‘Time was when vegetarians were viewed by some as second-class diners, sitting at the lunch counter of life nibbling carrots, tofu and nut burgers while all around them, carnivores indulged in a riot of meat and gravy.
But the excellent health of many vegetarians has been opening eyes and changing attitudes. Studies show that vegetarians are less probable to compare to meat-eaters to assured severe health problems, including certain cancers and heart disease.
But do you have to be a total vegetarian to reap some of the rewards of a vegetarian lifestyle? Not at all.
Frank Sacks, M.D., a nutrition researcher at Harvard Medical School, says “reducing your intake of meat and fatty dairy products to only a few times a week will help. If the whole country did this, there’d be a marked decline in heart disease.”
As the American beef and pork industries know all too well, the whole country is starting to do this. And this may be just the right time for you to go with the flow.
Fewer animal products, fewer heart problems
It’s proven: Eat more grains and vegetables, and you can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, trim your waistline and, as a result, lessen your chance of heart disease.
Lower your blood pressure
One study looked at Seventh-Day Adventists, most of who are vegetarians, and found their blood pressures to be significantly lower than that of omnivores. Adventist men’s and women’s systolic blood pressures (the upper number) were nearly five points lesser than non-vegetarians’, and the normal diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) was four to five points lower.
It seemingly doesn’t take long to understand the effects of vegetarianism. Group of omnivores who became investigational vegetarians for limited months recognized a reduction in systolic blood pressure of nearly seven points and a three-point drop in diastolic pressure. Whenever they recommenced consuming meat, their blood pressures reverted to pretest levels right after some weeks.
Lower your cholesterol
Researchers from Harvard Medical School fed vegetarians 2 pound of beef a day and watched their pulse rates increase as their cholesterol levels rose 19 percent. The meat portion each vegetarian ate was close to that of the average American, only leaner. They regained their low cholesterol levels ten days to two weeks after resuming their meatless ways.
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels can mean fewer heart problems. In fact, when English scientists tracked almost 11,000 carnivores and vegetarians for seven years, they found just this: Vegetarians succumbed to heart disease less often.
More than your heart will benefit
Certain cancers, gallstones, diabetes and osteoporosis are all less likely to befall you if you are a vegetarian, studies indicate.
Cancer less likely
The body of a meat-eating woman processes the female hormone estrogen differently from that of a vegetarian woman. Researchers from the New England Medical Center, in Boston, and Tufts University School of Medicine discovered that vegetarian ladies emit 2-3 times as much estrogen as meat-consumers. The more estrogen gone, the lesser the levels within the blood. Scientists believe that the recycled estrogen traveling through the bloodstream may have a cancer-linked effect on the breast.
Men can lower their risk of another kind of cancer. Researchers at Loma Linda University School of Medicine have found that vegetarian Seventh – day Adventist men have lower levels of the male hormones testosterone and estradiol. The scientists also note that vegetarian Adventist men eat twice the amount of fiber and have low risks of hormonal-type cancer. Their theory is that the high fiber diet may help rid the body of these hormones, which have been linked to prostate cancer.
Gallstones stay away
Researchers at the University of Oxford in England report that vegetarian women are less likely to develop gallstones. They examined more than 700 women aged 40 to 69 over the course of several years and noted that the meat-eating women were almost twice as likely to experience problems.
Diabetes: meat ain’t sweet
A 21-year project that followed the health of more than 25,600 Seventh – day Adventist men and women found that their risk of dying from diabetes is half that of the general population. Looking even closer, researchers found that, especially for men, diabetes was listed more often on the death certificates of meat-eating Adventists than on those of vegetarians.
The study’s authors offer these theories: Saturated fat or Meat might restrict with insulin metabolism, or the moderately low amounts of fiber and complex carbohydrates consumed by meat-eaters might boost their chances of diabetes.
Make no bones about osteoporosis
A study of Adventist women also suggests that their vegetarian diets could play a role in avoiding the bone-degenerating disorder known as osteoporosis which bothers many postmenopausal women. Medical researchers found that women 50 to 89 years of age who were on a vegetarian diet that included milk and eggs had lost 18 percent bone mineral mass, however women who consumed meat had reduced 35 percent.
Since there was little difference in the amount of bone-strengthening calcium the two groups of women consumed over the years, the scientists speculate that, for some unexplained reason, meat may cause loss of minerals in older women.
What’s a poor carnivore to do?
In light of all this, a meat-eater who cannot tolerate to part with roast beef may wonder what to do.
Remember, “You don’t have to adopt a total vegetarian philosophy or lifestyle in order to become a healthier you,” says Harvard’s Dr. Sacks.
Realize that there are several factors that come into play when considering the health position of vegetarians. They usually are worried about their health and don’t smoke or drink to excess, which has a positive effect. And many of the scientists who’ve conducted meatless research are quick to acknowledge that lifestyle can play a powerful role.
Whether you choose to modify your complete lifestyle or simply sacrifice limited portions of meat a week in the term of enhanced health is up to you. Take note that some people should take extra care when considering a vegetarian-type diet, according to the American Dietetic Association. They include:
Pregnant and lactating women
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets (which include dairy foods and eggs) provide all the required nutrients. Iron, foliate and zinc supplements might be desired by severe vegetarians.
Babies and children
Lacto-ovo and ovo (eggs allowed) vegetarian diets meet the protein supplies for growth, but iron and zinc levels should be watched. Infants on a strict vegan diet should be given fortified soy milk for energy. Deficiencies of calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin easily occur.
Adults with special health problems
Anyone with a diet-related problem, like lactose intolerance, must talk to a professional dietitian for meal planning.
But if you’re an average person, and you think a meatless diet just couldn’t supply you with enough protein (or calories, or something), and therefore wouldn’t be healthy, think again. Ask your doctor. He can easily fall back on the scientific data and politely tell you, “Bull.”