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What are the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet?
last updated:
Thu, 3/14/2013 1:49 PM

March is National Nutrition Month, and Methodist Registered Dieticians are answering your questions.

Q: What are the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet?

A: Studies that look at people and their habits have linked vegetarian diets with a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and colon cancer. Basing one’s diet on plant foods—grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits—is the best way to keep saturated fat intake low and to avoid cholesterol completely. A vegan diet is free of all animal products and yields the lowest risk of heart disease. One study showed that people who adopt a vegetarian diet reduce their saturated fat intake by 26 percent and achieve a significant drop in cholesterol levels in just six weeks. Besides the very low levels of fat eaten in a typical vegetarian diet, vegetable protein also helps decrease risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that replacing animal protein with soy protein reduces blood cholesterol levels even when the total amount of fat and saturated fat in the diet remain the same. Soluble fiber helps to slow the absorption of some food components such as cholesterol. It also acts to reduce the amount of cholesterol the liver makes. Oats, barley, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fiber. There is no fiber in any animal product.

(Answer provided by Audrey Justus MS, RD, LDN at Methodist South Hospital)

Registered Dietitians can provide Medical Nutrition Therapyrelated to blood pressure, blood sugar, preventive care, gluten free needs and some GI disorders, food allergy, decreased kidney function, weight loss/gain and more.

Most insurances cover the cost of nutrition therapy at the request of your physician. Check with your insurance company to find out if your plan covers classes, and talk to your doctor about providing a written request.

More Information:
Contact Amanda Carmichael, BS, RD, LDN, 901.516.6357
Fax physicians requests: 901.937.3334


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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000