NutritionFacts.org

vegetarians

The USDA has been accused of ignoring research that shows the harmful effects of meat eating in formulating its dietary guidelines. In Greece, the dietary guidelines are formulated by a health agency, and the daily diet recommendation is for a vegetarian diet. Doctors stateside, unfortunately, are often not taught enough about nutrition to properly advise their patients on a healthy diet.

A vegetarian diet may help reduce the risk of the following: cataracts, age related macular degeneration, allergies and chronic diseases (see also here), abdominal aortic aneurysms, heart disease (see also here), heart attacks, cancer (see also here, here, here), lymphoma, diabetes (see also here, here), obesity (see also here, here), Alzheimer’s disease, liver failure, blood cancers, cholesterol (especially with a whole foods vegan diet; see also here), gallstones, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, and arthritis.

Vegetarians appear to have higher levels of the following: creatine (when given a supplement), enzyme activity that may prevent aging, telomerase activity that may also slow aging, plasma protein levels, aspirin levels in the bloodstream, a higher metabolism, greater body odor attractiveness, higher IQs, larger, better-formed, and more frequent bowel movements (oh, and a longer life span).

Vegetarians may have lower levels of the following: industrial toxins (see also here, here) such as flame retardants, mercury, and xenoestrogens (which lower male sperm count); total mortality (including cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality); DNA damage; and lower trans-fat intake. Vegetarians seem to also generally experience better moods (less depression and anxiety), possibly due to lower consumption of the inflammatory omega-6 arachidonic acid found in animal products (predominantly in chicken and eggs).

On average, vegans have been found to be deficient in three nutrients (maybe zinc) whereas omnivores may be deficient on average in seven nutrients. DHA/EPA and Vitamin D supplements may be useful, but Vitamin B-12 supplements are the single most important consideration for vegetarians and vegans. A Vitamin B-12 test is recommended for pregnant vegetarians and vegans just to double check adequate B12 status since the results of deficiency can be so devastating.

Vegetarian sources of Vitamin B-12 include supplements and fortified foods (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Making sure the diet has enough iodine, which can be obtained through iodized sea salt or seaweed, is also important. In extreme cases in which genetic diseases result in a body’s inability to make certain compounds, meat or supplements may be necessary to counteract the deficiency.

Topic summary contributed by Denise.
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Watch videos about vegetarians

  • Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health
    Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health
    The cardiovascular benefits of plant-based diets may be severely undermined by vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners
    Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners
    The carotid arteries of those eating plant-based diets appear healthier than even those just as slim (long-distance endurance athletes who’ve run an average of 50,000 miles).
  • Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal
    Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal
    To stay out of oxidative debt we need to take in more antioxidants than we use up.
  • One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic
    One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic
    Many of our most common diseases found to be rare or even nonexistent among populations eating plant-based diets.
  • Cavities and Coronaries: Our Choice
    Cavities and Coronaries: Our Choice
    Coronary heart disease, our #1 cause of death, was found to be almost non-existent in a population eating a diet centered around whole plant foods.
  • Are Fatty Foods Addictive?
    Are Fatty Foods Addictive?
    Those eating calorie-dense diets may have a reduced capacity to enjoy all of life’s pleasures by deadening dopamine pathways in the brain.
  • Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola
    Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola
    The consumption of phosphorus preservatives in junk food and injected into meat may damage blood vessels, accelerate the aging process, and contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Counteracting the Effects of Dioxins Through Diet
    Counteracting the Effects of Dioxins Through Diet
    Phytonutrients in certain plant foods may block the toxic effects of industrial pollutants like dioxins through the Ah receptor system.
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