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Digestive Disease Prevention: A Reason to 'Go Veg'?

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A vegetarian diet necessitates an abundance of fruits and vegetables to balance out nutrients, meaning you will easily meet your daily fiber requirements.

"People who eat lower on the food chain (no meat) tend to have fewer instances of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis," according to the article. Diets high in processed foods have been linked to diverticula, small sacs in the colon that occasionally become inflamed and lead to diverticular disease.

Of course, the website lists additional, non-health related reasons to "go veg," including a desire to spare animals from slaughter, a concern for the environmental impact of raising animals for human consumption, and a means of reducing your grocery budget.

I am also encouraged that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has endorsed well-balanced vegetarian diets for any stage of life.

In a 2009 revised position paper, the academy said, “Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals."

Even if I don't embrace complete vegetarianism, it's possible to accrue some of the health benefits by being a semi-vegetarian (also called "flexitarian").

As the Cleveland Clinic website explains, a semi-vegetarian diet excludes red meat and sometimes poultry, yet keeps fish and dairy products.

It's also possible to be a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, eating all dairy products and eggs but no meat, poultry or fish. In the next level of strictness, a lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products but excludes eggs. Finally, a vegan excludes all foods of animal origin to concentrate on plant foods. I'm not sure the nuts and seeds route is for me, however.

In the article "Understanding Vegetarianism," the Cleveland Clinic website notes that a veg lifestyle might have health, religious, environmental or humanitarian rationales, but " … any step towards removing animal products from your diet is a step closer to optimal health."

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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