Vegetarian heart boost
A study carried out last year by Oxford University scientists showed evidence that by becoming vegetarian you could be doing your heart a favour.
They tracked nearly 45,000 people living in England and Scotland, of which about a third indicated they were vegetarians and ate no meat or fish. After 10 years, researchers found that the vegetarians had a 32 percent lower chance of being hospitalised or dying from heart disease compared to the non-vegetarians. So by cutting meat out of your diet you could cut your risk of heart disease by a third!
They ate more fruits, vegetables, and fibre, which might also have contributed to their lower risk of heart disease and they generally had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But you still need to feed your body with the right nutrients.
It’s important to vary what you eat. Some nutrients are found in smaller amounts in vegetarian sources or are less easily absorbed by the body than those in meat or fish.
Contrary to popular belief, most vegetarians usually have enough protein and calcium (found in dairy products) in their diet.
Protein from pulses (beans, lentils, peas); tofu and soya product, eggs and dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt as well as nuts and seeds.
However, if you don’t plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients. For example, vegetarians need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12 in their diets.
Leafy green vegetables, wholegrain bread and pasta; nuts, seeds, pulses, dried fruit, eggs and dairy products provide iron and zinc.
Vitamin B12 is needed for growth, repair and general health and is only found naturally in animal products. If you regularly eat dairy products or eggs, you probably get enough. However, if you only eat a small amount or avoid all animal products, it’s important to have a reliable source of vitamin B12 in your diet.
Good sources of vitamin B12 include – milk, cheese, eggs, fortified yeast extracts such as Marmite, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified soya products.
Vitamin D is found in fortified margarine and breakfast cereals, dairy products and from sunlight on the skin.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegetarians include – flaxseed (linseed) oil, hemp, rapeseed oil, soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu, nuts and seeds and egg enriched with omega-3.
Evidence suggests that vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits for reducing the risk of heart disease as those in oily fish. However, if you eat a vegetarian diet, you can still look after your heart by eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, by cutting down on food that is high in saturated fat and by watching how much salt you eat.