While many benefits have been cited as part of a vegetarian diet, the health benefits are perhaps some of the most immediately noticeable. Here are some of the purported health benefits of a vegetarian diet.
1. Lower cholesterol
Cholesterol, the fatty substance that is actually manufactured by the body but can clog arteries in excess, is said to be reduced on a vegetarian diet. This makes sense, as cholesterol is found in animal-based foods (such as red meat, egg yolks, and whole-fat dairy products.)
2. Lower cancer risk
In 1997, a significant report by a major cancer research center recommended a diet consisting mostly of plant foods and limited grilled, pickled, cured, or smoked meats (including fish). While this specifically addresses preserved and processed meats, it’s worth noting.
The carcinogenic nature of nitrites and nitrates, common meat preservatives found in hot dogs, lunch meat, pepperoni, and so forth, is well-known. And experts have been warning about the carcinogenic nature of grilled meats for some time. A vegetarian diet, of course, avoids these types of meat. An interested question to explore might be whether the consumption of organic, free-range meat increases cancer risk.
And it’s not just the avoidance of meat that can lower cancer risk. Some fruits and vegetables themselves are said to provide protection against cancer. There are more than thirty plant foods said to have this protective factor – among them are broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, basil, garlic, tomatoes, and some berries.
3. Lower blood pressure
Interestingly, vegetarians as a group consistently experience lower blood pressure than their meat-eating peers. Some sources suggest that this may be due to the lower salt consumption that is usually a component of vegetarian diets. Others point out the lower overall weight and body fat of vegetarians as the reason for lower blood pressure.
4. Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Some sources say that an average male can reduce his risk of heart attack by 35 percent if he stops eating meat.
5. Control diabetes
Avoidance of meat is not the only factor of a vegetarian diet. Most vegetarian diets include whole foods and less salt and sugar than meat-eating diets, which is a recommended dietary style for diabetics or those who tend toward diabetes. The less saturated fat intake and no animal fat intake associated with a vegetarian diet are also significant for those who need to control their weight to avoid diabetes.
6. Longer life
Studies show that vegetarians actually live longer than meat eaters. This may be due to the health benefits noted above!