Going “Green” With Your Food!

Thinking of going green with your meals? As in vegetarian/vegan green? Here are some tips to make transitioning to vegetarianism/veganism a little easier.

Some Americans are obsessed with protein. Flesh, flesh and more animal flesh – all in the name of improving athletic performance, losing weight, and a host of other ills.

So what about vegetarians? How does the vegetarian, or vegan diet stack up?

A lacto-ovo vegetarian that consumes milk products (lacto) and eggs (ovo), eats no meat, poultry or fish. Vegans eat no animal foods at all, including eggs, dairy, butter, and honey, which are made with animal-based ingredients. Other than those restrictions, the vegetarian eating pattern is based on a wide variety of foods that are satisfying, delicious and healthy.

Scientific studies show that vegetarians are less likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some other types of cancer than non-vegetarians. Why? When planned properly, vegetarian diets typically contain more fiber and phytonutrients than diets that include animal foods, and heart disease is uncommon in vegetarians, as cholesterol is found only in animal products. The type of protein in a vegetarian diet may be another important advantage. Many studies show that replacing animal protein with plant protein lowers blood cholesterol levels, even if the amount and type of fat in the diet stays the same.

The latest studies on diabetes show that a diet high in complex carbohydrates (which are found only in plant foods) and low in fat is the best dietary prescription for controlling diabetes. Since diabetics are at high risk for heart disease, avoiding fat and cholesterol is one of the most important benefits of the diet.

Following a vegetarian or vegan also diet aids in the prevention of cancer. Studies of vegetarians show that death rates from cancer are only about one-half of three-quarters of those of the general population. Researchers are not quite sure why vegetarians have more of certain white blood cells, which are able to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

The switch to a vegetarian diet is easier than you might think. What kinds of meals can you make? Think familiar food (like lasagna with marinara sauce, and vegetarian sausage), comfort food (creamy squash and carrot bisque with soy milk) or exotic food (Cuban black beans and brown rice, a complete vegetarian protein). You can see how easy it is to incorporate many vegan protein options into your meals!

Is “going green” (or vegan) the optimal path to health? Vegetarians, vegans and omnivores can benefit by aiming for a balanced diet, and just as importantly, pursue a physically active, non-smoking lifestyle.