The vegetarian lifestyle has undergone a tremendous amount of change over the past several years. Those changes have turned something once labeled strictly for hippies and animal lovers into a trendy, mainstream movement.
Part of that movement is a quick weight loss diet plan called the Vegetarian Diet. Multiple celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, and Maggie Q have all lent their names in support.
The growing trend towards vegetarianism is consistent with studies that promote the health benefits of plant-based diets. These benefits include obesity reduction, lower rates of heart disease, and reduced risk of diabetes. If they are carefully planned and balanced, vegetarian diets provide sufficient amounts of all essential nutrients.
Sudden Rise In Popularity
During the last few decades of the 20th century, a surge of “vegetarianism” occurred in the United States and Europe. Between 1986 and 1994, the number of people in the United States who declared themselves as vegetarians doubled from 6 to 12 million.
During that time frame, there was a significant increase in published literature promoting the benefits that vegetarianism had to offer. Today, that information is all over the internet in the form of recipes, new research, etc.
How It Works
The term “vegetarian” is used to describe any diet that emphasizes consuming plant foods, while avoiding animal products. The most restrictive forms also excludes all dairy products and eggs. This includes vegan, fruitarian, and macrobiotic diets. More lenient versions allow for dairy, while others allow dairy and eggs.
In an interesting twist, Interestingly, lots of people who claim to be “vegetarian” don’t fit into any of the versions mentioned above. Many who consider themselves vegetarian eat fish regularly, while others include poultry and/or pork in their diet.
A vegetarian diet should include daily consumption of a variety of foods from all the plant groups–grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and spices. Vegetarians should choose whole, organic, minimally processed foods while avoid processed stuff and sweets. A vegetarian diet consisting of ice cream, potato chips, and vegan cupcakes won’t provide the desired results.
Does It Work?
In the HBO documentary The Weight Of The Nation, it was mentioned multiple times that “going with the flow” in the United States will likely lead to obesity. A 2011 study indicated that some sections of the country have an obesity rate of 40%, and it’s increasing 5% on a year over year basis. Of all the diets that have been recommended over the years to treat disease such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension–the best option may be a plant based diet.
For many years, the health benefits of vegetarian diets were thought to be due to the absence of meat and animal fats. To support this notion, scientists pointed to results of studies that link high intake of meat and animal products to higher risk for contracting heart disease and cancer. They also believe that health benefits of vegetarian diets are responsible from other lifestyle choices such as increased physical activity.
Specific Support for Vegetarian Diets
Nutrition Reviews reported in 2006 that a vegan or vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss after compiling 87 distinct studies. The report also suggested that vegetarian populations have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. In addition to losing a pound per week without exercise, the authors also suggested that that a vegan diet caused more calories to be burned after meals.
Plant-based diets may also offer an advantage over others in preventing and managing diabetes. An Adventist Health Study found that vegetarians have approximately half the risk of developing diabetes as non-vegetarians. Other studies support the conclusion that low-fat, plant-based diets without read meat can help prevent and treat diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
Patients on a plant-based diet are not generally at risk for protein deficiency. Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which must be obtained from amino acids. These aminos can be found in many plant based foods such as quinoa, brown rice with beans, and hummus with whole wheat pita bread. Evidence suggests that a plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency.
One of the common criticisms of a vegetarian diet is the supposed lack of calcium. However, research indicates that calcium intake can be adequate in a well-balanced and carefully planned diet. In general, people who eat plant based foods without calcium may be at greater risk for bone fractures. Kale and mustard greens are excellent sources of calcium.
A healthy, plant-based diet requires planning, reading labels, and discipline. It’s not an all-or-nothing program like other diets at all–it’s really an individual way of life that can be tailored to individual needs. Hopefully people have gained a better understanding of the potential benefits of a plant-based diet through reading this. As is the case with all diets, speak with a doctor or experienced nutritionist beforehand, but I strongly endorse a plant-based diet.