Are there health benefits of being vegetarian?|
The Rumor: Vegetarians Are Healthier Than Meat Eaters
You’ve heard buzz over the years that following a vegetarian diet is better for your health, and you’ve probably read a few magazine articles featuring a celebrity or two who swore off meat and animal products and “magically” lost weight. So, does ditching meat automatically equal weight loss? Will it really help you live longer and be healthier overall?
The Verdict: Vegetarian Diets Can Be Unhealthy If You’re Not Careful
First of all, what exactly constitutes “vegetarian”? There are two basic kinds of vegetarian diet: lacto-ovo and strict (vegan). Most of them fall into the lacto-ovo category: They eat only non-animal products (fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, soy, etc.), but do eat animal byproducts, such as yogurt and eggs. In terms of nutritional requirements, being a lacto-ovo vegetarian isn’t all that different from being a meat-eater, according to Katherine Tallmadge, RD, LD, past media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Vegans, however, don’t eat any animal products whatsoever -- and as a result, “they must be very careful in their selection of foods so that they get all the nutrients they need,” says Tallmadge. (Potato chips are vegan, after all.)
That said, following a vegetarian diet “can be nutritionally superior to any other way of eating,” says Tallmadge. "Eating plant-based can be one of the healthiest choices, as plant foods are rich in protective nutrients."
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that evidence supports a vegetarian diet's lower risk of ischemic heart disease death. Vegetarians have lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduced risk of diabetes compared to meat eaters. Vegans also tend to have a lower body mass index, lower overall cancer rates and lower risk of chronic disease.
Even a vegetarian coworker eating greasy veggie burgers may not be healthier than someone consistently opting for grilled salmon. Definitely not!