Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may help in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases according to a new position paper of the American Dietetic Association. This is good news for the 3.7 per cent of Australian adults who are vegetarian and increasing number of omnivores choosing meatless meals more often for health or environmental reasons.
A vegetarian diet could be your meal ticket to a healthier, happier life. Research shows vegetarian diets are linked with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol and pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and overall cancer. A smaller number also show benefits for dementia, diverticulitis, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis. So what are you waiting for?
foods that deliver
As there is only so much room on the plate, by going vego you get more of the tried and tested superfoods.
Nuts and seeds: Enjoying these four to five times per week lowers the risk of heart attack by about 50 per cent and type 2 diabetes by 27 per cent.
Legumes: Cooking these in place of meat will protect you against diabetes and certain cancers, and lower your cholesterol. While best known for their high protein, dried beans have the lowest glycemic index (GI) of any food group and are loaded with fibre.
Wholegrains: Including just three serves per day lowers the risk of diabetes by 20 to 30 per cent, and improves blood-sugar control if you have diabetes.
Vegetables and fruits: Eating five to 10 servings daily significantly lowers blood pressure, and guards against obesity and cancer.
getting it right
While you can meet all your nutritional requirements with a plant-based diet, vegans and some other vegetarians may have a reduced intake of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and the long chain omega-3s.
A visit to an accredited practising dietitian experienced in vegetarian nutrition makes good sense for new vegetarians, those making poor dietary choices or undergoing stages of life such as pregnancy and infancy.