Wednesday, March 30, 2016

4 Ways Going Vegetarian Can Help You Live Longer

By Caroline Wilbert
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. However, it’s been proven time and time again that plant-based diets help people live longer, healthier lives. Here are a few ways going vegetarian can help your health. 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. Vegan Diet Good for Type 2 Diabetes Vegan Diet Beats ADA-Recommended Diet in Lowering Heart Disease Risk A vegan diet may do a better job of reducing cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients than a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), according to a new study. Two out of three people with diabetes die of a heart attack or stroke, so reducing cardiovascular disease is a priority. The study was in part funded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes a vegan diet. For 22 weeks, participants followed either a low-fat, low-glycemic vegan diet or guidelines prescribed by the ADA. All 99 participants had type 2 diabetes. Both men and women participated and were recruited through a newspaper ad in the Washington, D.C., area. Participants reported what they ate at the start of the trial and throughout the trial. Researchers took the data and calculated scores based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). Scores were calculated at the beginning of the 22 weeks and again at the end. There was no difference in the scores between the two groups at the start of the study. Past research has shown a correlation between AHEI and cardiovascular disease. The AHEI is a nine-component dietary index used to rate foods and macronutrients related to chronic disease risk. The higher the AHEI score, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The vegan dieters saw significant improvements in their AHEI scores; the ADA group did not.

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