By: Lee Helland
Now, let's bust one myth right off the bat: Going vegetarian does not automatically make you the picture of health. After all, there's no meat in candy bars! But, if you do it the right way (whole foods, healthy cooking, less junk) shifting to a plant-based diet could deliver these five sought-after health benefits.
Women who follow a vegetarian diet expand their lifespan by an average of 5 years, according to new data presented at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. It may be the result of vegetarians' lower body mass index, which canprotect against diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure.
Removing an entire food category-meat-from your diet means you have no choice but to reach for more plant-based options to satisfy your hunger. As a result, vegetarians have higher levels of fiber, which keeps you healthy and satisfied says Andrea Giancoli, R.D.
Vegetarians have lower cancer rates, perhaps because they consume more antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, says Georgie Fear, a registered dietician in Victoria, British Columbia. And new research finds that amino acids found in processed and red meats may lead to certain types of cancer.
Help your heart
According to an ongoing study at Loma Linda University in California, vegetarians are 36 percent less likely than meat eaters to suffer from metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by abdominal fat and high blood triglycerides that increases your risk for heart problems. Going veg even one day a week could protect you: The "semi-vegetarians" enjoy a slightly lower rate than omnivores.
People who went from omnivorous to vegetarian scored 39 percent lower for stress than meat eaters after just two weeks on the new diet, according to a 2012 study in Nutrition Journal. The mood boost could be the result of plant compounds that fight blues-inducing oxidative stress in your body.