Turning towards plant based diet is no longer a fad but conscious decision of many people around the world who seek good health. With so many options available, vegetarianism is no longer considered restrictive in outings and family gatherings. Most people are turning vegetarian due to the health crisis that they see around the world. In recent years, there has been a drastic increase in overweight population - today one-third of American children suffer from obesity. Heart ailments and lifestyle diseases are also common. Sedentary lifestyle and reliance on high calorie processed food are two main culprits. There has also been an increase in allergies, intolerances, sensitivities to food items leading people to consider vegetarianism as a way of life.
Plant-based diets are restorative in nature. Although more research needs to be conducted on correlation between heart diseases and meat-consumption, some studies have found that meat-based diet may increase chances of heart disease risks. Although genes also play an important role in heart health, right kind of diet could help in maintaining good heart health. In one study, it was found that women consuming western diets may increase their risk of heart disease by 46 percent. It is therefore worth replacing meat based diets with diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy, for fewer chances of heart diseases.
Types of Plant based diets:
- Vegan: In a vegan diet one does not consume eggs, dairy products and meat.
- Lacto Vegetarian:In lacto vegetarian diet, one may consume dairy products but cannot consume meat and eggs.
- Lacto-ovo-Vegetarian:In Lacto-ovo-Vegetarian diet one can consume eggs and dairy products but is restricted from consuming meat.
- Primary Plant based Diet:In Primary plant based diet one can consume eggs, dairy products and some amount of lean meat.
- Combination diet:Combination diet is a vegan/vegetarian diet combined with consumption of soy, nuts, and fiber.
Health benefits of these diet types needs to be researched through large scale studies. One diet type for which large scale studies have shown positive correlation with lower risk of heart ailments is Mediterranean diet. This type of diet contains almost no red meat and allows one to consume fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products. An analysis, published in American Journal of Cardiology in 2009, which reviewed twenty seven studies on effects of different plant based diet on heart health found that LDL cholesterol in people on combination diet declined by 20-35 percent. LDL cholesterol declined by 15-25 percent in people on vegan diet and 10-15 percent in people on lacto-ovo-vegetarian/ primary plant-based diet.
Studies have also shown other benefits of Plant based diets, such as, lower blood pressure, lower levels of triglycerides, and lower concentration of C - reactive protein, lower BMI (Body Mass Index), improvement in insulin sensitivity, improved blood sugar control in condition of diabetes. Studies have also shown that people who consume fruits and vegetables have 20 percent lower chances of heart disease and 27 percent lower chances of death from cardiovascular diseases.
While trying to switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, one may try meat substitutes such as Tofu , Tempeh, or Seiton. Those who wish to also not consume milk-based products may try soy based substitutes such as Soy milk, soy based cheese and yogurts.
Ingrained habits are difficult to change, but one may slowly move in the direction of vegetarianism. One could start with consuming several plant based meals per week and slowly move to consuming few plant based meals per day.