Going Vegetarian May Help Your Heart and Lower Diabetes Risk

New research suggests that eliminating meat and consuming a vegetarian diet can lower cholesterol, help you shed some weight, and help improve blood sugar control.

The benefits can benefit those who are more likely to get cardiovascular or other diseases.

The results were released this week in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The findings “demonstrate that consuming a vegetarian diet exerts a modest but significant effect in … reducing multiple key risk factors,” which include the “bad” LDL cholesterol; HbA1c, which is the measure of average blood sugar over three months as well as body weight, particularly for high-risk patients, the study’s authors claimed.

Vegetarian diets that exclude fish and meat have become more popular recently as plant-based alternatives are becoming more popular, even in the most popular fast-food chains. Although diets have been proven to improve the health of the blood vessels and heart across the entire population, very little research has been conducted on those already suffering from or at an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Meta-Analysis Included 20 Trials

To examine, Tian Wang, a researcher from The University of Sydney in Australia, discovered 20 trials that involved 1,878 people who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. They compared the results of those who eat vegetarians and those on other diets, including essential blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure measurements.

The study showed that those who ate a vegetarian diet for six months saw significantly more significant cholesterol reductions than standard therapies.

The study’s vegetarians also noticed their blood sugar levels drop by 0.24 percent, and they lost an average of 7.5 pounds. The overall research didn’t show any significant decrease in blood pressure.


Tips for New and Current Vegetarians


Reach for All-Star Spices

A vegetarian diet doesn’t have to equal bland. Enhance your taste with dried and fresh herbs and spices. The versatile players include:

Garlic. This sour mainstay is excellent for soups, marinades, salad dressings, and stews.

Basil. Serve the aromatic leaves on tomatoes-based dishes, such as stir-fried pizzas, salads, and more.

Cayenne pepper. Sprinkle it on Mexican dishes or any other food requiring some spice.

Curry powder. This savory and sweet flavor is excellent in sauces, stews, soups, and eggs.


Eat Cheaper

Research shows that vegetarian diets are less expensive than meat-based diets. However, fresh produce, particularly vegetables, can cost a lot. The best way to save money is to cook at home more often. Also, you’ll be able to reduce sugar, salt, saturated fats, and additives found in packaged food and restaurant meals. Another tip: Purchase mangos, green beans, and frozen fruits and vegetables. They’re packed with the highest level of nutrition and typically contain more minerals and vitamins than fresh versions.


Say Yes to Yeast

Many vegetarians are aware of the advantages of nutritional yeast. These yellow, nutty crystals are deactivated yeast grown in the molasses. They impart a sour, cheesy flavor to popcorn, pasta, and other vegetables. You may not be aware that nutritional yeast is packed with protein. Two tablespoons contain 9 grams. This is more protein than you can get in an ounce of chicken or beef.


Profiles of Success

Research shows that almost nine out of 10 vegetarians eventually return to meat-based diets. The majority of them give up within less than a year. The people with a higher likelihood to adhere to their vegetarianism were different from vegetarians because they:

  • Introduced a plant-based diet in their teens and their 20s.
  • The switch was made more slowly in months instead of weeks or days
  • More likely to have partners, friends, and family members that were vegetarians.


Stock Up on Staples

Keep your refrigerator and pantry packed with the essential ingredients for dishes that are easy to fix and keep you on the right track.

  • Whole grains that are cooked quickly, such as oatmeal, quinoa, or bulgur
  • Canned beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, and other beans
  • Plant foods high in protein, such as tofu, edamame, peas, and lentils
  • Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or corn.
  • Nut spreads and nuts, as well as butter
  • Vegetarian soups (make an entire batch and then store portions)
  • Non-dairy milk like coconut, almond, or soy (the ones that are sold on shelves table, or aseptic containers boxes that can last through the winter months of your kitchen pantry)


Tamp Down Gas

Beans are the base of numerous vegetarian dishes. They’re also known as triggers for gas. Douse dried beans in water overnight before cooking to reduce gas. The water sloughs away the sugars responsible for gas. You can also opt for canned beans. Other foods with carbohydrates that cause gas to be on the lookout for include whole grains and vegetables such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.


Vegetarian Newbies

Before you begin, consider your motivations for becoming vegetarian and what diet best suits your needs.

  • Meatless. Animal flesh, such as pork, beef, chicken, seafood, fish, or other species are not included.
  • Lacto-vegetarian. There is no meat, but dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian. It allows dairy and eggs
  • Vegan. Foods not derived from living things, such as gelatin, lard (animal protein), and honey.


Protein Sources

Protein is essential to maintaining healthy skin, bones, muscles, and the skin. Vegetarians might get less protein than those who eat meat. But, in reality, you won’t require as much as you may believe. Approximately 45-55 grams of protein daily for both men and women is usually sufficient. One tablespoon of soybeans (edamame) can satisfy the equivalent of a third of your daily needs. Legumes such as split peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and guava are also healthy options.


Go Global

A vegetarian lifestyle means avoiding certain food items. This could be a reason that some vegetarians choose to give up food that is based on plants. One fix? Extend your palate. Explore the cuisines that are vegan-friendly.

Ethiopian. Injera (flatbread made from teff), lentil stew, vegetable sampler plates

Mediterranean. Beans, eggplant, pita, peppers, hummus, and yogurt

Indian. Dosas (fermented pancakes), lentils, potatoes, curries, chutneys

Mexican. Rice beans, salsa tortillas, chilies, queso fresco Cotija and various cheeses


Tweak Your Recipes

Pizza. Tacos. Lasagna. Bacon, eggs, and lasagna. There’s no reason to cut off the menu! It’s possible to skip meat by eating bean burritos, vegetable eggs, tofu chili, and vegetarian options. Or explore unfamiliar ingredients. Fruits like freekeh, farro millet, and various greens like beets and chard that have been steamed might become your new favorites.


Meat Swaps

Even vegetarians can occasionally enjoy a burger. Hot dogs, sausages, and other meat alternatives made of lentils, soy chickpeas, and different kinds of beans exist. It is easy to prepare at home as well. Grilled portabella mushrooms are delicious enough for a burger patty. Specific vegan “beef” has zero cholesterol. However, fake meat contains more sodium than real meat. Processed foods are often depleted of plants’ beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients.



Vegans who drink or eat dairy products and eggs do not usually require additional minerals or vitamins. Your body can absorb nutrients from food, not through supplements. Vegans may need a consistent source of vitamin B12 via accessories or fortified food items. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy choices for anyone, including pregnant women, athletes, and even older adults.


Talking to Friends and Family

Many people do not understand or support a vegetarian lifestyle. It is essential to educate yourself. Ensure your family and friends know this diet is healthy and safe for most people.

They are less likely to be overweight or develop type 2 heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some types of cancer. Vegetarian and vegan diets can also aid animals and the natural world. The support of your loved ones will help you make the most of your choice of eating as a daily habit.

 “The greatest improvements in [blood sugar and cholesterol] were observed in individuals with type 2 diabetes and people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, highlighting the potential protective and synergistic effects of vegetarian diets for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” the authors write.

The research was conducted throughout Europe, the U.S., Asia, Europe, and New Zealand between 1990 and 2021. The study comprised anywhere from 12 to 291 individuals aged 28 to 64.

The diets that were most often prescribed in the study were: vegan, primarily consisting of plants; Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets, which exclude poultry, meat, and seafood while permitting eggs and dairy products and lacto-vegetarian diets exempting meat, poultry seafood, eggs, and meat while allowing dairy products.

Although lacto-ovo vegetarian diets were found to be linked to the highest reduction in cholesterol levels, a necessary caution is that four out of five of these studies demanded that participants cut back on their calories daily.

The researchers claim the overall study offers moderate evidence for a decrease in blood sugar and cholesterol through a vegetarian diet.

Not All Vegetarian Diets are Healthy

The most significant characteristic of vegetarian diets that may be the reason for improvements in some key risk factors is that these diets have less saturated fats and other components that could be the reason for the health advantages.


Health Perks of a Vegetarian Diet

A diet not based on meat can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Take a bite of these tips to ensure you eat an appropriate diet.


The diets can also be rich in fiber from the diet in the form of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, and magnesium, which could be more beneficial for blood sugar levels, the authors wrote.

However, the authors warn us to be aware that all diets based on vegetarians are not healthy. There is a risk for empty calories and deep-fried food items high in trans-fatty acids and salt, making it more likely to develop type 2 heart disease and diabetes.

They noted that “more than one-third of the studies included in our meta-analysis did not emphasize the importance of consuming minimally processed plant-based whole foods.”

Thus, “well-designed nutrition clinical trials with comprehensive dietary information are warranted to investigate the full effect of high-quality vegetarian diets in combination with optimal pharmacological therapy in people with cardiovascular diseases.”

Can you have too many EVOO? For calories, each tablespoon has 120 calories. However, if you’re looking at it as affecting your health in any manner, it appears to be not.

“There are no ill effects from extra-virgin olive oil,” Flynn claims. “In fact, more benefits can be found with more extra-virgin olive oil.”


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