After the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that consumption of processed meat increases cancer risk, many people are, perhaps for the first time ever, considering embarking on a meat-free lifestyle. While it’s important to understand that, when consumed in moderation, meat can be healthy, there are definitely health benefits that go along with becoming a vegetarian.
In the end, only you can decide if a vegetarian diet is right for you, but should you decide that it is, you’ll be glad to know of the many benefits of this choice.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, vegetarians do enjoy a significantly reduced risk of heart disease and the related conditions and problems that go along with it.
The reduced risk of heart disease is thought to be due to the fact that vegetarians typically consume lower amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which contribute to the development of heart disease, than carnivores. In addition to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the American Heart Association also contends that vegetarians have a reduced risk of the following:
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Certain types of cancer
Reduced Risk of Cancer
As mentioned above, a vegetarian lifestyle can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. For many people, especially those who have a family history or personal history of cancer, this is a main sticking point.
Hundreds of studies have been performed that show that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in or devoid of meat greatly reduces the risk of cancer. Plus, even if you don’t stop eating meat, if you stop consuming red meat or reduce the amount of red meat you consume, you can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
True vegetarian diets, however, have been shown to have a greater impact on reducing cancer risk, and vegetarians enjoy a much lower risk of colorectal, breast, and ovarian cancer, making the vegetarian lifestyle an especially positive choice for women.
What About Calcium?
While there are obviously quite a few health benefits to going vegetarian, there are some concerns. Many people who are vegetarian or vegan are at a risk for calcium deficiency, which can lead to osteoporosis.
However, lacto-ovo vegetarians, meaning vegetarians who do consume eggs and dairy products, do not suffer from this risk factor. Furthermore, vegetarians and vegans who make an effort to consume adequate calcium through other, non-animal sources can avoid this risk.
Going Vegetarian the Right Way
Absolutely any diet can be devoid of the proper nutrients if the person is not careful. However, vegetarians are at somewhat of an increased risk of being deficient in the following nutritional areas:
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It is important to note, however, that if vegetarians are careful and monitor their food intakes closely, they can still get all of the above nutrients without consuming meat or animal products.
Again, to be vegetarian or not is a personal decision, but if you are going to become a vegetarian, make sure you go about it in a healthful way so that the concerns do not outweigh the benefits.