There are a number of reasons why you should consider embracing a vegetarian lifestyle. Scientists agree that a plant-based diet offers numerous health benefits. A vegetarian diet helps to lower the risk of a variety of degenerative disease, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and several types of cancer, including stomach cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer and lung cancer.
Another benefit of eating a vegetarian life is you will enjoy a healthy weight. The standard diet in America is high in saturated fat and process foods, which causes weight gain. To help you better understand how a vegetarian diet can help you lose weight, let’s look at a study from 1992. This study ran from 1986 to 1992 and followed participants who consumed a low-fat vegetarian diet. On average, the participants lost 24 pounds during the first year and kept the weight off during the next five years. This was done without portion control or counting calories!
A vegetarian diet may also add additional healthy years to your lifespan. Animal proteins clog your arteries, decrease the immune system and age faster than those who follow a vegetarian diet. Another study done in Okinawa, Japan looked at more than 600 centenarians over a 30-year period. The researchers determined that the secret to a long life was a low-calorie diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
A vegetarian lifestyle will also help you build strong bones, relieve hormonal imbalances, improve digestion and provide you with more energy. Vegetables contain a number vitamins and mineral including vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium- all of which are necessary for strong bones and teeth. Certain vegetables contain phytoestrogens, which balance hormone levels.
If you wish to become a vegetarian, there are a number of techniques you can use to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle. First, you determine why you want to become a vegetarian. These reasons will help you change your habits and make healthy food choices. Before you begin, read a few books about vegetarianism and find some recipes that you think you will enjoy. To help keep things interesting, try at least one new recipe each week. Who knows, you may find that you enjoy fruits and vegetables that you have never enjoyed before.
Did you know that you can make your favorite recipes vegetarian quite easily? There are a variety of brands that offer delicious alternatives to meat. This means that all of your dishes do not have to seem meatless. For example, try substituting Morning Star for your ground beef in your favorite spaghetti dish. You probably will not even be able to notice the difference.
If you feel like you cannot give up meat cold-turkey, begin by taking red meat out of your diet for a few weeks. The reason that we suggest red meat is because it is less healthy than other types of meat. Once you no longer miss red meat (it usually takes a couple of weeks), you can begin cutting other types of meat from your diet. When people begin to navigate towards vegetarianism, they tend to give up meat in the following order.
- Red meat
- Seafood and fish
Many people worry that they will not get adequate protein in a vegetarian diet. As long as you eat a diet that includes nuts, beans, vegetables and soy protein, you will get the protein that your body requires. The protein recommendations for adults are much lower than you may expect. You only need around 50 grams of protein daily.
The vegetarian lifestyle does not mean you can overindulge. There are vegetarians around who are unhealthy. In order to be healthy, you must eat a colorful diet filled with nutritious foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, nuts, low-fat dairy products and soy protein. Remember it is okay to indulge as long as you do it in moderation.
One of the hardest things that most vegetarians face is getting friends and family members to understand your new dietary lifestyle. If you are invited to a friend’s home or a family outing, speak to the host ahead of time. Generally, the host will be happy to prepare a special vegetarian dish for you or you can bring a dish from home. Some people may question why you are doing this; so, it is always good to have an answer to their questions.
Another way to help make going vegetarian easier is to plan and cook your meals ahead. For example, you can make a large pot of vegetarian soup or chili and have a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables handy for those times when you do not have time to cook. Have a variety of snack on hand, such as cut-up fruits and vegetables, nuts, hummus and granola on hand to make snacking a breeze.
Because so many people have embraced the vegetarian lifestyle, more and more restaurants are offering vegetarian-friendly meals. Scout your local city to find the different options available to you. You may be surprised at the numerous options available. For example, most Japanese and Chinese restaurants have a variety of vegetable dishes, such as stir-fry and rice that you can enjoy. Another option is your local pizza joint. Order eggplant parmesan or a vegetarian pizza for a delicious treat.
Find others in your community or online who embrace the vegetarian lifestyle. This is especially important when you are just beginning your journey towards a meatless future. They will be able to offer a lot of good advice, including meatless recipes, restaurants in your area that cater to vegetarian and more.
As you can see, there are many things that can help you embrace your new vegetarian lifestyle. Use the suggestions we listed above to help your transition into this new lifestyle. If you are overweight, it can help you shed those extra pounds without measuring or counting calories. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that keeping meat out of your diet can help balance your hormones, protect against disease and improve longevity.
About Elizabeth McMillan
Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS is a board certified nutritionist at Rose Wellness Center in Northern Virginia. She specializes in science-based nutrition therapy that focuses on preventive health and optimizing one’s wellness. Elizabeth places a strong emphasis on the relationship between our food choices, lifestyle, and integrative wellness.