Harvard Health Letter

More benefits of eating a vegetarian diet

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Here's another reason to consider eating a vegetarian diet: it may help lower your blood pressure. A study in the Feb. 24, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine finds that eating a vegetarian diet is associated with lower average systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with diets that include meat. How does it work? A vegetarian diet can help control body weight, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure—along with age, family history, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol intake, and too much salt in your diet. "The exact mechanism by which this diet is helpful is unclear, but likely relates to lower sodium consumption, higher potassium consumption, and weight loss," says cardiologist Dr. Peter Zimetbaum, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Should you try it? Dr. Zimetbaum says that a vegetarian diet can be good for blood pressure control, but to be careful: "If one gains weight on a vegetarian diet, it might negate the benefits."

A vegetarian diet can take a number of forms, with some banning all forms of animal products, and others including fish or dairy products. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to determine which eating style best suits your health and your lifestyle.

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