Omnivores, vegans, and vegetarians, always have the same dispute: who has the healthiest diet? This question could be part of a television contest, but it would be misleading because it may not have a 100% accurate answer. Below we show a series of evidence so that you can give the best possible answer.
The quality of a diet does not depend only on meat
The omnivorous diet is best known to be followed by the majority of the world’s human population. According to the RAE, an omnivore is an animal that feeds on all kinds of organic substances, that is, all food groups are included.
What Science Says About Eating Meat
It is known that a balanced omnivorous diet, following the intake recommendations, could be classified as healthy. Here we understand this diet as one in which alcohol, processed products, pastries, or red meat are not consumed more than once a month, etc.
But we always tend to extremes, and the rhythm of life and the influences of the environment distort what a healthy diet could be. Thus, we consume red meat almost daily, snacks with processed foods such as cooked ham, and alcohol, and we think that wine is healthy because it is included in the Mediterranean diet. But nothing is further from the truth, since the WHO does not establish safe doses of consumption.
In addition, DNA damage has recently been identified linking high consumption of red meat with colorectal cancer.
Research related to vegetarian and vegan diets is relatively recent since it has been in recent years that there has been an increase in people consuming this type of diet.
In Spain, in 2019, there were 3.8 million vegetarians and vegans. The motivations for following these diets are very varied and include a commitment to the lives of animals, ethics, health, and the sustainability of the planet. Although, perhaps, we could also add fashion to these reasons.
They are all healthy, but some more than others?
What do these plant-based diets have to make us think they are healthier? Well, higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, cereals, legumes, and protein sources of plant origin. Perhaps the biggest difference lies in what they don’t contain: animal products that are high in saturated fat.
Many studies are evaluating the different health benefits of these diets and exploring their relationship with different diseases, improving or preventing them. For example, the negative effect of blood lipids when they are high is known. Therefore, following a vegetarian diet can be beneficial as it modulates this profile.
The body needs to be constant in its processes. The acid-base balance is important to maintain this homeostasis and nutrition plays a primary role. Foods like meats, fish, eggs, and cheeses promote acidic media. If this is not counteracted with the consumption of fruits and vegetables, it can be harmful to health.
Therefore, a vegan diet would be much healthier than a vegetarian and therefore an omnivore.
Another well-known diet-related disease is type 2 diabetes mellitus. People with a pattern based on plant products have a lower risk of developing it since plant products act on different parameters reducing this risk.
Finally, we could highlight the importance that the study on the intestinal microbiota and its relationship with some diseases is acquiring. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been observed to improve the profile of our intestinal bacteria, protecting us against different diseases.
In food, extremes may not be good, but if they are well planned, they are healthy alternatives. Given the climate crisis we are experiencing and the environmental impact of raising animals for human consumption, perhaps it is not unreasonable to reduce the consumption of products of animal origin and increase those of plant origin. This will not only improve our health but also that of the planet.