Many people who are vegetarians think of their diet as a way of life rather than merely as a way of eating. It's not necessary to be a strict vegetarian to be a natural foods enthusiast, but generally, vegetarians almost by definition are more conscientious about the foods they eat. Those who have chosen to go vegetarian appreciate knowing that their food choices can be not only tasty and healthy but compassionate and humane as well. Not to mention the enormous benefit of plant-based diets to our rapidly deteriorating environment. Common wisdom tells us that vegetarian diets:
1) May be overall the healthiest way to eat. Research has shown that vegetarians tend to have lower rates of obesity—a significant and timely point, now that 60 percent of American adults are overweight and 300,000 die each year of obesity-related diseases. Some of these diseases are heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and adult-onset (type 2) diabetes.
2) Give their practitioners the edge against some forms of cancer. Studies of vegetarians show that, overall, they have lower rates of cancer than the general population. Vegetarians are believed to have stronger immune systems, possibly due to higher-than-average intake of vitamin-packed vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fiber-rich vegetarian diets may reduce the risk of cancers of the digestive organs.
3) May protect against heart disease. Health experts agree that eating foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates can help reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, plant-based proteins reduce cholesterol levels, while animal protein raises them.
4) Help avoid some of the most virulent forms of food-borne illnesses caused by E. coli, Salmonella, and Listera. Food-borne illness is particularly dangerous to children, whose immune systems may not be developed enough to withstand the dangers of contaminated meat products.
5) May hold the key to longer life. Studies, including those conducted on Seventh-Day Adventists (who advocate a vegetarian diet), have shown that vegetarians live an average of 7 to 15 years longer than their meat-eating counterparts.
The Vegetarian Family Cookbook
by Nava Atlas
$17.95, Trade Paperback Original
Reprinted by permission.
This page created May 2004
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