The Top Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet

Shantha Kalia

There is growing evidence that vegetarian diets have distinct advantages when compared to diets that contain meat and other foods that originate from animals.  A person on a vegetarian diet consumes less saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein with a higher intake of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, carotenoids, vitamins, and phytochemicals.

Contribution of Vegetarian Diets to Good Health

A plant-based diet that is well balanced will prevent nutritional deficiencies and chronic diseases related to food.  Vegetarian diets help in the prevention and management of certain diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Sometimes people make an informed decision when choosing a vegetarian diet that may go beyond health and include economical and social concerns.  However, an imbalanced vegetarian diet can cause nutritional deficiencies.  A healthy vegetarian diet consists of a wide variety of the following:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Healthy Oils

Reduction of risk of chronic diseases and longevity are clearly quantifiable benefits of vegetarianism.  Well-balanced vegetarian diets are suitable during all stages of life including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, adolescence, and adulthood.  Vegetarians tend to have a lower body-mass index (BMI).  A healthy lifestyle must go hand in hand with vegetarianism to enjoy all the benefits.

Other benefits of a vegetarian diet include:

  • Vegetarian diets can fight disease – a well-balanced vegetarian diet is lower in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol, and high in fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids, and carotenoids.  The harmful effects of a modern western diet that cause diabetes, cancer, obesity, hypertension, etc. are less common in vegetarians.
  • Slimmer body – a vegetarian typically doesn’t have a problem with obesity as diets consist of fewer calories that are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts.
  • Food tends to be safer – Plant foods are often safer than animal food, especially when you consume organic foods.  Meat, poultry, and seafood cause more foodborne illnesses when compared to plant foods.
  • Energy and farmland – when you eat a plant-based diet, you help the planet because less energy and farmland is utilized to produce the foods in a vegetarian diet.
  • Better eyesight – vegetarians may have better vision and less macular degeneration.
  • Save money – While this isn’t always true, depending on the type of meat you buy, typically plant foods are less expensive then meat and poultry.
  • Longevity – because of the high content of healthy antioxidants and high-fiber content, people may tend to live longer and healthier lives.

Classification of Vegetarians

The American Dietetic Association has classified vegetarians into different groups as follows:

  • Vegans or total vegetarians do not consume any animal product including milk, eggs, cheese, and dairy products.
  • Lactovegetarians avoid meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but will consume dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovovegetarians exclude meat, poultry, and fish, although eggs and dairy products are included in their diet.  In the United States, most vegetarians belong to this category.

Sources for this article include:

  • Sabaté J.  The contribution of vegetarian diets to human health.  Forum Nutr. 2003;56:218-20.
About the Author: Shantha Kalia is a health care professional at a New York City hospital. She completed her masters in Public Health, and has worked in various capacities in health care for over 15 years. She is a freelancer and contributes articles to various websites on various medical and health-related topics. Her interests include health and wellness, diet and nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To read more articles by Shantha, please visit
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