THE VEGETARIAN EDGE

Health off Course. Americans  are suffering from a great burden of disease that is rooted in  lifestyle.  Seventy percent of chronic diseases and ailments—including a  third of all cancers—are related to diet.[1] There are seven deadly shifts in dietary intake that are major contributors to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.  They are: 1) increased refined sugars; 2) high saturated fat but low omega 3 and monounsaturated fats; 3) high total fat and calories; 4) increased animal products; 5) high sodium and low potassium; 6) low vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals; and  7) low plant fiber.[2] We are way off course in our eating habits—but charting a course toward better health is easier—and tastier—than you may think.

Set Sail for Better Health. The  journey toward improved health, energy, mood, and weight may be as  close as your garden—or your local produce department.  Major research  groups recommend that we get most of our calories from vegetables,  fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, and whole grains.[3] A plant-based diet has many advantages—it provides color, variety,  flavor, and balanced nutrition.  It has “fill-up” value because of its  high fiber, low calorie content, so it helps you achieve and maintain a  healthy weight. It improves brain health and mood, lowers stress, and  helps you live longer and better. It’s pretty on your plate, satisfying  to the palate, and good for the planet.

Heart Disease. “Coloring-up”  your plate may be the first and best step in preventing or reversing  heart disease. Add more fresh fruits and vegetables: they provide  powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation and fight plaque  build-up.  Lowering saturated fats helps reduce cholesterol. Replace the  saturated fats found in meat and high-fat dairy products with plant  fats like nuts, olives, avocados, flaxseed meal, and vegetable oils.  This can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack by up to 50%.[4] Vegetarians (those who do not eat meat) have less heart disease than meat eaters.[5]

Diabetes. The Adventist Health Study-2 found that vegetarians have less incidence of diabetes than non-vegetarians.[6]   Vegetarians are less likely to be overweight—a major contributor to  type 2 diabetes. A plant-based diet is high in fiber, which helps  control blood sugar—another major factor in preventing diabetes.  Many  people who have type 2 diabetes are able to manage and even reverse  their diabetes through diet, exercise, and weight loss.

High Blood Pressure. The National Institute of Health created an eating plan to reduce high blood pressure. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a near-vegetarian diet  that is low in animal fat, sodium, and cholesterol. It emphasizes high  potassium fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts.  DASH studies showed that 77% of those who combined daily exercise with more  plant nutrition and less meat reduced high blood pressure to normal  levels within 6 months. [7] The Adventist Health Study has further shown that vegans (those who do not eat animal or dairy products) had the lowest blood pressure of any group.[8]

Cancer. Plant  foods are linked to lower risk of certain cancers. Beans, lentils,  peas, and fruit are protective against prostate cancer. Fruit, soy,  lentils, beans, and peas lower pancreatic cancer risk.  Dietary fiber  and legumes protect against colon cancer, while animal saturated fat  increases the risk.  Vegetarians have an 85% decreased risk of colon  cancer compared to those who eat meat regularly.[9]

Getting Started:  Charting Your Course

1.  Use the Plan of Addition. Focus on adding more garden foods or foods from the produce department.

2.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Aim for at least 5 servings (2-3 cups) of fruit and 5 servings (2-3 cups) of vegetables a day.[10] Enjoy fresh fruit choices at breakfast and as a replacement for rich  desserts. Choose vegetable soups, beans, and vegetarian entrees instead  of pizza, burgers, and steak.

3.  Choose whole grains. Enjoy  brown rice, whole wheat bread, multi-grain pasta, and whole grain  cereals such as steel-cut oats. Look for cereals that have at least 3  grams of fiber or more per serving. Make sure at least half of your  grain choices are whole grains.

4.  Increase beans and legumes. Beans and legumes are rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and  protein.  Add garbanzo or other beans to soups, salads, and pasta  dishes. Try hummus as a spread instead of butter.

5.  Enjoy nuts.   One ounce (about 1/4 c) of nuts or seeds almost every day can cut your  risk of a heart attack significantly.  Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fats  which lower inflammation and improve brain health.

6.  Try vegetarian entrees. Grocery stores and restaurants offer many vegetarian entrees such as  tofu and soy burgers, garden or black bean burgers, patties, burger  crumbles, and sausage.  Vegetarian cookbooks provide easy, delicious  recipes using grains, tofu, pasta, potatoes, and beans.

7.  Eat Smart. A  healthy diet is more than just eliminating meat and dairy or reducing  sweets, soda pop, French fries and processed foods. Get adequate calcium  from dark, leafy greens, beans, and/or calcium-fortified soy milk, or  calcium supplements.  Vitamin B12 is essential to brain and nerve  health; get it from fortified cereals and vegetarian foods or a daily  supplement.

The Living Word

You are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” a “marvelous” work of God. Psalm 139:14.   By following the natural laws that promote health, we can reduce the  risk of much sickness and disease and experience longer, happier, and  more productive lives.

Your body is made to be a temple or sacred dwelling place for God’s Holy Spirit…"you are God’s workmanship—His building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9.   With a healthier mind and body you will be better able to hear God’s  voice. You can start today to choose a more abundant life—one bite at a  time.


[1] “Eating to Beat Cancer,” special supplement, Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter (May 2007).

[2] Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81(2):341-54.

[3] www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-DGACReport.htm.

[4] Hall D.  The Vegetarian Advantage. Pacific Press, 2010.

[5] Ref. 3.

[6] Fraser G. 5th Int. Congress on Vegetarianism; 2008.

[7] Hall D.  The Vegetarian Advantage.  Pacific Press, 2010.

[8] www.nih.gov/news/press/01-12-17.htm.

[9] Fraser G.  Center for Health Research, Loma Linda University.

[10] DASH Eating Plan at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/dash/dash_follow.html.


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