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Vegetarians may have healthier hearts

Vegetarians may have healthier hearts

Few things simpler than popping a supplement. However, sometimes being truly healthy means making some sacrifices.

For example, some people may need to sacrifice their time to make it to the gym every day, or give up the junk foods that they love in order to shed some of those unsightly pounds. Recently, researchers from the University of Oxford determined that one sacrifice people can make for the sake of their health is to give up meat. According to the scientists, a vegetarian diet may reduce a person's risk of landing in the hospital.

Veggies are key

The scientists examined 45,000 volunteers from England and Scotland who were enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. The researchers said that 34 percent of study participants were vegetarians. Throughout the course of the study, the scientists discovered that vegetarian participants had a 32 percent lower risk of being hospitalized for or dying from heart disease compared to those who consumed meat and fish.

The researchers explained that this reduced risk can probably be explained by the effects that red meat, fried chicken and other sources of animal fat can have on the body.

"Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease," lead study author Francesca Crowe of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit said in a statement.

While some people may believe that this result is due to vegetarians practicing overall healthy lifestyles, the scientists arrived at this 32 percent figure after controlling for factors such as age, smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, educational level and socioeconomic background.

Furthermore, vegetarians were found to have lower body mass indexes and were less likely to develop diabetes than meat eaters, but this did not affect the findings.

These results should have people with a history of heart disease in their family to consider adopting a vegetarian diet, even if it's only for months at a time.

How to switch to veggies

Adopting a vegetarian diet can be difficult, so people who are considering it may want to start by slowly removing meat from their diets. They can start with high-fat meats such as bacon and fried chicken and then move on to eliminating meat altogether. According to the Mayo Clinic, a well-balanced vegetarian diet can meet the needs of any individual. The organization recommends that people who follow a vegetarian diet should consume two servings of fats each day, two servings of fruits, four servings of vegetables, five servings of nuts, legumes and other protein-rich foods, and six servings of grains if they want to stay healthy.

Many people who become vegetarians are concerned about getting enough protein in their diets. Good non-meat sources of protein include eggs, yogurt, nuts, tempeh and quinoa.

Anyone who is considering switching to a vegetarian diet should talk to his or her doctor. Any major changes people make to their diet or exercise regimen should be discussed with a healthcare professional who can monitor them to make sure that they are getting all of the nutrients they need and are remaining healthy. A doctor can also recommend other sources of non-meat protein and fiber.


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