The Digestive Perks Of Being A Vegetarian

Besides typically consuming more nutrients, and avoiding congesting foods, vegetarians also have incredible digestion.

Switching to a vegetarian diet may be a good way to enhance your digestive health, and you don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to the switch. There are several types of vegetarian diets, and semi-vegetarian diets to choose from, including:

  • Vegetarian. This diet cuts out meat and fish but dairy, and egg products are ok.
  • Vegan. No meat, fish, or animal products or byproducts, such as dairy, eggs, and honey
  • Semi-vegetarian. Typically, no red meat but some fish or poultry.

Related: This High-Fat Food Can Lower Your Cholesterol     digestive benefits of vegetables

Digestive health can improve with a vegetarian diet, but the key is a “well-planned vegetarian diet,” emphasizes registered dietitian Sheah L. Rarback, MS, RD, director of nutrition at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. It’s possible to eat an unhealthy vegetarian diet that will not aid your digestion or your health.

“If it’s a good vegetarian diet that’s high in a lot of fruits and veggies, it will also be generally nutrient-rich,” Rarback says. It’s important to strive for balance and variety in the foods you consume while avoiding foods high in fat or salt.

Related: Attention, Women: You’re Not Too Old to Go Vegetarian

How Vegetarian Diets Help Digestion

When you eat more fiber-rich foods — fruits and vegetables — you’re getting more nutrients. Other possible benefits to a vegetarian diet include.

  • Feeling full. When you eat foods that are high in fiber, Rarback says, you feel fuller. This can benefit people who are trying to control their weight. Maintaining a healthy weight helps with many aspects of digestive health and can prevent unpleasant problems with digestion, such as acid reflux.
  • Regular bowel movements. The fiber in a vegetarian diet will keep foods and waste moving smoothly through your system, avoiding both constipation and diarrhea. By increasing their fiber intake, Americans could save more than $12 billion — the amount spent on constipation-related therapies each year, according to research in the April 2014 issue of BMC Public Health. The researchers noted that consuming more fiber could also prevent a lot of time lost at work.
  • Disease prevention. Vegetarians are about 31 percent less likely than people who also eat meat to experience diverticular disease, a potentially serious condition that occurs when pouches form in the colon, according to research published in the British journal BMJ in 2011. There’s also some evidence that a vegetarian diet can help ward off certain cancers, such as colon cancer, and chronic diseases such as heart disease. When researchers examined the health data and dietary habits of more than 73,000 Seventh-Day Adventists, they found that vegetarians were less likely than meat eaters to die for any reason during the five-year study period. The results of their study were published in the July 2013 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Myth of High Protein Diets

MANY people have been making the case that Americans have grown fat because they eat too much starch and sugar, and not enough meat, fat and eggs. Recently, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lifted recommendations that consumption of dietary cholesterol should be restricted, citing research that dietary cholesterol does not have a major effect on blood cholesterol levels. The predictable headlines followed: “Back to Eggs and Bacon?”

But, alas, bacon and egg yolks are not health foods.

Although people have been told for decades to eat less meat and fat, Americans actually consumed 67 percent more added fat, 39 percent more sugar, and 41 percent more meat in 2000 than they had in 1950 and 24.5 percent more calories than they had in 1970, according to the Agriculture Department. Not surprisingly, we are fatter and unhealthier.

A study published last March found a 75 percent increase in premature deaths from all causes, and a 400 percent increase in deaths from cancer and Type 2 diabetes, among heavy consumers of animal protein under the age of 65 — those who got 20 percent or more of their calories from animal protein.

The more people adhered to these recommendations (including reducing the amount of fat and cholesterol they consumed), the more improvement we measured — at any age. But for reversing disease, a whole-foods, plant-based diet seems to be necessary.

In addition, what’s good for you is good for our planet. Livestock production causes more disruption of the climate than all forms of transportation combined. And because it takes as much as 10 times more grain to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, eating a plant-based diet could free up resources for the hungry.

What you gain is so much more than what you give up.

Source: “The Myth of High-Protein Diets” by Dean Ornish MD, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, March 23, 2015




Little Value and Possible Harm in Taking Vitamins

“In the modern world, the abundant supply of a wide variety of foods makes it possible to satisfy virtually all nutritional needs by eating a healthful, balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and protein sources. But based on the idea that more of a good thing is better, companies are now selling Americans $12 billion worth of vitamins a year. Many scientists and doctors, however, question the value of gobbling vitamins—and there is evidence that large doses of some vitamins may actually be harmful. A recent long-term study of more than 400,000 people concluded that ‘most vitamin supplements have no clear benefit’ and warned that excess vitamin E and beta-carotene may actually weaken the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells. ‘The case is closed,’ the study authors wrote. ‘Enough is enough.’”

Source: “Too much of a good thing,” THE WEEK, July 18, 2014