Medically reviewed by Kelly Van Gorden, MS, RD, CD
5 Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
There is a general understanding that there are many “healthy” benefits to adopting a vegetarian diet, but there is a lot of argument online over exactly what those benefits are. Many will even caution against a vegetarian diet, giving dire warnings about protein deficiencies and other questionable nutritional information. So, is a vegetarian diet healthy?
The thing is, what health problems we might have depended on our genetics and what diets we should adopt depend on those same genetics. That’s why a nutritional DNA analysis is a great place to start when thinking about making significant changes to your diet.
A plant-based diet should be seen as a tool, and here we’re going to lay out some of the things that tool can do.
1. Aids in weight loss
First and foremost we need to talk about weight loss. It’s one of the benefits that's the easiest to understand but has a huge impact on all of the other benefits of a vegetarian diet listed.
Simply put, animal products tend to be higher in fat and carbohydrates—two macronutrients the average American often consumes a surplus of. By giving up meat, you can cut down on saturated fats that are often connected to obesity. While this alone won’t guarantee weight loss (cheese pizza is technically vegetarian), cutting down on saturated fats is known to be an important factor.
If you can lose weight through less saturated facts, there is a huge health impact. For nearly every other health benefit listed here, feel free to tag on “being overweight makes this condition worse”. If there was one health reason you picked for going vegetarian, it would be this.
2. Reduces the chance of heart disease
To build off of the above point, reducing your saturated fat intake by eating more greens can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Both of these things can be very effective in reducing the dangers of heart disease, which is one of the major killers in North America, particularly of men.
Many plants are also rich in fibre and phytonutrients, which have also been shown to have a lot of benefits for the heart—many phytochemicals are noted for protecting cells from damage, which reduces inflammation of heart tissue. Vegetables are also low in sodium (generally bad for blood pressure) but are full of potassium (you guessed it—good for blood pressure).
3. Reduces the chance of some cancers
All that fibre and phytonutrients can do more for you than just give you a healthy heart. Cancer targets your body through breaking down your cells, but those phytonutrients and fibre have been shown to help keep your cells strong and resistant to many cancers. In particular, fibre has been linked to helping reduce the risk of breast cancers and especially cancers that originate in the guts and intestines.
4. Balances blood sugars
Another fun fact about foods that are high in fibre (like many vegetables are) is that they are slower to digest, which means they are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This can be vital for individuals living with diabetes. Vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts have all been shown to improve blood sugar control, which makes your body more responsive to insulin.
5. Fosters good lung health
Going vegetarian can also prove to be a breath of fresh air. Literally.
We often think of fibre as being something that just benefits our digestive systems, but it has been shown to be able to lead to strong, healthy lungs as well, promoting the growth of probiotics in the body which improve immune responses against airway diseases. The anti-inflammatory properties of a vegetarian diet, mentioned above, can help alleviate the sort of inflammation that often makes asthma worse.
Find out if a vegetarian diet is right for you.
As you can see, the question of ‘is a vegetarian diet healthy?’, is one with many answers, dependent on the specific health concerns that you want to address. A vegetarian diet may not be for everyone, but it can target certain conditions your genes may make you more susceptible to. Don’t leave this sort of a major diet choice to guesswork—order your nutritional DNA kit today to find which foods are best for your genetic makeup.
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1. Winston, C. (May 2009), The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, Pages 1627S-1633S
2. Tuso, P., Ismail, M., Ha, B., Barolotto, C., (Spring 2013), The Permanente Journal, Pages 61-66
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