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Get The Facts About Vegetarian Diets

What you need to know before you go veggie

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The plan outlined in the Dean Ornish, MD, lifestyle diet book, Eat More, Weigh Less, is a vegetarian diet designed to help you reverse heart disease and lose weight. Ornish has published several scientific studies to document the effectiveness of his diet, which is high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables and very low in fat. This low-fat, vegetarian approach can be difficult to adhere to for a long periods of time. But if you can stick with it, the benefits are outstanding.

"A vegetarian diet may be just as effective as statin drugs in lowering blood cholesterol."

Why Be a Vegetarian?

Most people who convert to vegetarianism now do so for health reasons. Others are vegetarians because of religious, moral, environmental, and/or ethical motivations.

Vegetarian lifestyles are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, many types of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Not only do most vegetarians eat more healthfully than meat eaters, they tend to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco and to exercise regularly. Clearly, a lifestyle that includes these good habits is one that will help you control your weight.

A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated the effectiveness of a vegetarian diet in lowering blood cholesterol levels. This diet was low in fat and included soy, nuts, margarines containing plant sterols (such as Benecol), high-fiber grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The results suggest that a vegetarian diet may be just as effective as statin drugs in lowering blood cholesterol -- a finding that has far-reaching implications for many people.

Tips for Non-Vegetarians

Even if you're not interested in joining the 6 to 8 million Americans who call themselves vegetarians, it's a good idea to eat a meatless meal at least once a week. (A bonus: meatless meals often allow you to eat larger portions for the same number of calories.) Try ordering meatless dishes when you eat out to get familiar with a variety of delicious vegetarian foods. And when you do eat meat, move it off the center of the plate and treat it more like a side dish. Just reduce the portion size and fill the gap with vegetables, salads, legumes, and whole grains -- all naturally low in fat and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

This little change in mindset can help you win the battle of the bulge!

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