MORE Green, Red LESS

Stud­ies pro­mote the many health benets of a veg­e­tar­ian diet, but you don’t need to go full veg­gie to reap the re­wards. Adopt­ing a semi-veg­e­tar­ian diet can be easy to do.

Health & Nutrition - - CON­TENTS -

Go green for im­mu­nity

Most peo­ple rec­og­nize the value of a veg­e­tar­ian diet, but fol­low­ing one can feel daunt­ing. Says Dr Qi Sun, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Nutri­tion at the Har­vard T H Chan School of Pub­lic Health, “A change to veg­e­tar­i­an­ism can feel over­whelm­ing and con­fus­ing and thus may not be sus­tain­able.” A so­lu­tion is to be­come a ‘semiveg­e­tar­ian’: Adopt a plant-based diet in which you cut out the red and pro­cessed meat and eat health­ier an­i­mal prod­ucts like seafood and poul­try only oc­ca­sion­ally. A semi-veg­e­tar­ian diet is about adding and sub­tract­ing. You fo­cus on greater amounts of whole fruit, veg­eta­bles, leafy greens, beans and legumes, whole grains, soy protein, and low-fat dairy. This in­creases your in­take of an­tiox­i­dants, es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, and fi­bre. In the process, you elim­i­nate cer­tain meats, which can con­tain high amounts of sat­u­rated fats, sodium, and chem­i­cal ad­di­tives. What makes veg­e­tar­i­an­ism so ap­peal­ing? Here is a sci­en­tific snap­shot of how a mostly veg­e­tar­ian diet can im­prove your health.

Longer life. A 2013 study in ‘JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine’ looked at more than 70,000 peo­ple who fol­lowed var­i­ous di­ets: Non­veg­e­tar­ian and var­i­ous types of veg­e­tar­ian di­ets, in­clud­ing semi-veg­e­tar­ian. The early death rate was 12% lower among veg­e­tar­i­ans as com­pared with non­veg­e­tar­i­ans, espe­cially among men. Veg­e­tar­ian eat­ing may mo­ti­vate you to adopt other healthy habits, too. The re­searchers noted that the veg­e­tar­i­ans also tended to drink less al­co­hol, smoke less, ex­er­cise more, and not be over­weight.

Re­duced risk of heart dis­ease. In a 2013 study of about 45,000 peo­ple in the ‘Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Nutri­tion’, re­searchers dis­cov­ered that the risk

of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion or death from heart dis­ease was 32% lower in veg­e­tar­i­ans than in peo­ple who reg­u­larly ate meat. The veg­e­tar­i­ans also had lower blood pres­sure and lower choles­terol lev­els than the non-veg­e­tar­i­ans.

Slower cog­ni­tive de­cline. Pre­lim­i­nary re­search pre­sented at the 2015 con­fer­ence of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can So­ci­eties for Ex­per­i­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy tracked the di­ets and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties of more than 950 older adults, av­er­age age 81, for five years. Those who ate the most green leafy veg­eta­bles, such as spinach, kale, cab­bage or cau­li­flower had a slower rate of de­cline in their cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties as they aged. In fact, the peo­ple who ate one to two daily serv­ings had, on av­er­age, the cog­ni­tive func­tion of a per­son 11 years younger than those who con­sumed none.

Be­gin With Small Changes

There are no rules how to adopt a semi-veg­e­tar­ian diet, or even what per­cent­age of your daily or weekly meals should be plant-based. “The best ap­proach is to be­gin by mak­ing small changes to your diet and fo­cus on over­all diet qual­ity and not just in­di­vid­ual meals,” says Dr Sun. Here are some tips on how to em­brace a semi-veg­e­tar­ian eat­ing pat­tern:

Be­gin with a sin­gle meat­free meal. Break­fast is ideal, as there are many veg­e­tar­ian op­tions like oats, whole grains, fruits and eggs.

Try a new recipe each week. This helps you ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent foods and tastes.

Choose a meat­less day. One day a week, go veg­e­tar­ian for all your meals.

Stock up on sta­ples. Keep veg­e­tar­ian sta­ples on hand. Fill your cup­board with items like whole-grain ce­re­als, nut but­ters, canned beans, low sodium veg­e­tar­ian soups, pop­corn, and dried fruit. This helps avoid meat temp­ta­tions.

Em­brace sub­sti­tu­tions. Use a soy-based meat­less sub­sti­tute in your spaghetti sauce, or ham­burg­ers. De­vote a month to these changes and then re-eval­u­ate your diet, says Dr Sun. “Note what types of foods you en­joyed and didn’t, and where you might strug­gle with daily eat­ing. Take it slowly and make ad­just­ments where needed.”

There are no rules how to adopt a semiveg­e­tar­ian diet, or even what per­cent­age of your daily or weekly meals should be plant­based. The best ap­proach is to be­gin by mak­ing small changes to your diet and fo­cus on over­all diet qual­ity and not just in­di­vid­ual meals.

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