Vegetarian Diet – the Good, the Not so Good

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Experts are now recommending that Americans consider embracing some "meatless" days when planning out their menu ideas for a week.  You can turn to nuts, seed, legumes and beans if you do not eat fish, eggs and dairy products, in order to meet your daily protein recommended intake values.  If you decide to become a full time vegetarian, then you will experience some wonderful health benefits.  You will more than likely reduce saturated fat (and obviously trans fat) in your diet, you will be exposed to healthy fats like monounsaturated fat, which can help to improve your cholesterol profile; you will enjoy the benefits of fiber, which can help with digestion, heart health and blood sugar stabilization, and you will more than likely eat more fruits and vegetables, helping you to gain exposure to a variety of vitamins and phytonutrients.  A new study also reveals that vegetarians may have a lower risk of developing cataracts.

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    In a large dietary survey that followed participants for 15 years, researchers found that meat eaters had a higher rate of cataracts than participants who were vegans or vegetarians.  These findings actually contradict an earlier study in India, so researchers are not sure whether to credit the actual food choices or other health habits that typically accompany a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.  Other risk factors that can contribute to a higher risk of cataracts include: smoking, diabetes and prolonged and repeated exposure to bright sunlight.


    On the other hand, when you choose to be a vegetarian, you may sometimes fall short of certain target nutrients like proteins, and especially vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.  Vegans especially, who don't eat meat, fish, eggs and milk products, may fall prey to nutrient deficiencies.  Seaweed and fortified whole grain cereals can help vegans and vegetarians nail their B12 levels.  For a boost in omega-3 fatty acids eat plant oils like flaxseed oil and actual flaxseed.  Low levels of B12 and especially omega-3 fatty acids may cause an increase in homocysteine levels, which may in turn share a link with an elevated risk of heart disease.


    So the bottom line is that even "healthier eaters" who shun red meat and other higher in fat products, need to make sure they are tracking adequate intake of specific vitamins, minerals and other key nutrients.



Published On: April 11, 2011