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Vegetarian diet: 8 health benefits of going veggie for National Vegetarian Week 2019

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 14/05/2019 Adebola Lamuye, Tom Herbert
a bowl of fruit and vegetable salad © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Vegetarianism has become ever more popular in recent years as more and more people start to cut meat from their diets.

Whether it's because they have gone full-on vegan or just make the effort to do meat-free Mondays, people everywhere are beginning to embrace a plant-based diet.

Not only has a diet high in vegetables proven to have a myriad of health benefits, but it's also better for the environment and our wallets too.

In celebration of National Vegetarian Week 2019 this week, here are some helpful insights on following this lifestyle from nutritionist and health specialist, Ms Geeta Sidhu-Robb.

1. Our Mood

Research has revealed that vegetarians may be happier than their meat-eating counterparts. According to Ms Sidhu-Robb, vegetarians had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to fish and meat-eaters.

She said: "There is an element of freshness to most vegetarian dishes, especially when it comes to organic produce – so this is bound to purify our minds and keep our thoughts positive."

Cauliflower rice Buddha bowl with kale, avocado, seeds, snow peas and tahini dressing © Getty Cauliflower rice Buddha bowl with kale, avocado, seeds, snow peas and tahini dressing

2. Fighting Disease

When done right, vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fats and cholesterol. They can reduce the risk of heart disease and data suggests vegetarians suffer less disease caused by a modern Western diet (e.g., coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity type 2 diabetes, diet-related cancers, diverticulitis, constipation, and gall stones, among several others). Why? This can be attributed to a higher intake of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids, and carotenoids.

3. Lean Figure

A bonus to sticking to a vegetarian diet is the positive effect it has on our figure. Vegetarians typically weigh less as a result of a diet comprised of fewer calories in the form of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Vegetarians are also generally more aware of healthy food and tend to eat better.

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4. Less Toxicity

Ms Sidhu-Robb added: "Further emphasising what I was saying about the vegetarian diet, especially organically, being purer, it is of course far less in toxicity." Food-born illnesses, bacteria, parasites, and chemical toxins are more common in commercial meat, poultry, and seafood when compared with plant foods (particularly organic fruits and vegetables). As a rule, vegetarians also tend to eat less processed food.

5. Sight & Skin

As well as keeping the figure desirable, vegetarians tend to have better vision and less macular degeneration and all that extra collagen leads to better skin – what more could you want?

6. Stay fuller, longer

A vegetarian diet is more filling than a typical Western one, as it has a lot more fibre and is very nutrient less. "So you eat less and stay full for longer," Ms Sidhu-Robb added.

7. Better Athletic Performance

Young handsome man using phone while having exercise break in rooftop gym. © Getty Young handsome man using phone while having exercise break in rooftop gym. While most active individuals focus on protein intake, they should instead follow a high-carbohydrate, good-fat, and vitamin and mineral-rich vegetarian diet for optimum sports performance according to Ms Sidhu-Robb. Conflicting studies exist, but the number of world-class vegetarian sportsmen continues to rise. Lewis Hamilton, for example, has gone vegan while boxer David Haye has embraced the diet recently as well.

8. Longevity

Ms Sidhu-Robb says vegetarians have been found to enjoy longer and healthier lives when compared to meat-eaters.

How to ensure you get all of the nutrients you need:

Vegetarian diets are packed full of essential nutrients, but in the absence of meat, it is vitally important that we make sure we are still consuming a the correct amounts of proteins in other forms.

  • Protein is made up of small parts called amino acids, which aid your metabolism and help to keep you muscles, skin and organs healthy.
  • Eggs are a great source of proteins for vegetarians, and are often used as a breakfast option for athletes – especially boxers. Vegan options include nuts, peanut butter, seeds, grains and legumes.
  • Iron is another key nutrient and plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. These can help to carry oxygen throughout your body. Good sources of iron include beans, broccoli, raisins, wheat and tofu.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids improve your heart health and brain function. Flaxseed meal and oil are two good vegetarian sources of omega-3. You can also look to plant sources.
  • Zinc is vital to our immune system. A lot of cheeses contain zinc, but you can also find it in beans, nuts and soy products which contain fewer calories.

Ms Geeta Sidhu-Robb is also the founder and CEO of Nosh Detox, natural food & juice programmes delivered to your doo;

MSN UK are Empowering Happiness for mental health awareness month. Find out more about our campaign and the charities working to stop people falling into crisis here.

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