During my study of food and nutrition, I constantly come across the question, “what are the benefits of eating a plant based diet?” I played around with vegetarianism in the past, but have since decided to include animal based protein in my diet out of convenience. Still, for those interested in pursuing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, I wanted to write an article about the benefits of living on a plant based diet.
Vegetarianism and veganism are two different things. Vegetarians exclude animal meat from their diets. Some eat milk, eggs, and seafood, and some do not. It varies from person to person. Veganism is more of a philosophy and revolves around a compassionate lifestyle that excludes all animals and animal by-products from the diet. Essentially, they do not consume any food derived from an animal, and they do not wear or purchase products made from living things. Though they are both different, they both share a similarity: if followed properly, they offer outstanding health benefits.
When I became a vegetarian, I continued to eat fish, dairy, and eggs (commonly referred to as a pescetarian). My choice to cross over wasn’t pre-meditated. I simply lost the desire to consume meat, and so I listened to my body. I did my research and planned out a healthy diet in which I would receive the right amounts of protein and nutrients. This lasted for just over 6 months.
Transitioning into this lifestyle was very easy for me, mainly because I chose to continue eating dairy, eggs, and seafood. I stayed away from veganism because of many food intolerances which prevented me from eating nuts and seeds. I flowed easily into a vegetarian lifestyle and was happy to give up meat.
After only a few weeks, I began to notice changes in myself, and it was clear that a vegetarian diet was benefiting my health. As a person who always suffered from low energy, vegetarianism seemed to help elevate my mood and keep me alert and active throughout the day. The change in my diet was changing my overall health and well-being.
So, what exactly are the benefits of living on a plant based diet? Many studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have a higher life expectancy than meat eaters. Simply, plant based diets reduce the risk of disease. Not only can a vegetarian diet prevent heart disease, it can, in fact, reverse it.
A diet with an emphasis on plant based foods makes weight-loss easy. By eating less processed foods, and consuming a diet lower in calories and higher in nutrition, weight-loss stops being such a chore and just starts to happen. What our bodies crave is nutrition, and when it is properly fed, it easily lets go of unwanted weight.
If you’re an advocate for the environment or against animal cruelty, a plant based diet definitely supports these causes. Eating animal meat contributes largely to greenhouse gas emissions which are extremely harmful to the environment, and by not eating meat, you are essentially saving lives.
As you can see, there are many reasons why people chose to pursue a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Many people who eat meat view these people as crazy activists, or irrational thinkers, but it is clear that they have made a rational choice toward better health.
Though I no longer follow a vegetarian diet, what I eat is largely plant based. For protein, I am largely reliant on sources like organic quinoa, and beans or lentils. Instead of using whey protein powders (a derivative of milk) for meal replacements, I have substituted a vegan alternative. I no longer drink milk, and eat as little dairy as possible. I consume more greens than ever before, and every inch of me reaps the rewards.
The best advice I can give is to listen to your body. When I no longer desired to eat meat, I stopped. When the desire returned, I began to eat organic, grain-fed meat instead of cheap alternatives.
What I can say is that the benefits of eating a plant based diet far exceeded my expectations. Though I do include meat in my diet, the inclusion is rare, not daily. My choice has been positive, and I encourage anyone interested in bettering their health to explore the transition to a plant based diet.
Please check out our additional resources on pesticides on fruits and vegetables so you can pick the healthiest produce.