From the rise of celebrity vegan chefs to the new plethora of prepackaged vegan goodies and convenience foods, animal-less eating has a bright (delicious, even!) future in 2012. As a lifelong vegetarian and champion of healthier eating, I’ve been thrilled to see the legitimacy of these diets increase through health research and culinary innovation.
Now fellow vegans and vegetarians have another reason to feel good: Eating a fiber-rich vegan or vegetarian diet offers additional protection from harmful bacteria, such as E. coli. Not only are you limiting exposure to potential bacterial contamination in meats, but new evidence suggests you are also better protected from the inside out.
In the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers report that greater fiber intake from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, minus the consumption of animal products, benefits the pH of the digestive tract, making it more difficult for bad bacteria to grow. A diet rich in smart carbs and fiber also supports colonies of healthy bacteria, or probiotics, which have been shown to increase immunity and strengthen the digestive tract against disease-causing bacteria.
So, why not eat less meat? Believe it or not, I still get many questions about the healthfulness of following a vegetarian diet. Research does support increasing protein intake as an effective way to curb weight gain or lose weight. But protein need not be from animal sources and, from a greater health perspective (one that includes disease prevention as well as ecological impact), I see no reason not to suggest that eliminating or lessening meat intake is a good choice.