The World Economic Forum reports a gradual increase in vegetarianism, particularly in the United States and Europe, over the past few years. Dr. Ekta Singhwal, an MSc (Dietician) at Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, highlights several reasons why many non-vegetarians are transitioning to veganism or vegetarianism. These factors encompass ethical and environmental concerns, health benefits, and the wider availability of plant-based alternatives.
Dr. Singhwal emphasises the numerous advantages of adopting a plant-based diet, particularly in promoting healthy digestion and preventing constipation due to its higher fibre content, as noted by Pasha.
Moreover, she explains that switching to a plant-based diet can aid weight management or weight loss, as plant-based foods generally have a lower calorie density compared to animal products. Additionally, the fibre-rich nature of these foods increases feelings of fullness and reduces overall calorie intake. In contrast, animal-based foods, especially processed meats, have been associated with heightened inflammation in the body.
Furthermore, animal-based foods high in saturated and trans fats are significant sources of dietary cholesterol.
Additionally, Dr. Singhwal highlights that plant-based diets are abundant in antioxidants, providing protection against oxidative stress and cellular damage.
Plant-based diets are also rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates, supporting sustained energy levels throughout the day. Furthermore, Dr. Singhwal warns that non-vegetarian diets, particularly those containing processed and red meats, have been linked to an increased risk of certain diseases, including cancer. The “World Health Organisation (WHO)” classifies processed meats like bacon, sausages, and deli meats as carcinogens, associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Similarly, red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. While the precise mechanisms are not fully understood, factors like heme iron, nitrites, and heterocyclic amines formed during cooking may play a role.
It is important to recognise that not all non-vegetarian foods pose the same level of risk, and moderate consumption, especially of lean meats and fish, can still be part of a healthy diet. Nevertheless, Dr. Singhwal recommends minimising the intake of processed and red meats while prioritising a plant-based diet to reduce associated health risks.