Vegan vs Vegetarian – the Health Risks and Benefits

Does ditching the dairy mean better long-term health? Or does milk and its delicious sidekick, cheese, give you the best chance of optimum fitness and wellbeing? Let’s take a look at some health issues and some of the pros and cons of both diets.

Whatever you enjoy eating, there’s probably a vegan or veggie alternative worth trying.
Whatever you enjoy eating, there’s probably a vegan or veggie alternative worth trying.

Lowering Cholesterol

Following a vegan diet can help here. Studies have shown that people with Type 2 diabetes, who adopt a vegan lifestyle, may experience an improvement in cholesterol levels. Vegan diets tend to contain complex dietary fiber and are higher in potassium and magnesium. Vegans eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, on average, than someone following a conventional diet, and therefore consume more vitamins and antioxidant-rich foods.

However, vegetarians don’t always score as highly in the cutting-cholesterol stakes, if they regularly eat food enriched with milk, eggs and cheese. Meat-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy.

What’s The Beef On Blood Pressure?

People who follow a vegetarian diet tend to report fewer incidences of hypertension. Evidence points to a decreased risk of death from heart disease. This is usually explained by highlighting a greater intake of whole grains, legumes and fresh fruit and vegetables, which can protect against some aspects of chronic disease.

What About Calcium?

If you ditch the dairy completely, then you do need to make sure that you are getting your daily requirement of calcium from somewhere. Vegans who eat kale, broccoli, tofu, figs, cereals and sweet potatoes will find that their calcium levels are probably healthy. However, as with any diet or food program where a group of foods is eliminated entirely, you really owe it to yourself to research precisely what your body needs to ensure that you’re making up the potential shortfall.

Happy family playing with vegetables in kitchen

Obesity

Likely to become even more of widespread health crisis than it is already, obesity levels are rising. Of course, there are obese vegans and vegetarians, but the link between eating meat and obesity has been made time and time again.

“Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be. I now consider veganism to be the ideal diet. A vegan diet—particularly one that is low in fat—will substantially reduce disease risks. Plus, we’ve seen no disadvantages from veganism. In every respect, vegans appear to enjoy equal or better health in comparison to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.” ~ Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University, Epidemiologist

An Alkaline Approach

Vegan or vegetarian; you’ll still need to drink plenty of alkaline water to hydrate and maintain a healthy balance. Although meat-free diets can mean that your body is less acidic, there’s plenty you can do to compliment what you eat. Try soaking dried beans in alkaline water, cooking rice and couscous in ionized water; and always wash your fruit and veggies using alkaline water. Water is simply not enough to remove all traces of pesticide and other chemicals. Alkaline water emulsifies the oil-based herbicides and additives so they can be washed right away.

Find out more about the amazing antioxidant properties of alkaline water here.

Your Body, Your Choice

Whether you choose to eat meat or forgo it, or indeed shun all animal-derived foods, then as long as you eat a broadly healthy diet, drink alkaline water and take regular exercise, the chances are that you’re doing pretty well.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to give up meat every now and then though. How about Meat-Free Mondays? Maybe give your favorite recipes a whirl with veggies instead of meat? Let us know what you come up with and share your meat-free ideas!

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