This week is the annual celebration of International Vegetarian Week from the 1st to the 7thof October 2017, so it seems only right to discuss the health benefits linked with following a vegetarian diet.
It’s International Vegetarian Week, so naturally the spotlight is on meat-free diets, restaurants and recipes. If you’re thinking about making the switch from meat-eating to meat-free, here are some helpful insights on the health benefits of being vegetarian from nutritionist and health specialist, Ms Geeta Sidhu-Robb.
1. Our Mood
Research has revealed that vegetarians may be happier than their meat-eating counterparts. In fact it was discovered that vegetarians had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to fish and meat-eaters. Three is an element of freshness to most vegetarian dishes, especially when it comes to organic produce – so this is bound to purify our minds and keep our thoughts positive.
2. Fighting Disease
When done right, vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fats, and cholesterol. They have been shown to reduce heart disease risk and what’s more, data shows conclusively that vegetarians suffer less disease caused by a modern Western diet (e.g., coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity type 2 diabetes, diet-related cancers, diverticulitis, constipation, and gall stones, among several others). Why? This can be attributed to a higher intake of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
3. Lean Figure
A bonus to sticking to a vegetarian diet is the positive effect it has on our figure. Vegetarians typically weigh less as a result of a diet comprised of fewer calories in the form of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Vegetarians are also generally more aware of healthy food and so eat better.
4. Less Toxicity
Further emphasising what I was saying about the vegetarian diet, especially organically, being purer, it is of course far less in toxicity. Food-born illnesses, bacteria, parasites, and chemical toxins are more common in commercial meat, poultry, and seafood when compared with plant foods, (particularly organic fruits and vegetables). Vegetarians also eat less processed food as a rule.
5. Sight & Skin
As well as keeping the figure desirable, vegetarians tend to have better vision and less macular degeneration and all that extra collagen leads to better skin – what more could you want?
6. Stay fuller, longer
It’s also much more filling as it has so much more fibre and is nutrient dense. So you eat less and stay full for longer.
7. Better Athletic Performance
While most active individuals focus on protein intake, they should Instead follow a high-carbohydrate, good-fat, and vitamin and mineral-rich vegetarian diet for optimum sports performance. Conflicting studies exist, but the number of world-class vegetarian sportsmen continues to rise, Lewis Hamilton for example has recently spoken of his mission to go vegan.
Vegetarians have been found to enjoy longer and healthier lives when compared to meat-eaters.
How to ensure you get all of the nutrients you need:
Vegetarian diets are packed full of essential nutrients, but in the absence of meat, it is vitally important that we make sure we are still consuming a the correct amounts of proteins in other forms.
- Protein is made up of small parts called amino acids, which aid your metabolism and help to keep you muscles, skin and organs healthy.
- Eggs are a great source of proteins for vegetarians, and are often used as a breakfast option for athletes – especially boxers. Vegan options include nuts, peanut butter, seeds, grains and legumes.
- Iron is another key nutrient and plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. These can help to carry oxygen throughout your body. Good sources of iron include beans, broccoli, raisins, wheat and tofu.
- Omega-3 fatty acids improve your heart health and brain function. Flaxseed meal and oil are two good vegetarian sources of omega-3. You can also look to plant sources.
- Zinc is vital to our immune system. A lot of cheeses contain zinc, but you can also find it in beans, nuts and soy products which contain fewer calories.