Your mom was right when she told you to eat your vegies.  Studies have shown that vegetarian diets lower the risks for heart disease.  This includes lowering cholesterol, LDL levels, and blood pressure, decreasing blood sugar and decreasing weight.  The diet does not need to be a strict vegan diet (no animal products whatsoever) and can range from lacto-ovo  (eggs and milk included) to pesco (eggs, milk and fish) to semi-vegetarian (mainly plants but occasional meat).

Plant sterols are important in lowering LDL, which are a risk for heart disease.  Vegetarian diets are also associated with the lowering of blood pressure especially when the diet limits total fat, saturated fat and includes low-fat dairy products or excludes dairy products.

Now, you may be thinking, if I increase my fruits and vegetables and decrease meat, cheese and eggs, should I be looking at organically produced produce.  Good question.  In terms of hard evidence the jury is still out but here is what is known.  A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organic crops do tend to have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of cadmium and lower concentrations of pesticides than produce grown in the traditional manner.  So that is good right?  Well, intuitively it sounds like it should be better for us.  What has not been studied however is what is the impact of these differences on our health.  Let me give you an example.  At one point in time, it was pretty common for moms and dads to give their kids a multivitamin because a lot of kids are fussy eaters and they wanted to make sure their children got the vitamins and minerals they needed.  It made sense.  It sounded good.  Well, a study was done, and guess what, even picky eaters got all the essential vitamins and minerals they needed over the course a week.  They didn’t need those vitamins everyday, not that they were hurting them.  So that is why the jury is still out.  Yes there is a difference, but it is not known what the impact of that difference is.  It could be significant or it could be negligible.  So for now you need to use your best judgment, just like those moms and dads with the vitamins.

For more information see:  http://www.empr.com/impact-of-vegetarian-diet-on-heart-disease-diabetes/article/364557/?    and

British Journal of Nutrition  May 2, 2014  “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops:  a systematic literature review and meta-analysis”