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Vegetarians: Healthy thanks to meat renunciation?

Is vegetarian healthy? More and more people are asking themselves this question. The answer is: yes and no. It is a fact that the image of bland and unvital plant food lovers is a cliché. However, there are also so-called "pudding vegetarians*": They eat meatless, but not healthy, because they prefer sugary soft drinks and fatty chips. We took a close look at the health benefits of avoiding meat and the factors that still play a role in vegetarian nutrition.

Vegetarians and health benefits

"Meat makes big and strong": An old saying from grandmother's time when Sunday roast was something special. Since then, more and more critical voices have come forward and many consumers have been talking about the advantages of vegetarian food.

Animal fats vs. Vegetable fats

Concerns often arise about the high fat content of meat. Due to their high energy value, fats are generally extremely high in calories; and those who eat a lot of meat build up a rapid fat cushion . Although the body needs fat, the quality should also be right.

Animal fats usually contain many saturated fatty acids. An exception are fatty fish such as salmon or herring. In particular, saturated fats increase the negative LDL cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, a lot of meat can not only make you fat but also lead to unfavourable cholesterol levels. The consequence: eating meat makes you susceptible to cardiovascular diseases..

Vegetarians who don't exactly use fatteners like French fries, chips and puff pastries but rather olive oil or nuts in moderation generally eat less fatty foods. Vegetarian food is also healthier because it is often . For this reason, it helps to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.

An exception are the fried and baked calorie bombs mentioned above. These contain so-called trans fats, which are very harmful. The same applies to hardened vegetable oils such as those found in margarine. Vegetarian foods are therefore not healthier per se. It always depends on the correct selection and quantity. Compared to someone who eats a lot of meat (more than 600 grams per week), vegetarians clearly have health advantages.

Vegetable nutrients

Vegans eat a particularly strict vegetarian diet. But even vegetarians who do not forego milk products and eggs usually eat more vegetables and fruit as well as whole-grain bread, oat muesli and lentils than meat consumers. These purely vegetable products are rich in important nutrients and trace elements. Those who consume all these foods regularly consume a lot of Vitamin C, E, B1, beta-carotene and folic acid . In things minerals the vegetable food scores with magnesium, manganese and potassium. In addition, vegetables provide for high-fibre meals. This stimulates digestion and supplies useful intestinal bacteria with plenty of food. Furthermore, dietary fibres increase the blood sugar level more slowly after eating, which reduces the risk of diabetes. With a balanced vegetable nutrition vegetarian take also many healthy secondary plant materials . These influence the human metabolism and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Moreover, they are believed to protect against cancer, arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure.

Proteins

Meat is a real protein bomb. Since proteins are the basic building blocks of our body, they are simply indispensable. But also legumes, cereals and nuts are well supplied. Compared to the animal variant , vegetable proteins have two advantages. On the one hand, the body can more easily utilize them and convert them into body protein. In addition you avoid unfavourable additives with this protein source. After all, every gram of animal protein contains a lot of saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and often also antibiotics and hormones. Moreover, not every meat product is rich in protein. Strongly processed products such as sausage or ham have a poor protein balance. In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), red and industrially produced meat is suspected of promoting cancer.

Milk products and eggs

Most vegetarians eat yoghurt, quark and cheese and drink milk. Compared to a strictly vegan nutrition they are therefore supplied with sufficient calcium. The European EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study also found that milk consumption reduces the risk of diabetes.

Besides, milk products contribute to covering the protein requirement. Although these foods are of animal origin and also provide a lot of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, lacto-vegetarians appear to have a health advantage : According to some studies, milk products have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Two small biochemical details make the difference to meat. Milk fat mainly increases the "good" HDL cholesterol and less the aggressive LDL cholesterol molecule. This applies above all to food from bio milk, because instead of animal meal the cows use grasses.

Fermentation also seems to improve this effect. Yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk and cheese have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Another plus of lactic fermented foods are bacteria. They enrich the intestinal flora. A favorable colonization and the microbial balance of the intestine are important for our health. With our intestinal test INTEST.pro you can find out how your intestinal flora functions.

Is vegetarian food really healthier?

The extensive EPIC-Oxford Study, which has been running since 1993, has established that vegetarians eat more healthy food. It has been observed that a vegetarian diet has the potential to prevent heart disease and cancer. "Vegetarians live healthier" - such a conclusion would nevertheless be too sweeping. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

One steak per month does not increase the risk of a heart attack suddenly, but only a high consumption of meat. Just as damaging is a meatless diet, in which all kinds of sweets, chips and baked goods end up on the plate. It depends therefore always on holding to measure .

Milk is not the panacea either, and spinach alone is not enough to make anyone full and strong. The latter, by the way, contains far less iron than generally assumed - this nutrition myth is owed to the comic series with the sailor Popeye who eats spinach in cans. Rather it depends on a complete food plan , which combines different kinds of food with one another. Vegetarian and healthy nutrition is only possible if you prevent a nutrient deficiency. Especially as a vegan you should pay attention to nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc and iodine as well as take several essential amino acids.

However, nutrition is only a factor. Our lifestyle also determines whether we stay healthy and live longer. In addition to the advantages of avoiding meat, many vegetarianism studies come to a further conclusion: Most vegetarians do not only attach importance to healthy food, but smoke less often, drink less alcohol and exercise more than the average population. The extent to which vegetarian food contributes to the positive results cannot be said one hundred percent.