A Vegetarian Diet: No Guarantee of Good Health

Its a sad fact that almost all the diseases that plague and eventually kill most Americans can be avoided through healthy eating and a clean lifestyle. Make no mistake … you CAN live a healthy, disease free life and remain alert and active and eventually die “old and satisfied with days” … just like Abraham and Job in the Bible! However to achieve this laudable goal, we must be very concerned about the nutritional quality of our food and make every effort to attain and then maintain a healthy body weight. As you have no doubt realised, having progressed this far … the key to what will make you thin is the same as the key that will keep you healthy. That key is to be laser focussed on the nutritional quality of your food, and if you do … thinness and health will walk together hand in hand. So does that mean you should follow a strict vegetarian diet? The simple answer is … no!

People who scrupulously avoid all animal products including dairy, but then fill up on bread, pasta, bagels and crackers are deluding themselves. They may argue that they are following a low fat diet. But what they fail to mention (or even realise) is that they are also following an unhealthy diet that is low in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, important fatty acids and especially fibre. This will result in an exposture to a wide range of illness and diseases, not least of which is cancer. In addition, because this diet consists mainly of refined grains that are low in fibre …they do not make you feel full until you have eaten way too much! Just to clarify, following a strict vegetarian diet is not as important as eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. A vegetarian whose diet is mainly refined grains, cold breakfast cereals, processed health-food-store products, vegetarian fast foods, white rice, and pasta will be considerably worse off than a person who eats a little chicken or eggs, for example, but consumes a large amount of fruit, vegetables, and beans with his salad. Multiple studies have shown that vegetarians live quite a bit longer than none vegetarians do. But when we take a close look at the data, it appears that those who weren’t as strict had longevity statistics that were equally impressive as long as they consumed a high volume of a variety of unrefined plant foods.

Its good ro remember that long term vegans (people who refuse to eat animal products of any description, including all dairy) rarely have heart attacks. Be aware that if you have heart disease, and especially if you have a strong family history of heart disease … you would be better off avoiding ALL animal based products. William Castelli of the respected Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts, is famously quoted as saying “We tend to scoff at vegetarians, but they’re doing much better than we are. Vegans have cholesterol levels so low, they almost never get heart attacks. Their average blood cholesterol is about 125 and we’ve never seen anyone in the Framingham study have a heart attack with a level below 150”. Reliable research has demonstrated time and again that those who avoid meat and dairy have much lower rates of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. The facts and the data are conclusive: vegatarians live longer … and American vegetarians probably live a lot longer!

A frequently asked but very hard question to answer categorically is “do vegetarians live longer”? The fact is few studies on lifelong vegetarians in countries which have electricity, refrigeration, good sanitation, and adequate nutrition have ever been conducted. However, one USA based study done in 1984 involving the Seventh-Day Adventist religious group provides some interesting insights. The Adventists provide dietary and lifestyle advice to their members and its leadership discourages the consumption of meat, fowl, and eggs; pork being prohibited completely. Because eating animal products is only discouraged and not necessarily prohibited, (with the exception of pork), there is a large range in animal-product consumption . Some Adventists never eat meat and eggs, whereas others consume them daily. When we take a careful look at the Seventh-Day Adventist data, those who lived the longest were those following the vegetarian diet the longest, and when we look at the subset who had followed a vegetarian diet for at least half their life, it appears they lived about thirteen years longer than their average, non-smoking Californian counterparts. Most of the participants in this study were converted to the religion, not born into it. There was no data on those following such a diet since childhood. However, the data from this carefully constructed study was compelling; and what is of considerable interest is the association of green salad consumption and longer life. Leafy greens, the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, were the best predictor of extreme longevity.

Vegetarian activists would argue that a strict vegetarian who follows a diet rich in natural vegetation, not refined grains, has the longest longevity potential, but as indicated this is educated speculation due to the lack of reliable, unbiased studies . Its not worth arguing about whether it is all right to eat a little bit of animal foods or not, and thereby miss the point that cannot be contradicted or disagreed with. Whether you eat a vegetarian diet or include a small amount of animal foods, for optimal health you must receive the majority of your calories from unrefined plant food. It is the large quantity of unrefined plant food that grants the greatest protection against developing serious disease and the greatest opportunity for sustained weight loss.

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