Researchers have found yet another benefit of eating a vegetarian diet: it may prevent diverticular disease.
Diverticular disease is the inflammation of small pouches in the intestine, which can cause abdominal pain, fever, nausea and irregular bowel movements, among other symptoms—sounds fun, right? It occurs most often in societies where consumption of high-fiber foods is low, such as the U.S. and the U.K. Your chances of developing the disease increase greatly as you age. In fact, more than half of people over 70 have the disease. However, individuals who are obese or eat foods low in fiber regularly are also at risk.
The study may have found a way to prevent the disease’s inevitable onset, however. When compared with their meat-eating peers, vegetarians were 30 percent less likely to develop diverticular disease, most likely because their diets were higher in fiber.
This isn’t the only advantage found in recent years that supports a vegetarian diet. The health benefits are usually what convince people to make the switch to begin with. Because their diets are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, vegetarians are less likely to become obese or develop diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even some cancers.
There are many different ways you can incorporate a vegetarian diet into your lifestyle. You may be surprised to find that there are many different types of diets considered “vegetarian” that you can choose from if you’re interested in making the switch. Here are four I found in my research:
• Vegan: This is the most restrictive of the diets. It excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, and also any foods that contain these products.
• Lacto-vegetarian diets: This diet is similar to a vegan diet. However, it allows dairy products.
• Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets: This diet is also similar to a vegan diet, except it allows eggs and dairy products.
• Semivegetarian diet: This diet is primarily plant-based, but it includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish in small quantities.
Substituting vegetables for meat, like in the vegetable stir-fry pictured above,
is a great way to transition to a vegetarian diet.
Photo by babe_kl/Courtesy Flickr
If you’re thinking of adding more fruits and veggies to your diet or jumping on the vegetarian bandwagon, read these suggestions from the folks at the Mayo Clinic:
• Ramp up. Each week, increase the number of meatless meals you already enjoy, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry.
• Learn to substitute. Take favorite recipes and try them without meat. For example, make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans.
• Branch out. Scan the Internet for vegetarian menus. Buy or borrow vegetarian cookbooks, or check out ethnic restaurants to sample vegetarian cuisines. The more variety you bring to your vegetarian diet, the more likely you’ll be to meet all your nutritional needs.