Is Eating Vegetarian Really Healthier?
Eating a vegetarian diet can come with some health benefits. For example, a plant-based diet can lower the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, vegetarians need to be mindful of nutrition. Some vegetarians rely too heavily on processed or prepackaged foods, which are not beneficial for health. Consider these 3 foods every vegetarian needs to add to a daily diet.
1. Foods for bone health
Calcium and vitamin D are crucial for healthy bones and teeth. Because the highest-calcium foods include animal products, many vegetarians, especially vegans, struggle to get enough. Try to incorporate lots of leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, or collard greens into a daily diet. If vitamin D or calcium levels are still low, ask a healthcare provider about possible supplements.
2. Foods for brain health
Vitamin B12 is a crucial nutrient almost exclusively found in animal products. However, the vitamin is essential for preventing anemia and for increasing brain function. Many people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency may not be aware of the deficiency until severe side effects occur. Vitamin B12 can be hard to find in food products, so look for enriched foods such as cereals and soy products. In some cases, a vitamin B12 supplement may be necessary.
3. Foods for heart health
Some of the best nutrients for heart health are omega-3 fatty acids. However, people who eat diets low in fish and eggs may struggle to get enough. Walnuts, ground flaxseed, and soybeans all contain omega-3s. However, plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids are harder to absorb. For this reason, vegetarians may consider speaking with a healthcare provider about supplement options.
Is a vegetarian diet worth it?
Vegetarian diets that focus on eating whole foods can offer significant health benefits. In fact, research has found that eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the most significant controllable factors in preventing chronic diseases. Eating 10 fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of stroke by 33%, lowers the risk of mortality by 31%, lowers cardiovascular disease risk by 28%, and lowers cancer risk by 14%.
How to start a vegetarian diet
People who are interested in eating a vegetarian diet can start by making small changes. Begin by swapping out 2-3 meals per week with meatless recipes. Increase fruit and veggie intake by eating at least one of each at every meal. People may also try adjusting favorite recipes to be vegetarian. For example, try making chili with extra black beans and no meat. Over time, these adjustments can become part of a daily routine. For more information about nutrient needs, speak with a healthcare provider.
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