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Some vegetarian diets are healthier than others

bowl of vegetable salads

A study has found that not all healthy diets are created equal, with some vegetarian and vegan diets being healthier than others.

According to a study released in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, those that include a lot of processed foods – such as sugar-sweetened drinks – in their mostly plant-based diet, were more likely to develop heart disease than people who didn’t eat processed foods – even those who were including meat in their diet.

Previous studies had found that those who stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet were likely to have better cardiovascular health, but such studies tended to lump all plant-based diets together, not differentiating between them.

poached egg with vegetables and tomatoes on blue plate

Ambika Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, says:

“These studies of vegetarian and vegan diets haven't distinguished between different qualities of plant food".
“Certain plant foods, like whole grains and fruits and vegetables, are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But other plant foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, are actually associated with increased risk.”

The study doesn’t suggest, however, that you can go on a red meat frenzy, but that those who say that they can’t give up meat don’t have much of an excuse for not incorporating more plant foods into the rest of their diet, and that vegetarians and vegans should be careful not to replace meat with fries and faux chicken.

“The study is encouraging in the sense that you don't have to completely eliminate all animal foods from your diet in order to get a heart benefit,” says Satija “We found that modestly reducing your animal food intake by a couple of servings a day could maybe lower your risk of heart disease. More people would be able to adopt these moderate dietary changes and hopefully benefit from them rather than extreme changes.”

Having a healthy diet is a wonderful thing, but this study goes to show that everything should be taken in moderation, and one extreme or the other isn’t going to do you a lot of good. By eating well, exercising, and indulging in a relaxing Yorkshire spa, you can be well and truly on your way to looking and feeling great.