A vegetarian diet is good for the heart says an article in NIH News in Health; about 2% of Americans follow some form of a vegetarian diet, which tends to focus on fruits, vegetables, dried beans, seeds and nuts.
People have many reasons for becoming vegetarians. Some want to eat more healthy foods. Others have religious or economic reasons or are concerned about animal welfare. “Vegetarian diets are also more sustainable and environmentally sound than diets that rely heavily on meat, poultry and fish,” says NIH nutritionist Dr. Susan Krebs-Smith, who monitors trends in cancer risk factors. Most people think of vegetarian diets as simply eating plant foods and not eating meat, poultry and fish. “But in fact, there are many different types of vegetarian diets,” Krebs-Smith explains. “Some are more restrictive than others.”
Strict vegetarians, or vegans, eat plant foods and reject all animal products—meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and sometimes honey. Those who also eat dairy products are called lacto vegetarians. Vegetarians who eat both dairy and eggs are called lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Some vegetarians eat fish but not meat or poultry. They’re called pescatarians (pesce is Italian for fish). “Then there are the so-called flexitarians, or semi-vegetarians. These are people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but they occasionally eat meat,” says Jody Engel, a nutritionist and registered dietitian at NIH. “They might say ‘I’m a vegetarian, but I need to eat my burgers every Sunday.’ People tend to follow their own rules, which is one reason why it’s hard for researchers to study vegetarians. There’s so much variance.”
Despite the different definitions, “there’s tremendous agreement among nutrition experts and health organizations that a more plant-based diet is beneficial, whether you’re a true vegetarian or not,” says Krebs-Smith. “Most Americans don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables, legumes or whole grains. There’s a huge consensus that eating more of these foods would be a good idea for everyone.”Even if you decide not to follow a strict vegetarian diet, which is my case, there is decided benefit in eating more fruits and vegetables and consuming less red meat.There is proof in scientific studies, the article says: “To date, the researchers have found that the closer people are to being vegetarian, the lower their risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (a condition that raises your risk for heart disease and stroke).”
Vegetarian diets tend to have fewer calories, lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and more fiber, potassium and vitamin C than other eating patterns. Vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat-eaters, and to have lower cancer rates. “Evidence also suggests that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from certain heart diseases, and that those who follow a vegetarian diet tend to have lower LDL [“bad”] cholesterol levels,” says Engel.
You can read the rest of the article at [NIH Health News]