Separating the true benefits of a vegetarian diet as compared to a more inclusive omnivore diet can be emotionally divisive. The logical common ground gives way, far too often, to the weight of the extremes that pushes for an all-or-nothing zeal that borders on fanatical.
Ten years as a journalist and more than 30 years as a liberal Christian (two words not at all in vogue paired together until very recently) has taught me to beware of what I call “religious certitude.” So much hate and damage results. Well the passion folks on both sides of the vegetarian vs. protein diets can quickly slip into a religious certitude that serves few people well.
Should you eat meat? I think it’s the wrong question that too often drags us into tired ruts of hopeless mired wheat and chaff. Separating it in this topic can be easier if the question is changed.
What are the direct benefits of eating more vegetables?
Well, that’s easy. Read on:
We’ve all been told to eat our vegetables, and even if we don’t like it, we know they’re good for us. But a new study shows just how good for our longevity they may be.
Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day can lower your risk of dying by an astonishing 42%, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The more fruits and vegetables the participants ate, the less likely they were to die at any age, and the protective benefit increased with consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends anywhere between one to two cups of fruit daily and one to three cups of vegetables daily, depending on age and gender. Their slogan follows, “Fruit and veggies — more matters.” Australia advises eating two portions of fruit and five of vegetables, and in the U.K., the slogan is: “5 a day.”
When compared with consuming less than one portion of fruit and vegetables a day, the risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14% by eating one to three portions; 29% for three to five portions; 36% for five to seven portions; and 42% for seven or more. Eating seven or more portions also specifically reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 25%, and heart disease by 31%.
“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” lead study author Oyinlola Oyebode, of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice, but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”
So if you are an omnivore like me, or a vegetarian like many people I respect, or a cattle-raising farmer with an ecological bent like the guy I got my steer from, we can all agree on a simple desire to live better and live longer.
And the evidence is so clear on this point: Eat MORE vegetables, no matter what you eat.