Would it help you to believe in a predominantly vegetarian diet if we told you it was endorsed by the following agencies: The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Academy of Science, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the U. S. Department of Agriculture, The National Research Council, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society. No? Well, what if we told you that the dietary guidelines that follow could either lower your risk of developing or lessen the difficulty you are having with the following problems:
- Cardiovascular Disease.
- Many types of Cancer.
- Inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Autoimmune conditions such as Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis.
- Allergic conditions such as Asthma, Eczema, and Atopic Dermatitis.
- Degenerative conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Some behavioral and emotional problems such as depression, PMS, and ADHD.
Now that you are convinced that such dietary choices would benefit you, how is this accomplished?
THE FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID:
In 1992, the USDA introduced the Food Guide Pyramid as a way of selecting our foods such that we achieve a nearly vegetarian diet. A copy of the pyramid is attached, with explanations regarding servings and calories.
The emphasis in the pyramid is on increasing our consumption of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and minimizing our consumption of fats and sweets. Accomplishing this requires that we assume control of purchasing our food fresh, from a supermarket, and that we follow through with the preparation of that fresh food. This allows little room for prepared or processed food due to the higher fat and sugar content of such foods.
The health benefits of the Pyramid are accomplished in the following ways:
An increase in dietary fiber- This results in a lowering of serum cholesterol and triglyceride, improved bowel function and a lower risk of colon cancer.
A decrease in the consumption of saturated fat and an increase in the consumption of essential fatty acids- This results in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal sources, the consumption of which is limited in the pyramid, and is substituted with unsaturated fat and essential fatty acids found in seeds, legumes (nuts and soy), and grains.
An increase in the consumption of antioxidants and phytochemicals such as flavonoids and carotenoids- This results in a reduced risk of several cancers, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and possibly a slowing down of the aging process.
Flavonoids can be found in the red and purple pigmented fruits and vegetables such as: Tomatoes, red cabbage, red onions, berries, and plums.
Carotenoids can be found in the yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as: carrots, apricots, yams, mangoes, and squash, as well as in green leafy vegetables and in legumes, seeds and grains. You will see recommendations regarding supplementation with beta-carotene, but evidence shows that naturally acquired carotenes are more effective than those taken as a supplement.
A decrease in the consumption of animal protein- Diets high in animal protein have been linked to inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions such as lupus and MS, and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.
A reduced intake in the consumption of refined sugar- these are the so-called “simple sugars.” Consumption of simple sugars is associated with high insulin levels, which are linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and which may effect certain mood and behavioral disorders.