Vegetarianism – abstaining from meat, fish and poultry, has been a way of life for many in India, mainly for religious reasons. However, its popularity has been growing in India and across the world for health reasons and due to increased sensitivity towards animal life. According to a recent poll conducted by the independent research firm Harris Interactive, the number of vegetarian youth in the United States has increased 70% in just the last few years. This World Vegetarian Day (October 1) let’s take a look at the factors that are driving people to give up on non-veg foods…
A vegetarian diet can successfully keep heart ailments at bay since it is low in fibre and rich in potassium. It lowers your blood pressure and reduces the possibility of heart attacks and stroke. Get high on lentils, beans, peas and juicy fruits along with whole grain foods which are a big source of potassium, fibre and iron. Spinach, kale and kidney beans, which are rich in iron, are ideal for red blood cell production. On the same note dietician, Kanchan Patwardhan asserts, “Following a vegetarian diet is a good way to reduce your chance of having a stroke or being obese. A vegetarian diet is totally alkaline in nature and it automatically reduces the risk of diseases as we age with good digestibility and metabolism.”
Did you know the meat that you love to hog on is secretly making you fall prey to cancer? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meat has the potential to cause cancer. As compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer, a research conducted in England and Germany has shown. A vegetarian diet has abundant fibre, vitamins and phytochemicals that play a key role in averting cancer. Not just this, vegetarians have ‘natural killer cells’, specialised white blood cells that counter-attack cancer cells.
Good for gut
Not all bacteria are bad; our body also needs good bacteria that helps boost our immune system. Plant-based foods can have a positive impact on types of bacteria that reside in our gut. Choosing the correct plant-based foods would make room for positive microbiome which are linked with good gut health. They also help reduce inflammation. Benecol spreads, yogurt and yogurt drinks can do wonders. They contain the unique cholesterol-lowering ingredient, Plant Stanol Ester. These partially block cholesterol and absorb excessive cholesterol in the bloodstream.
With regular exercise and low fat vegetarian diet, diabetes can be better controlled and sometimes it can be eliminated. Fibre rich diet with complex carbs lets the insulin work more efficiently. Diabetic patients can easily regulate their glucose levels and in Type 1 diabetes, it also lowers the amount of insulin being used. Studies have found that people who eat meat frequently are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Very few people know that sticking to a vegetarian diet can boost one’s mood and is good for mental well-being. Arachidonic acid is a substance which is found in dietary animal sources. It has the potential to disturb your good mood. Vegetarian diet is not high on this acid. A study conducted at Benedictine University has shown that avoiding meat, fish or eggs can visibly improve your mood.
No negative side effects
Dr Patwardhan affirms, “There are no negative aspects to a vegetarian diet. Many people say that a veg diet lacks vitamin B12 and D. In fact, a veg diet helps to produce vitamin B12. Having natural probiotic food like fruits and vegetables promotes good gut flora and helps in production of vitamin B12.”
Before you decide to adopt and follow a vegetarian diet, Dr Patwardhan recommends, “As with all dietary patterns, it’s important not to rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. Refined carbs and high-calorie food should be avoided. A diet should also consist of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12-rich food sources. Every person needs to be educated by a doctor or dietician about the importance of macro and micronutrients and how one can include them in their vegetarian diets.”