Nutrition: Four ways in which a vegetarian diet can benefit your health
REDUCED DIABETES, CANCER RISK
Studies have shown that vegetarians are less likely than meat eaters to suffer from a number of diseases. According to a study by the University of Navarra in Spain, vegetarians tend to have a lower Type 2 diabetes risk, because they are less likely to be obese, and often have a lower average body mass index (BMI) than meat-eaters. The World Cancer Research Fund describes eating red or processed meats as a 'convincing' risk for colon cancer. Separately, a 2015 US study of 77,000 people found that a vegetarian diet cut the risk of colorectal cancer by 20 per cent.
Balanced vegetarian diets can also come with external benefits, packing in lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support healthy hair, skin and nails. Chomping on carotenoid-packed vegetables – those with a dark green, red and orange hue – is great for preventing UV light damage, which can lead to melanoma, wrinkles and dry skin.
GOOD FOR YOUR HEART
Being vegetarian could have heart health benefits, too. A 2013 Oxford University study looked at 45,000 people and compared rates of heart disease between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It found that a veggie diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly a third (32 per cent), concluding that it was likely down to the diet's effect on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
LOWER FAT AND CHOLESTEROL
Cutting out meat can markedly reduce fat intake, especially saturated fat – which has been linked to clogged arteries and coronary heart disease. Even extra-lean minced beef has more than four times the fat of pulses such as beans, lentils and peas, and making a Bolognese sauce or curry with Quorn meat or soya mince, for example, can reduce fat by three-quarters. A study by the Vegetarian Society claims that a balanced vegetarian diet contains up to twice as much fibre as the UK average diet, and soluble fibre can help to keep cholesterol under control. Soya foods and nuts have been shown to be especially helpful in keeping cholesterol levels low.