The Advantages of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

The Advantages of Vegetarian and Vegan DietsVegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, and nuts are the optimal foods for children. Rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they form the foundation for dietary habits that support a lifetime of health. Research indicates that adults who consume fruits and vegetables are those who consumed these foods during childhood. Here are some of the long-term advantages of plant-based diets:

  • The prevalence of hypertension among vegetarians is about one-third to one-half that of non-vegetarians. A study of Caucasian Seventh-day Adventists found hypertension in 22 percent of omnivores, but only 7 percent of vegetarians. Among African Americans, the prevalence was 44 percent of omnivores and 18 percent of vegetarians. Adopting a vegetarian diet significantly lowers blood pressure in both normal and hypertensive individuals.
  • Cholesterol levels are much lower in vegetarians. Vegetarian diets reduce serum cholesterol levels to a much greater degree than is achieved with the National Cholesterol Education Program Step Two diet. In one study published in The Lancet total cholesterol in those following a vegetarian diet for 12 months decreased by 24.3 percent.
  • Cancer rates for vegetarians are 25 to 50 percent below population averages, even after controlling for smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status. One study found that people who include generous amounts of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets have lower rates of cancers of the lung, breast, colon, bladder, stomach, mouth, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and cervix compared to people who avoid such foods.
  • Obesity is a major contributor to many serious illnesses, and is much less common among vegetarians, compared to the general population. Vegetarians are, on average, about 10 percent leaner then omnivores.
  • Plant-based diets may encourage a later menarche, which has been shown to be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in epidemiologic studies.
  • Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant substances, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, which protect cells against oxidative damage, which is related to cancer risk and other health problems. The multitude of phytochemicals found in various fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts are thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.

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