Vegetarians Have Lower Rates of Heart Disease But First They Have to Survive Listeria, Norovirus and Salmonella

You've heard this before: Being a vegetarian is good for you. But a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition really hammers home what leaving meat out of your diet can do. There were 44 thousand people in the study, and researchers found that vegetarians have a "32% lower heart disease risk than non-vegetarians." Solution: Eat more vegetables, right? Well, yes. But. Another report conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that vegetables are making Americans sick:

The largest culprit? Leafy greens. Based on data from nearly 4,600 outbreaks of food illness, researchers estimated the number of cases attributable to 17 different food categories and found that produce accounted for 46% of cases. Leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage were responsible for the majority of the illnesses, and most were caused by norovirus, which is spread to produce from water contaminated by fecal matter.

Yuck. (If you're into numbers, here are details: 4,939,155 foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from plants alone from 1998-2008.)

Obviously the problem is not the vegetables, but how they are grown and processed. Since most of us don't grow our own vegetables, we're forced to rely on what's in the store, and as Time reports, one in six Americans gets food poisoning every year. Recalls occur monthly. And let's not even get started on Monsanto and genetically modified seeds and the investigation that the Department of Justice "mysteriously" shut down.

Of course, the CDC is not trying to scare us, and wants us to eat spinach and kale and broccoli with abandon:

Despite the findings, the CDC says that people shouldn't avoid eating fruit and veggies.
"When properly cleaned, separated, cooked, and stored to limit contamination, fruits and vegetables safely provide some essential nutrients that would otherwise be lacking in most American diets," the report authors write.

But if the government wants us to do meatless mondays and beef (heh) up on salads, first it's got to do a better job of guaranteeing us our spinach isn't covered in crap.

Veggies to blame for majority of foodborne illnesses [CNN via Time]
Vegetarians Have Lower Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds [ABC]
Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998–2008 [CDC]
Related, sorta: Gardening With Rapper T.I. [CINN]
Image via Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/Shutterstock.