Plant based diets and gluten free products have recently been the forefront of healthy eating, overtaking the many popular fad diets that are neither practical nor self-sustaining. Diets that make it easy to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle are essential for longevity and overall effectiveness. The two diets that fit these criteria, proven time and again, are of course vegetarianism and veganism. Both diets provide numerous health benefits over diets that include animal products. It is important to understand the health benefits of these diets, so that you can make better informed decisions for your meal plans and overall nutrition. Furthermore, understanding plant nutrition can help when eating out to give you more control over how your food is prepared.
A vegetarian diet excludes all meats from the diet, but may include dairy products and eggs depending on personal preference. It has been shown that a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet can help fight against heart disease, lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and prevent the formation of gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis. That’s a ton of health benefits from simply switching out meat protein for plant protein. To truly understand why this is, we need to break down how vegetarianism and veganism have such a powerful effect on the body.
Animal fats are high in saturated fats and contain cholesterol, whereas most plants and nuts contain little to no saturated fat and do not contain any cholesterol what so ever. Plants also contain fiber, which helps to lower overall cholesterol in the body and thus lowers the risk of arteries clogging. Studies have shown that low fat, high fiber diets help prevent the hardening of the arteries that lead to heart disease.
Many nutritionists have observed that vegetarians and vegans tend to have lower blood pressure than people who consumed meat regularly. It is believed that this is a direct result of the low fat, low sodium, and high fiber diets. Doctors are still unsure of the direct link that lowers blood pressure, but many speculate that it is an effect from blood thinning. Cutting out meat and dairy products many reduce the blood’s viscosity, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Plants are also a good source of potassium, which further helps to lower blood pressure.
It has been observed that a well-balanced vegetarian diet along with proper exercise can help reverse adult on-set diabetes. The vegetarian diet allows a diabetic person to use insulin more effectively. This means that they can better regulate glucose levels and thus reserve the effects of the disease.
High protein diets, especially high levels of animal protein, can increase the body’s secretion of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. Together these substances are the direct cause of the formation of kidney stones. Furthermore, the increased secretion of calcium can lead to bone loss and eventual osteoporosis. The increased amount of saturated fats and cholesterol from meat, increases the risk of gallstone formation. As a vegetarian diet avoids most, if not all, animal protein, the formation of these three health conditions can be better avoided.
In general, the key aspect of a vegetarian and vegan diet, is lower saturated fat intake and lower to no cholesterol intake. However, not all fats are bad for you. Unsaturated fats, commonly referred to as Omega fatty acids, can be very beneficial for your hair, skin, heart and brain. While some nuts and dark leafy vegetables contain these fats, the best sources are from fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. For this reason some people choose to adopt a pescetarian diet, which is a modified vegetarian diet that includes the consumption of fish.
Lastly, as briefly mentioned above, many people today are choosing to avoid the consumption of gluten. Gluten is an insoluble protein found in most wheat products, soy products, and some dairy products. Generally, gluten is only a problem for those that suffer from Celiac disease or a direct food allergy. While some people may have a mild gluten intolerance, it is not a common condition. Most if not all people who have a gluten intolerance, actually suffer from Celiac disease. However, recent studies have shown that people who suffer from certain digestive disorders may benefit from cutting gluten from their diet. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for example, showed improved symptoms when they cut out gluten from their diet. Depending on your specific needs, cutting gluten may be something to consider.
In conclusion, diet is a very specific and personal matter for both doctors and people alike. While vegetarianism has many great health benefits, it may not be the best diet for everyone. For many people, cutting out all animal products from their diet is just not conceivable. However, understanding the mechanics that drive the main health benefits of a vegetarian diet, namely low fat and high fiber, can help even meat lovers make better decisions one meal at a time. Another great tip for eating healthy is to plan out your weekly meals ahead of time and only visit restaurants that offer healthy alternatives.
North Shore Tacos is dedicated to not only serving the best fish tacos here on Oahu, but also healthy alternatives to meet their customers’ dietary needs. All menu options can be made vegetarian by simply adding guacamole instead of meat to any dish. Furthermore, most plate options can be made gluten free; with the exception of the burrito plate. Any taco, quesadilla, nacho, or salad plate can be made with corn tortilla instead flour tortilla. In addition, any plate can be made without surf sauce and sour cream, which do contain gluten. Even their delicious coconut and caramel flan dessert is gluten free. So you can enjoy your delicious fresh fish tacos and your dessert too. Ask for gluten free and vegetarian alternatives at any of their three locations in Hau’ula and Pupukea.