The Health Benefits of Vegetarianism

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A staunch vegetarian for the last 3 years, I’ve taken a lot of heat for my diet. From the ageless question, “Humans need meat, Kara…where do you get your protein?”, to the perplexed and simply executed “Why?” from a disconcerted meat eater, the unconventional choice has yielded questions upon questions about why I would choose this lifestyle.

The fact is, I used to eat meat. I was the single person in my family willfully scarfing down thick steaks cooked Pittsburg-style and covering my baked potatoes with bacon. I worked out. I wasn’t overweight, so I couldn’t understand the idea of giving up meat myself. “Why limit yourself?” I’d ask, unable to see past the coveted animal-based entrée in front of me.

And then I started to look at the facts.

On the very tip of the proverbial health-benefits-iceberg, we have fiber. Because we’ve evolved past our initial archaic selves (we no longer have fang-like teeth for tearing into animal flesh, for instance), our digestive systems have changed. When you leave a restaurant or the dinner table feeling sick and uncomfortable, it is because our bodies have a hard time digesting meat. This can lead to constipation and, eventually, even intestinal cancers. Vegetarian diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, so they actually aid in digestion. Meat alternatives, such as El Burrito Food Products’ Soyrizo, also aid in that process because they are plant-based. And, since your body doesn’t have to work so hard to try and break down all of that meat, you’ll notice a significant increase in your energy levels after a meal.

This is even better news for diabetics, because the fiber and complex carbohydrates found in vegetarian and vegan diets can help control diabetes and hypoglycemia. In fact, if you consume legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can even eliminate the need for diabetic medicines in some cases–and any diabetic will tell you, that can save you a lot amount of money.

According to a study from Loma Linda University (backed by the China Health Project), vegetarians live an average of 7 years longer than meat eaters do. Those who follow a vegan diet (vegetarianism without dairy or eggs) live 15 years longer. This is partially because the toxins found in meat can cause skin problems, allergies, influenza and other ailments. In severe cases, they have also been known to cause infertility and cancers.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, grilled, cured and smoked meats and fish produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines, both of which are carcinogenic in nature. They cause cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says that women who eat meat are 4x as likely to get breast cancer than vegetarian women. Vegetarians, on the other hand, lower their risk of cancer by 50% simply by eliminating meat from their diets because their immune systems are effective in killing tumor cells. Vegetarians, on average, consume more fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are full of sulfide compounds, isoflavones, isothiocyanates, and glucarates–all of which work as effective preventative measures against cancer. You can further lower your risk of cancer by another 20% by consuming an adequate amount of whole grains.

By giving up meat, you can naturally rid your body of many toxins. This is because fruits and vegetables (especially those that are organically grown) don’t have as many preservatives and chemicals. In fact, cruelty-free diets are filled with disease-fighting phytochemicals. In essence, this means that the prettier your food is, the better it can boost your immunity, preventing a range of illnesses.

By cutting out dairy and eggs, you can shave off another 4% from the likelihood that you will suffer from cardiovascular disease or stroke between the ages of 40 and 65. This is partly because the cholesterol levels for vegetarians are an average of 14% lower than cholesterol levels among meat eaters. And then, of course, there is the inherent link meat consumption shares with cardiovascular diseases. This starts at a surprisingly young age. According to the Bogalusa Heart Study (conducted at Louisiana State University), children as young as 3 years old who are raised on meat and fast food are already showing early signs of heart disease. Studies show that the average American male omnivore is about 15% more likely to die of heart disease than a man who doesn’t eat meat…a significant drop in mortality rates simply for opting for a cruelty-free alternative to that burger at lunch. Vegetarian diets are low in salt, which is a major cause of hypertension and high blood pressure. They are also lower in cholesterol and saturated fats, which are main causes of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Fruits and Vegetables like papaya, strawberries, eggplant, spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, squash and parsley can actually lower your blood pressure levels.

El Burrito Food Products’ Soyrizo is made from a soy protein and so it contains important isoflavones like daidzein. These isoflavones can slow and in some cases even stop tumor growth. They lower cholesterol levels, diminish bone loss and decrease your risk of blood clots. Basically, this translates to lower risks of heart diseases, stroke, osteoporosis and cancer.

And then, on a purely vain level, there is the issue of weight. Billions upon billions of dollars are spent every year on weight loss plans and dietary supplements, but the fact of the matter is, the answer has been in your backyard all along. On average, vegetarians are thinner than meat eaters are because our diets are higher in vegetable proteins and lower in fat. Products like Soyrizo mimic the texture and taste of meat, but they are lowering cholesterol and saturated fats because they are made from tofu. By opting for these healthier alternatives, vegetarians are more likely to keep the weight off for up to seven years longer than meat eaters are.

Because of its link with hypertension, cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, gallstones and food-borne illnesses, meat consumption attributes to an estimated $30-$60 billion a year in medical costs in the United States alone (Barnard ND, Nicholson A, and Howard JL. The medical costs attributable to meat consumption. Prev Med 1995; 24: 646-55). Doctor visits aside, by replacing chicken, meat and fish with vegetables and fruits can actually cut your grocery costs down by up to $4,000 a year. A decent amount of pocket change in exchange for a healthier, cruelty-free lifestyle.

Oh–a note on the “pingback” to El Burrito Food Products’ blog….I’m the one who writes their blog entries…so I wound up having a “pingback” to my professional self!! hahahaha!!

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Health and Environmental Benefits of Vegetarianism « El Burrito Food Products' Blog

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