‘The Annual Vegetarian Week,’ Introduction to vegetarian diets
Since Thailand is currently observing ‘The Annual Vegetarian Week’, we would like to highlight and discuss here the health benefits, advantages or disadvantages of a vegetarian diet.
Introduction to vegetarian diets –
To eat meat, or not t
Is the vegetarian diet automatically the healthiest way to eat?
Yes and no. Yes, a vegetarian diet is excellent for good health when you follow the general rules of a nutritionally-balanced diet and be sure you get the nutrients from vegetables that you miss by giving up animal foods. On the other hand, avoiding meat won’t keep you healthy if instead you consume a lot of high- fat, nutrient-empty, junk foods. Vegetarians must also have an otherwise healthy lifestyle to harvest the full benefits of their plant eating. It does little good to eat a tomato and sprout sandwich on whole wheat bread if you also plant yourself on the couch in front of the TV set and pile up on the chips soaked in hydrogenated oil, along with high-fat cheese, and artificially-sweetened or highly-sugared beverages would be better off nutritionally.
What’s so good about a vegetarian diet?
Here are six reasons:
1. Vegetarian cuisine is naturally low in saturated fats, and foods of plant origin contain little or no cholesterol.
2. Plant foods are also much higher in fiber than animal foods.
3. Many plant foods contain significant amounts of vital B-vitamins, and folic acid: and fruits and vegetables are powerful sources of phytochemicals – nutrients that help every organ of the body work better.
4. Vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, since grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, volume-for-volume, tend to be lower in calories than meat and poultry. Studies have shown that as long as their diet is balanced and nutritious, the people who consume fewer total daily calories live longer and healthier lives.
5. Veggie lovers believe that foods from plant sources, which are lower on the food chain, are safer than animal foods, since pollutants tend to concentrate in fatty tissues. While raw fruits and vegetables can carry harmful bacteria and pesticide residues just like meat, you can remove many of these pollutants by washing the plant foods. Trimming the fat from meat or chicken is less effective. Meat, poultry, and seafood are also more frequent carriers of foodborne illnesses than plant sources.
6. Environmental conservationists believe that having more plant-based diets is healthier for the planet. It takes less energy and less farmland to feed a vegetarian than it does to feed livestock.
Are vegetarians really healthier in the long-run?
Absolutely, positively, yes! Even though nutritionists seem to disagree on many topics, all agree that plant-eaters and fish-eaters tend to live longer and healthier lives than do animal eaters. In every way, the brocolli-munchers tend to be healthier than the beef-eaters:
• Vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer, especially colon, stomach, mouth, esophagus, lung, prostate, bladder, and breast cancers. The protection against intestinal cancers is probably due to the fiber in a plant-based diet. In fact, vegetarians have a lower incidence of nearly all intestinal diseases and discomforts, especially constipation and diverticulosis. The phytonutrients in plant foods, especially antioxidants, flavanoids, and carotenoids, may also contribute to protection against cancer.
• Plant food is better for your heart, since it is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and high in fiber. Vegetarians have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, namely heart attacks and stroke. A study of 25,000 Seventh-Day Adventists showed that these vegetarians had one-third the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than a comparable meat-eating population. Another study showed that death from cardiovascular disease was fifty percent less in vegetarians. These statistics may be the result of more than just diet; vegetarians tend to have healthier overall lifestyles.
• Plant eaters are much less likely to get diabetes than animal eaters.
• Vegetarians tend to see better.
• An eye disease called macular degeneration, which is deterioration of the retina leading to blindness, occurs less frequently in vegetarians.
• Vegetarians tend to be leaner than meat eaters, even those who skin their chicken and trim the fat off their steak; and, in general, leaner persons tend to be healthier. Being lean does not mean being skinny. It means having a low percentage of body fat. Muscular weight-lifters tend to be lean, though no one would call them skinny. You don’t have to “beef up” at the dinner table to make muscle. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend eating more vegetables and grains and less meat, despite pressure from the politically-connected meat industry to promote meat.
The above would be reasons enough to incorporate and promote more of a vegan diet for healthy living.