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Vegetarianism: Not just a fad

3 Apr 2017

Victoria Lewis, BSc, BPHEd

Last week I had a chat to the University’s staff wellness group about vegetarian eating, and in the spirit of Nutrition Awareness Month I thought I would share some of the key benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Fills your diet with a range of nutrients

Studies shown that well-balanced vegetarian diets are likely:

  • higher in fibre – boosting gut health
  • higher in vitamin c – reducing the duration and severity of colds
  • higher in folate – enhancing reproductive health
  • higher in vitamin e – preventing oxidative stress associated with disease
  • lower in saturated fat – improving blood cholesterol profiles

With more nutrients come health benefits

Bearing in mind that vegetarians are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle with more physical activity, less alcohol and lower smoking rates, studies have found that the vegetarian diet is associated with:

  • lower incidences of cancer
  • lower incidences of and death rate from stroke
  • lower death rate from ischemic heart disease – NZ’s #1 cause of death
  • lower incidence of type 2 diabetes

Leaves you with a bit of spending money at the end of the week

I did my own little research study on this one and found:

  • 400g chickpea $1.30, versus 400g chicken breast (skin on) $4.50
  • 500g red lentils (dried) $2.99, versus 500g prime beef mince $8.00 - need I say more?

Reduces your carbon foot print

Studies have shown that vegetarian diet are more sustainable than omnivore diets. This is because vegetarian foods do not put as much stress on natural resources. The data suggests:

  • Vegetarians are reducing water consumption, as it requires 20x less water to produce 500 calorie of rice than beef
  • Around 25-30% of the world’s ice free land is used for livestock farming, so vegetarians are contributing less to land degradation
  • Finally, vegetarians are reducing air, soil and water pollution through livestock waste reduction - the US estimates livestock wast to be more than 500 million tonnes per year

There we have it, a short summary of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. For anyone that is interested in giving vegetarianism a go why not start with one or two meat free meal per week. There are some great recipes out there, so get experimenting!  

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, a Bachelor of Physical Education and recently completed her Masters in Dietetics. She is now working as a nutrition intern with Chiefs Rugby and a nutrition consultant at UniRec. For more information or to book, contact Victoria - or 0276262189