According to a popular study, 38 percent of the people who switched to a vegetarian diet did so because of the well–known, vegetarian health benefits. These include a healthy heart, better digestion, and a healthy immune system.
A healthy vegetarian diet will make it less likely that you develop heart disease. Why? Because animal protein is high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
"Studies show a positive link between vegetarian eating and health. In general, the incidence of, or the death rate from, health problems - heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer - tends to be lower among vegetarians." ²
When you eat a plant–based diet you get more antioxidants, including beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E. Antioxidants look for and neutralize free radicals that damage cells and DNA. ³
Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts also contain Phytochemicals, another type of antioxidant. Plants produce phytochemicals to protect themselves, and some recent research suggests they can also protect humans against serious illnesses.
You get lots of dietary fiber from a plant–based diet. As you probably know, you need plenty of fiber for bowel regularity, colon detoxification, and to eliminate toxins from your body.
By replacing meat with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds you can easily get more vitamins and minerals, including more magnesium and folate into your diet.
Factory raised animals are given antibiotics and synthetic hormones that get into your system when you eat meat. The danger? Synthetic hormones have been linked to cancer. And, consuming large amounts of antibiotics make harmful bacteria resistant to the antibiotics you deliberately take to treat an illness.
A vegetarian diet doesn't guarantee that you'll get all the great vegetarian health benefits above. It's important to stay away from unhealthy, processed vegetarian foods, and stick with fresh, whole foods instead.
Planning is also key. There are some nutrients that are hard to get from a vegetarian diet. You can read the Vegetarian Nutrition Guide to find out what these nutrients are, why you need them, and how to get them into your vegetarian diet.
1 Paul Insel, R. Elaine Turner, Don Ross, Discovering Nutrition
2 American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, by Roberta Larson Duyff, ADD (American Dietetic Association)
4 Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB, Dietary fiber and weight regulation, Howarth NC, Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39.