The vegetarian diet has been found to benefit people as well as the planet. The findings come from a new update by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) position on vegetarian diets.
Studies have found that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity and chronic disease, along with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. The same can be said for vegans, too.
Furthermore, a vegetarian diet has been shown to be have a more positive impact on the environment as well, as fewer resources are required to maintain vegetation compared to live stock.
One of the authors of the report, Susan Levin explained, “Vegetarian diets leave a lighter carbon footprint. The evidence has become really hard to ignore.”
The report also stressed another important point: The vegetarian diet can be healthy for people of all ages, even though there has been a large misconception about whether it provides enough nutrients. Levin added, “No one should doubt that vegetarian diets are safe at all life stages, including infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”
Studies have shown that children who follow a vegetarian diet consume more fruits and vegetables and less sweets and junk food snacks, lending way to lower risks of obesity.
The vegetarian and vegan diets can also benefit athletes, elderly, and pregnant or lactating mothers.
For the success of the vegetarian diet, it’s important to enjoy a variety of foods and not rely only on a few limited food options as this can cause nutritional deficiencies. Some nutrients are only available through meat, so vegetarians and vegans must be aware of this and take the appropriate supplements to ensure they are receiving all the nutrients their bodies require.
Lastly, there is a growing assumption that only those who are well off can afford to be vegetarian, but Levin explained, “The food does not have to be organic, or fresh. You can use canned beans and frozen vegetables.”
Benefits of being a vegetarian include lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of heart disease, lower weight, and lower risk of certain cancers.