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Is The Vegetarian Healthier Than The Omnivore?


Is The Vegetarian Healthier Than The Omnivore?

Vegetarianism is becoming more and more popular.  Scientific research has demonstrated the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian based diet.  Vegetarians have a lower BMI (Body Mass Index), lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes and cancer. Vegetarians tend to live longer compared to omnivores as animal products clog up your arteries and reduce your immune system.  Vegetarian diets are healthier than the average diet, mainly in preventing heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer. A low-fat vegetarian diet is one of the most effective ways to preventing coronary artery.  Researchers at Loma Linda University in California revealed that people eating a mostly vegetarian diet had a much lower risk of developing cancer.

On the other hand people who are not vegetarian can also be healthy, and a vegetarian diet is not suitable for everyone. Some people develop anaemia after becoming vegetarian because they can’t break down non heme iron (iron from vegetables). These people are better able to absorb heme iron (iron from meat).   Foods containing heme iron (meat, poultry, and fish) enhance iron absorption from foods better than foods containing non-heme iron (e.g., fortified cereals, some beans, and spinach).  Foods containing vitamin C also enhance non-heme iron absorption when eaten during same meal.  Drinking tea, coffee, or milk during your meals can decrease the absorption of non-heme iron.

Vanessa Kelly, Nutritional therapist says “people choose to become vegetarian for different reasons, whether it is for animal welfare or for health reasons.  I would say that many vegetarians are healthy.  The problem arises when people who have become vegetarian are unaware of how to substitute their diet with vegetarian protein.” Vegetarians need to substitute their proteins with nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, and eggs.”

Protein is the building blocks for the body.  It is vital for muscle development, healthy hair, nails and collagen.  Essential amino acids are complete proteins that need to come from the person’s diet because the body can’t make them.  Animal proteins are full of essential amino acids whereas plant proteins have lower levels of amino acids.  Pulses are a very good plant based source of amino acids.

Studies from both the Irish and British Health organisations are in agreement that eating too much red meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Studies from the HSE and Cancer Research have revealed that eating red meat and processed meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer.  Beef, pork and lamb are considered red meat and bacon, ham and sausages, which are preserved by adding salt, are processed meats. The HSE advises that you should eat less than 500g of red meat per week.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “Eating lots of red and processed meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer and possibly stomach cancer. Red meat includes all forms of fresh, minced and frozen beef, lamb and pork. Processed meat includes sausages, bacon, ham and salami. White meat such as chicken is not likely to increase your risk of cancer. We advise people to eat smaller and fewer portions of red meat and to try using beans or pulses instead of meat in their recipes.”

The point is that a vegetarian’s diet can be healthier but if you are going to eat meat watch the quantities.

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