Despite the widespread approval and recommendation by many health and medical professionals, vegetarianism continues to be one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated food related topics today. Luckily, scientific research is now reinforcing what a lot of vegetarians already knew.
Due to the ever increasing popularity of this lifestyle there are handfuls of new studies performed each year. The vast majority of these studies show positive findings and while this should be enough to debunk claims that the diet is unhealthy, misconceptions about it persist.
I’d like to spend some time talking about what recent scientific studies have uncovered and what it means for those consuming a vegetarian diet.
Dietetic organizations in North America are unanimous in stating that a well-planned vegetarian diet (regardless of sex, age or race) is not only a healthy lifestyle choice but can be instrumental in preventing and even treating some diseases.
The average vegetarian diet is typically low in cholesterol and trans-fatty acids but high in important nutrients such as vitamin E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals, vitamin C, fibre, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
It should therefore come as no surprise that vegetarians tend to have low cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure level and healthier hearts. Vegetarians are also less likely to suffer from diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer (a good side note here is to read a book called “The China Study”). Due to a typical vegetarian consuming more fruits and vegetables as an obvious result, it’s typical that there will be a decreased in mascular degeneration and a diminished chance of getting cataracts.
The vegetarian diet typically has a lower caloric intake. As a result, studies have proven that vegetarians have a lower body mass index.
The ideal vegetarian meal plan for weight management would be 50 percent of calories coming from fruits and veggies while the remaining 50 percent would be split between other sources such as legumes, nuts, grains and plant based protein (or dairy and egg protein for lacto-ovo vegetarians).
If the previous reason wasn’t incentive enough, it has been shown that vegetarians live longer. This is no doubt in part because vegetarians are generally concerned with their health and so make better lifestyle decisions.
It should be noted that switching to a vegetarian diet will not automatically add a decade to one’s life expectancy – there are many common mistakes that vegetarians make that could have the opposite effect. Although the vegetarian diet can be very healthy, it needs to be planned properly.
That’s okay, just because an individual chooses a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t mean they won’t live a shorter, disease ridden life, but the chances are significantly decreased.
I personally didn’t become a vegetarian for the animals, though an affinity with them has followed. I became vegetarian because of a desire to get in better shape and become stronger, smarter and healthier. The more books I read, or courses I studied and self experimentation I preformed, it became an obvious choice.
Since switching from meat I’ve found that my body works better. I am lifting, squatting and benching more than I was when I was on the meat. There is a whole ‘underground’ community of athletes who have found that giving up meat improved their game. Matt Frazier over at No Meat Athlete mentions a few benefits in his article The Most Laid-Back Guide to Going Vegetarian You’ll Ever Read and Robert Cheeke has a collection of them over at Vegan Bodybuilding.
If you have any personal stories on how ‘going green’ has affected your fitness level (whether it has up’d your game or left you hanging behind the pack), feel free to drop a comment here or send us a line.