Vegetarianism and Heart Health
Vegetarianism and Heart Health

If you’re looking for ways to improve your heart health and add nutrition to your diet, consider becoming a vegetarian. There are many benefits and virtually no disadvantages to eating a vegetarian diet. For starters, it can lower your risk of certain types of diseases, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels, aid in weight loss and improve bone health. And today, there are so many options for meat substitutes, you’ll hardly know the difference!

Getting Started
The most important thing to remember when swapping your carnivorous diet for a vegetarian lifestyle is that you must replace the nutrients you used to get from meat with plants. Begin by understanding the vitamins and minerals you’ll be missing, then identify the fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products that will be your new sources. For example, meats are high in protein and iron. To maintain healthy levels of each, you’ll need to increase your legume, soy, nut, egg, dairy and leafy greens intake. Some vitamins, such as B-12, are only found in animal products, so you’ll have to look for foods that are fortified or take a supplement.

Watch for Hidden Fats and Sodium
Some people find that they miss the flavor and texture of meat and enjoy the many versions of meat substitutes on the market today. But be careful — just because it’s plant-based doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you. Certain types of veggie sausages, burgers and crumbles contain just as much fat and calories and even more sodium than meat itself. If you’re a vegetarian for ethical reasons, this may not trouble you. But if you’re eating a plant-based diet to improve your health, be sure to read the label.

Seeing the Benefits
It may take weeks or months for you to begin to see changes in your weight, blood pressure reading, or lipid profile. There may also be a period of adjustment your body goes through as you begin to add more fiber to your diet. Be patient, and be creative with your meal planning and preparing. Seek out cookbooks, vegetarian meal delivery services and other resources to help you transition to a more healthful, vegetable-centric diet and a healthier heart.