Food, a way to improve your health

Studies show that vegan and vegetarian diets may improve health and could add onto our life line.

Food, a way to improve your health

Logan Bishop, Online Editor

When food comes to mind, most people think of hot dogs, hamburgers, and a nice sirloin steak. With some others however, that’s not the case.

Only 5 percent of America’s adults consider themselves to be vegetarian while only 2 percent consider themselves vegan. Now, you may be thinking, “What do they even eat?”

First off, people need a better understanding of these diets. Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Dairy is allowed, however. When someone is a lacto-ovo vegetarian they include diary and eggs in their diet but exclude meat, fish, as well as poultry. An ovo-vegetarian exludes dairy, meat, fish, and poultry but allows eggs. A vegan diet excludes all animals products from their diet.

While going on these diets, it is important to keep in mind that some nutrients may be difficult to obtain now. These nutrients include calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and zinc.

Many plant based foods have these nutrients however, and it’s easy once you have your grocery list.

Calcium can be found in many dark green vegetables such as broccoli and kale. To make sure you’re getting enough iodine, a 1/4 teaspoon of iodized salt will just do the trick. Iron is very important to your health. Plant based foods with an adequate source of iron are dried beans, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, as well as dried fruits. When you eat meats, 22 percent of  iron is absorbed. With eggs and plant based foods, only 1 to 8 percent of iron is absorbed. To improve the amount of iron absorbed into your body, eat citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are known to form complexes with iron to improve absorption. Protein and vitamin B-12 are very important to one’s health as well. To increase protein, their are many soy products and meat substitutes. Besides these two options, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds as well as whole grains are a good source as well. Vitamin B-12 is necessary to prevent anemia and produce red blood cells. With a vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B-12 can be very scarce in the foods you eat. It is important to consider plant based vitamin supplements in order to get the right amount of B-12.

Not only are you saving the planet by being vegetarian or vegan, but there’s a few health benefits as well.

Since animal fat and cholesterol is eliminated from your diet, your chances of cardiovascular disease are greatly decreased. In a day where fast food is just around the corner, it’s easy to gain weight. While being on these diets, it’s easy to keep your weight down. Also, you will see a big difference in grocery shopping. If each non-vegetarian were to become vegetarian, they would reduce grocery bills by $4,000 each year. By not eating meat, you’re less likely to consume toxic chemicals. The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of pesticide residue in American diets comes from meat, fish, as well as dairy. Balanced vegetarian diets allow you to feel more energy. There is no more artery clogging animal products to worry about.

Besides what I’ve mentioned, these diets can also lower blood pressure, prevent or reverse diabetes,  and reduce gallstones and kidney stones. Vegetarians are at a lower risk for osteoporosis, since eating meat forces the calcium out of your body. Lastly, these diets can decrease the severity of asthma attacks.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” Hippocrates once said. There are many benefits to these diets and more people need to understand why every day Americans are turning this direction. Instead of thinking about that nice sirloin steak, maybe now you’ll start thinking about a steaming bowl of broccoli.