natural resources for food production and have a lower impact on the environment. An omnivorous diet is estimated to require 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more energy, 13 times more fertilizers, and 1.4 times more pesticides than a vegetarian diet (3).

Tips for switching to a vegetarian diet

·         Here are some suggestions for making the move to a vegetarian diet:

·         Get familiar with the nutrients needed and how to get them.

·         Visit a local health food store or a nutritionist for some advice and recipes.

·         Get organized by creating a weekly grocery and meal list.

·         Make an effort to eat a range of meatless foods that are high in complete proteins rather than just cutting out the meat.

·         Consider a gradual transition, such as over a month.

·         Begin by making staples like mac and cheese and salad that you’re already acquainted with, then gradually expand your menu to include more exotic options.

Two considerations suggest that a more gradual approach is preferable:

As a result, it’s more likely to become a long-term lifestyle choice. If you suddenly alter your diets, such as by increasing your intake of beans or vegetables, you may have to bloat as a result.

 The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  the best advice for those who wish to quit eating meat:

·         Whole grain goods, such as whole-wheat bread, white or brown rice, and whole-grain cereals, may contain B vitamins, which are essential for a healthy diet.

·         Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as nuts and legumes may all be part of a well-balanced diet.

·         Moderation is the key when it comes to eggs and dairy products, and soy milk may be an option.

·         Talk to a doctor or nutritionist about vitamin B-12 supplements.

·         Consider taking vitamin D supplements if you don’t get enough sunshine.

·         Find out whether vegetarian snacks are laden with sugar, salt, or other ingredients by reading the labels.

·         Remember that even if you’re a vegetarian, junk food and fast food may be unhealthy and heavy in calories.

·         They also recommend cutting out on items heavy in sugar and fat.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is absolut 3g vegetarian?

How is vegetarian cheese made?

How is vegetarian chicken made?

How to become a vegetarian?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is a vegetarian diet good for you?” and discussed the benefits associated with a vegetarian diet.

References

  1. Hemler, E.C., Hu, F.B. Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: All Plant Foods Are Not Created Equal. Curr Atheroscler Rep, 2019, 21, 18.
  2. Craig, Winston John. Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutr Clin Pract, 2010, 25, 613-620. 
  3. Hargreaves, Shila Minari, et al. Vegetarian diet: an overview through the perspective of quality of life domains. Int j environ res public health, 2021, 18, 4067. 
  4. Cramer, Holger, et al. Characteristics of Americans choosing vegetarian and vegan diets for health reasons. J nutr educ behav, 2019, 49, 561-567.