Health statistics show an alarmingly higher percentage of diet-related illnesses and diseases in the US. with black Americans in or near the lead among racial groups. To counteract this, one of the emerging trends for many black women is that of vegetarianism. It is true that traditional vegetarianism focuses primarily on nutritional deficiencies. However, in recent years studies have confirmed its health benefits. Plant-based eating is not only recognized as being nutritionally sufficient, it is an excellent alternative for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.
Vegetarianism calls for the elimination of all meats, while dairy and eggs are optional. For those of you who are wondering whether this is good or bad, you might be in for a surprise!
It is said that we are what we eat. This has become something of a cliché in our world. While the proverb is true on a general level, it applies equally at an ethnic level as well. Having certain dietary restrictions is no picnic without an understanding of the reasons why. The list below details some of the major benefits of a vegetarian diet specifically for black women.
1.) Reduced Cardiovascular Health Risk
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart disease ranks as the number one cause of death among black women. What is so alarming is that an estimated 49% of women are more prone to some form of heart disease as compared to other ethnicities. Collating information based on observational studies and clinical trials, it was found that a plant-based diet was consistently linked with improved heart health. This is due to vegetables and fruits being enriched with fiber and phytonutrients which are known to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. One study found that coronary heart disease along with the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 40 percent.
2.) Cancer Prevention
Cancer is caused by an uncontrollable replication process in the body by damaged cells which can prove fatal. According to a published statistic by the American Cancer Society, black Americans have the shortest survival rate as compared to other ethnic groups in the US for most cancers. The most common cancers among black women are breast (32% of all cancers), lung (11%), and colon and rectum cancer (9%).
Countless studies point to the positive effects of a vegetarian diet – most notably, cancer. These studies also reveal that a consumption of fruits and vegetables provides significant protection against many forms of cancer. The risk of most cancers was lowered in people who consumed whole grains.
3.) Aids in Digestion
Switching to a vegetarian diet can be a perfect alternative to enhance your digestive health. Aim for a balanced diet that consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables while avoiding foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
Fiber-rich foods help you to feel satiated. This is an added bonus for women who wish to control their weight. Fiber improves regularity in the digestive tract, which aids to prevent both constipation and diarrhea. A 2014 issue of BMC Public Health analyzed that Americans could save more than $12 billion each year on constipation-related healthcare costs by increasing their daily fiber intake. In addition, the risk of diverticular disease with vegetarians can be reduced by as much as 31% versus non-vegetarians.
4.) Weight Management
While obesity is a general issue in society, it is especially a concern among black women. Statistics show that they rank the highest of being overweight or obese in comparison to other groups in the US. This is due to cultural acceptance, genetic factors, or diets that causes weight gain.
A vegetarian diet can help to reduce the risk and possibly even reverse the trend. A study that was published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology concluded that vegetarians generally have a lower BMI (body mass index). It was also concluded that vegetarians that had a higher fiber intake gained less weight over time.
5.) Improvement of Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder caused by the lack of insulin production in the body. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is required by the body for digesting glucose. If the body does not produce insulin or produces it in insufficient quantities, it will lead to negative consequences such as:
Increased heart rate
Type 2 diabetes risk has a higher probability in black women as compared to non-black women. Among the many causes; age, genetics, and diet are primary risk factors according to the National Institute of Health. A vegetarian diet can help out in this regard by decreasing glucose uptake from the bloodstream. Plant-based diets are packed with fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants - all which have shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
In all, switching over to a vegetarian diet can prove to be an immense benefit. Given that we have many ethnic-specific diet restrictions, this can be a great start to living a healthier life.
Valerie lives in New York. As a health advocate, she shares tips and steps on maximizing nutrition, weight and fitness goals to help others embrace a healthier lifestyle. She blogs at Halfmile Fitness.