A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine last week has found, yet again, that vegetarians may live longer than their carnivorous counterparts. In this study, the largest of its kind to date, researchers from Loma Linda University in California surveyed 70,000 participants and found that vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of death than meat-eaters. This association between lower risk of death and vegetarianism was far greater in men than in women. Men showed lower risk of heart disease and heart-related conditions while women did not show that same association.
Some are questioning this study and calling it inconclusive, though. With 70,000 participants, this was an extremely large survey, but the participants were surveyed only once as opposed to studied over time. Since humans’ dietary choices and needs change over time, this only shows us how vegetarians fared at that time. Furthermore, the study was done only on Seventh-day Adventists, a religious group that promotes vegetarianism and frowns upon alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco as part of their godly lifestyle. These other restrictions could have played a part in a reduced risk of death, as well.
1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is America’s leading cause of death. Animal foods are our only source of dietary cholesterol, and high cholesterol is a main cause of heart disease, so it makes sense that cutting animal products out of your diet will help reduce your risk of heart disease. In this way, going vegan — not eating any animal foods at all — is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease.
2. Reduces Risk of Cancer and Stroke
Cancer and strokes are the number two and three killers in America, respectively, and cutting out meat products can reduce your risk of both. According to a study on cancer and vegetarianism, incidences of all cancers are lower in vegetarians. In fact, a vegetarian diet can reduce or eliminate your risk factors for cancer. As for strokes, it has been found that one of the best ways of preventing strokes is to eat potassium-rich foods. These foods are mostly plant-based; the best sources of dietary potassium are leafy green vegetables, dates, and beans. Most Americans don’t even come close to eating enough potassium, but vegetarians who consume these plant-based foods are well on their way to preventing strokes.
3. Makes You More Aware of Food Choices
Being a vegetarian can be difficult at first. When you go out to restaurants, there aren’t as many options, and you might find yourself putting some of your favorite meat-filled recipes on the shelf. However, one of the best things about being vegetarian is having an excuse to explore some great new cuisines. Knowing what foods contain which nutrients and how much of them you need during the day is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle, vegetarian or not. Since they have to think about food without meat, though, vegetarians are often more aware of those food choices.
4. Can Help You Lose Weight and Feel Your Best
On average, vegans are 30 pounds lighter than meat-eaters. Vegetarians in general are also less insulin resistant than omnivores and therefore, have less need for medication and are at a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, as stated above, vegetarians have a wider variety of foods they generally eat. This almost always increases their intake of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, magnesium and folic acid. All of these help your organs function properly to keep you healthy.
It’s important to note that just cutting out meat will not automatically give you these health benefits, and you don’t have to be a strict vegetarian to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Vegetarians who cut out meat but who continue to eat greasy and sugary foods without increasing their plant-based food intake will likely not see a health benefit. Meat-eaters who choose salads, fresh fruit and veggies, or who add other plant-based sources of nutrients to their diet, can see a reduction in their risk of death and disease, as well.
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