Be it for ethical, sustainability, religious or health reasons, vegetarianism is steadily on the rise in the Western world.
More than two million Aussies now eat an exclusively or almost exclusively plant-based diet, up from 1.7 million in 2012. Thats a lot of tofu!
Interestingly, the research suggests that more than half of Aussie vegos choose to go meat-free for health or weight loss reasons.
Putting the other benefits aside for a sec, the question is this: does a vegetarian diet really have a positive impact on our health and longevity as is so commonly thought?
Psst, vegetables are GREAT for you!
In news that surprised no one, there is a strong body of evidence linking a diet higher in vegetables with a reduced risk of obesity and lifestyle illnesses like heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes.
And since vegetarians are more likely to eat more fruit and veg that meat eaters, their lifestyle markers do tend to be better in general terms.
But do vegetarians actually live longer than meat eaters?
Quite possibly. A study that followed 11,000 people for 20 years (known as The Oxford Vegetarian Study) found overall death rates to be lower in non-meat eaters than in meat eaters.
But the scientists weren’t quite ready to throw the steak out with the bathwater, agreeing more research needed to be done.
That’s because it’s tough to tease out the impact of a plant-based diet on longevity from other practices that vegetarians are more likely to follow, like not smoking, drinking in moderation and getting plenty of exercise.
It depends what else you’re eating.
Another issue to consider is that a lot of processed food is *technically* vegetarian. But when it comes down to it, going meat-free is not a license to down Coke and cheese pizzas all day.
Like everyone, vegetarians need make sure they’re packing each meal with plenty of veg, plant-based proteins and healthy fats (in short, that they’re just eating real food).
You don’t have to go the whole hog.
For a lot of people, eating meat is an all-or-nothing kind of deal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest you can reap the rewards of a plant-based diet, while eating an occasional leg of lamb, too.
Consuming meat more mindfully and sparingly rather than chowing down a steak with every meal does appear to correlate with a longer and, perhaps more importantly, healthier life.
It also makes you more aware of what you’re fuelling your body with and encourages you to widen your palette with other delicious foods and flavours. That sounds pretty great to us!
Keen to give vegetarianism a whirl? Did you know we have a vegetarian meal plan on our 8-Week Program?