Why a Vegetarian Diet Is Good for Your Health and the Health of the Planet

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, "The Joy of Meatless," May/June 2011

One woman's foray into a meatless approach to cooking.

A Case Study for Plant-Based Diets

We have, in many ways, a good model for a meatless society, and it’s one I looked at closely as we made our choice to change our diet. In southern California’s Inland Empire, a suburban valley spread some 60 miles east of Los Angeles, is a city called Loma Linda, home to several thousand people who are part of a religious group called the Seventh-Day Adventists. The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church believes the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and, as such, shouldn’t be polluted with alcohol or tobacco—and, some members believe, meat. Some 30 percent of Adventists are vegetarian. In 1958, researchers from Loma Linda University, an SDA medical center, published an observational study showing that Adventists were significantly less likely to die from cancer, heart disease and other lifestyle-related diseases. In 1974, the researchers began looking at whether their diets might help to explain their better health. They found that eating less beef was in fact associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Studies in other vegetarian populations have come to similar conclusions. For example, a 1999 compilation of several studies found that, compared to meat-eaters, people who were vegetarian for more than five years were 24 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease/coronary heart disease. (People who ate meat occasionally were still 20 percent less likely to die of these diseases.)

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