The foods we eat have a direct impact on our health and appearance. For years our moms lectured us about eating our fruits and vegetables because we are what we eat. There was no arguing with mom then, and there’s no arguing with fact now. Fruits and veggies offer a variety of vitamins and nutrients that help us stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Now, new research suggest that the benefits don’t stop there. Vegetarians also live longer!
According to the preliminary results of a study at Loma Linda University, the benefits of following a vegetarian diet could allow you to live more than nine years longer than you might by consuming a meat-based diet. That’s almost a decade! The research revealed that vegans (who don’t even consume eggs or dairy) are, on average, 30 pounds lighter, five units lighter on the BMI scale and less insulin-resistant than meat eaters.
The study also revealed that pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who consume fish) and semi-vegetarians (vegetarians who limit animal products but still eat meat about once a week), have an “intermediate protection” against lifestyle diseases. However, the researchers acknowledged that lean people are also more likely to exercise regularly and avoid cigarettes than overweight people, which suggests that there are many other factors that contribute to the overall health of these study participants.
The bottom line: There is a lot of evidence behind the claim that vegetarian (and vegan) diets have numerous health benefits, including weight management and the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.
So does that mean that we should all be vegetarian? Well, no, not necessarily. Vegetarian and vegan diets aren’t for everyone. Still, you can improve your diet and lifestyle by making small changes. Start by eating what you like, but aim for moderation and variety.
Over the day, do your best to include foods from all food groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods. You can even try to go without meat for one day a week, like “meatless Mondays.” Be sure to include protein sources like eggs, peanut butter, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. For a 2000-calorie diet plan, eat about 5½ ounces of protein foods every day. To give you an idea, the following count as one ounce of protein: one egg, one Tbsp of peanut butter, a handful of nuts or seeds, or ¼ cup of cooked beans or lentils.
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