Benefits of being a Vegetarian

Why does one become a vegetarian? Is it because of the health benefits, animal rights, or maybe something else? Although animal activists, religious reasons, and money reasons are a large reason why people choose to become a vegetarian, health factors are also a large reason why people chose this lifestyle. Today, six to eight million adults in the United States do not eat meat, fish, or poultry, according to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit organization that disseminates information about vegetarianism (Harvard, 2009).
Everyone has it in their mind that vegetarians are so much healthier than meat-eaters, but is it really true? Why would cutting meat out of one’s diet really make that much of a difference? Vegetarians do tend to lead a healthier lifestyle, because they plan meals intently, making sure their meals contain all of the vitamins and nutrients they need.
According to Betty Kovacs, a registered dietitian, “Most Americans of all ages eat fewer than the recommended number of servings of grain products, vegetables, and fruits, even though consumption of these foods is associated with a substantially lower risk for many chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer” (Kovacs, 2009). Vegetarians take greater care into planning meals to make sure they are getting the correct amount of vitamins and nutrients.

However, is that the only perk? Digesting all of the vitamins and nutrients one needs? No, it’s not. Research shows that becoming a vegetarian has many health benefits such as lower cancer rates, lower obesity rates, and lower heart disease rates. Documentation shows many different studies that have been conducted that prove people who do not eat meat are much less susceptible to get cancer, have heart disease or high blood pressure and they are much less likely to be overweight.
Harvard Health Publications states, “Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non vegetarians do” (Harvard, 2009). While this is true, it is much more likely these statistics be true if one eats the right amount of vegetables and fruit and do not only eat junk food. What a person eats is everything. These statistics won’t be true if the diet consists of candy, cheese pizza, or any other junk food.
This is also considered “vegetarian,” but it’s not healthy. It is important to lead a healthy lifestyle if one chooses to become a vegetarian or not. Almost all cancers, can be prevented with regular consumption of fruits and vegetables. Foods such as calciferous vegetables (cabbage family), herbs, and fruits have cancer-protective photochemicals such as flavonoids, carotenoids, ellagic acid, sulfide compounds, isoflavones, isothiocyanates glucarates, phenolic acids, phthalides, phytosterols, saponins, and terpenoids among others.
These chemicals work as antioxidants that help rid the body of harmful cancer-causing molecules (Benefits of Vegetarianism, 2006). Eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables will definitely lessen chances of cancer, but strictly cutting meat out of the diet will do wonders as well. According to a study published by the British Journal of Cancer Research, “A study was done of 61,566 people who scientists followed over 12 years.
During this time, it was found that 6. 8% of meat eaters (2,204 of 32,403), and 4.0% of vegetarians developed cancer (829 of 20,601)” (McVeigh, 2009). They found that 180 meat eaters developed blood cancers, while only 49 vegetarians developed the diseases. They found the risk of being diagnosed with cancers of the stomach, bladder and blood was significantly lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters as well (McVeigh, 2009). These numbers tell it all! 1,375 less people developed cancer because they cut meat out of their diet. Even if one cannot cut meat from their diet completely, eating a significantly less amount will still help one’s health.
According to The Guardian, “Two years ago, the World Cancer Research Fund found a link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer and recommended that the average amount of meat eaten should be no more than 300g a week. In Britain, the current meat intake is about 970g a week for men and about 550g a week for women” (McVeigh, 2009). So many people are eating way too much meat. People have it in their mind that eating so much meat is good because it’s packed full of protein. That is most certainly not the case. These types of stereotypes about eating meat are what cause statistics like the ones stated.
Protein and other nutrients can be absorbed by eating many other things other that meat. “In 2005, the Epic study, funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, concluded that eating just two portions of meat a day – the equivalent of a bacon sandwich and a fillet steak – increased the risk of bowel cancer by 35%” (McVeigh, 2009). Most people eat at least two portions of meat a day, some even eat three! People are not educated in the sense of meat portions and the consequences one can face after making the same mistake over and over by eating too much meat.
On a diet free of meat, one of perhaps the greatest health benefits can happen, which would be reduced heart disease risks. Cholesterol levels are greatly increased by the digestion of meat. “’Fatty red meats and many processed meats are high in saturated fat, which raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases risk of coronary heart disease,’ says Dr. Rachel K. Johnson, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and professor of Nutrition and Medicine at the University of Vermont” (Deusen, 2012).
Vegetarian diets are also low in saturated fats, which are common in meat. Cholesterol and saturated fats are the major causes of heart disease. This is because they clog the inside of the blood vessels over time. This leads to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. “Vegetarian diets that have abundant sources of fiber, such as the ones found in carrots, beans, and apples, can help in lowering cholesterol levels that might have been built up over the years, adding years back on to lives” (Shanti, 2009).
According to Seven Common Vegetarian Health Benefits, “Fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables have flavonoids that have some biological properties and other vegetarian health benefits that are responsible for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are antioxidants and they protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from undergoing oxidation, effectively inhibiting formation of blood clots in the arteries and other blood vessels. The flavonoids also have a hypolipidemic effect and an anti-inflammatory effect” (Benefits of Vegetarianism, 2012).
So by eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting meat out of the diet, chances of heart disease are greatly reduced. Many studies have shown how much eating meat can increase one’s chances of getting any type of heart disease. One study in particular published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that eating large amounts of meat (e. g. a small steak every day) also increased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (Deusen, 2012). In another large study, “a combined analysis of data from five prospective studies involving more than 76,000 participants published several years ago — vegetarians were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease” (Harvard, 2009).
Another vegetarian health benefit is that vegetarians have lower blood pressure compared to those who eat meat, especially red meat. This is because vegetarian diets are low in salt. Meat has high amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat, and salt. Salt has been identified as the main cause of high blood pressure and hypertension. High blood pressure also occurs when blood tries to flow faster due to obstructed blood vessels. The obstruction is usually caused by a build up of cholesterol ingested from eating meat (Benefits of Vegetarianism, 2006).
Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, so vegetarian diets are completely cholesterol free, reducing the chances of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease tremendously (Thompson, 2011). Adults and children who follow a vegetarian diet are generally leaner than non vegetarians. This may be because a vegetarian diet typically includes less saturated fat and adds more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are foods that are more filling and less calorie dense (Zeratsky, 2007). According to Brown University, “Vegetarian diets are usually lower in fat and higher in fiber” (Brown, 2010).
Fiber fills you up more quickly than fat and it keeps you feeling fuller longer. Vegetarians are more likely to eat less and better food. According to a study conducted from 1986 to 1992 by Dean Ornish, MD, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and kept off that weight 5 years later. They lost the weight without counting calories or carbohydrates and without measuring portions or feeling hungry (Vegetarian Times, 2012).
Why do people lose so much weight by cutting meat out of their diet? Meat is full of saturated fat, which is not good for a person. It is also full of sodium (salt), and preservatives. These things can make one bloat and gain weight like crazy. According to Woman’s Health Magazine, “A large-scale 2010 study from Imperial College London found that those who ate about 250 grams a day (the size of one half-pound steak) of red meat, poultry, or processed meat gained more weight over five years than those who ate less meat, even if they consumed the same amount of calories overall” (Deusen, 2012).
Eating meat has been proven to increase chances on developing a few unpleasant health factors or diseases. Research shows that eating meat does increase the chances of cancer. Statistics have shown that vegetarians are less likely to develop any type of cancer, especially blood cancer, breast cancer, and bowel cancer. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables have also shown that the risk of developing cancer is less likely to happen if one is ingesting these. Fruits and vegetables contain cancer-protective chemicals that help prevent cancer.
These chemicals work as antioxidants that help rid the body of harmful cancer-causing molecules (Benefits of Vegetarianism, 2006). It has also been shown that eating less or no meat reduces the chances of developing any type of heart disease. It also lessens chances of having high blood pressure or a stroke. Meat is full of saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol. Cholesterol is the number one reason why people have heart disease or a heart attack. Cholesterol blocks arteries to the heart, causing a heart attack.
By not eating meat, one will not be ingesting cholesterol, saving yourself from heart disease. Obesity rates drop when it comes to vegetarians. Vegetarians plan meals accordingly, so all of the nutrients and vitamins are accounted for. Meat is also full of saturated fat and salt. These both are well-known for making people gain weight. Many studies have shown how much more likely someone is to be overweight if they eat meat versus if they do not eat meat. Scientists have done many studies proving these claims to be true.
The documentation that has been provided does show that eating meat does increase chances of cancer and heart disease and obesity rates are higher. If everyone cut meat out of their diet, not even all the way, these disease statistics would drop dramatically. Diets actually improve when meat has been cut out because it forces one to think about nutrition choices. Fruits and vegetables are more thought about and the body gets the nutrients and vitamins it needs and deserves. The body will no longer be punished by trying to digest the fat, sodium, and cholesterol that has been forced into it.

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