For eons, nutritionists and food scientists alike have sworn by the benefits of eating plants and cutting back on meat. And it looks like people are finally catching on.
Each day, more people are embracing a vegetarian or plant-based diet. According to the latest surveys available, there are an estimated 1.5 billion vegetarians globally. Giving up meat, dairy, and eggs may seem like a monumental sacrifice for some. For others, the economic and environmental perks of vegetarianism make eating this way worthwhile. Personally, the incredible health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle alone make the choice a no-brainer.
But if, like most people, you've grown up as a lifelong meat-eater, it's hard to make the switch. This is why we've come up with some compelling reasons that'll convince you to give this way of eating a try.
Physical Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
A vegetarian diet can provide us with multiple physical health benefits. So, let us discuss them one by one below.
Vegetarian Weight Loss Benefits
Research suggests that the weight loss benefits of a vegetarian diet last for at least 12 months, and more research is being conducted to determine the long-term weight loss benefits.
For many people, becoming a vegetarian is more of a lifestyle choice driven by ethical, health, and environmental concerns. For others, including celebrities like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, switching to a plant-based lifestyle means a smaller waistline. But is it an effective means of weight loss?
The simple truth is adding more plant-based foods to your diet can do absolute wonders for your weight loss journey. Research groups at Harvard and Epic study following the same group of people for over 20 to 30 years show that those who typically eat more plant-based foods tend to put on less weight than heavy meat-eaters. Coupled with the work of Dan Buettner, which observes a population of individuals who likely live up to 100 years, evidence suggests that people who consume around 85% plant-based foods live longer and healthier, with far fewer diseases.
But what if you've already switched to a vegetarian diet, but the scale's still not budging? Does this mean losing weight on a plant-based lifestyle is all just a gimmick?
When it comes to losing weight on a plant-based lifestyle, it's just as important as what you add to your plate as what you omit. Just because you've switched from a sausage roll to a vegetarian sausage roll doesn't necessarily make it a healthier choice, and nor does it guarantee weight loss.
If you're switching to vegetarianism to shed excess weight, try to make it whole-food based. Fill up on rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. However, don't get too caught up in weight loss. Simply focus on making healthy choices every day, and the weight loss will come along.
Vegetarian Skin Benefits
Plant-based diets can significantly improve your skin condition and resolve some skin issues you face. For instance, acne has been linked to dairy consumption because it contains growth hormones. However, vegetarians can skip dairy to get rid of the annoying pimples and clean up their skin.
In addition to that, underlying inflammation that shows in the form of eczema, acne, allergies, etc., can also be improved if you consume a plant-based diet in the long term.
Similarly, the antioxidants present in plants and fruits can prevent free radical damage and counter premature aging, minimizing wrinkles and pigmentation.
Will becoming a vegetarian lower my cholesterol?
If done properly, yes. Since plant-based foods don’t contain cholesterol, a vegetarian diet can go a long way in lowering your cholesterol levels. Unlike an omnivore diet, a plant-based diet can reduce your cholesterol levels by about 15 to 30 percent. And the good news is that you don't have to go cold turkey to enjoy the benefits. The key is to simply start adding more plant-based foods to your diet and gradually cut back on your meat consumption.
As to how exactly vegetarianism lowers cholesterol, here's the deal. You see, a vegetarian diet is generally full of soluble fiber and super low in fat. This creates an ideal environment for your body to slow the production of cholesterol in the liver and reduce its absorption from other dietary sources. And considering cholesterol is typically found in animal-based products–meat, eggs, dairy–and minimal in plant-based foods, switching to a vegetarian diet doesn’t bring any additional cholesterol to the table.
A plant-based diet can have multiple benefits for your heart and lower your cholesterol and chances of developing heart problems.
By getting rid of dairy, meat, and eggs, it is possible to significantly bring down your cholesterol levels, as you no longer consume saturated fats. The soluble fiber in plants helps with lowering cholesterol by slowing down its absorption.
Animal products are full of saturated fats, so eliminating meat from your diet can get rid of LDL cholesterol by 15-30%. Within just 4 weeks, you can see a difference in your cholesterol levels by switching to a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian Diet & Blood Pressure Benefits
Vegetarians also have a lower blood pressure compared to meat-eaters. They eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, etc. can help get rid of saturated fats that cause high blood pressure.
It is because high blood pressure and body weight are linked, so reducing body weight through a vegetarian diet can also reduce blood pressure. Moreover, the lower blood viscosity of vegetarians may also help control their blood pressure.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet for Athletes
Slowing down isn't an option for athletes as they have to stay at their best throughout their careers to compete. With that level of competition, having a quality diet is crucial.
Athletes can benefit impressively from a plant-based diet due to multiple factors.
Better Heart Health & Cardio Performance
Athletes usually tend to participate in intense training and competitions, so their heart health should always be at its best. Luckily, plant-based diets improve heart health by eliminating saturated fats coming from animal products.
Additionally, athletes who avoid meat tend to be leaner and have better body composition than their counterparts. The carbohydrates coming from plants can fill your muscles with glycogen, so you can keep pumping during intense sessions.
Faster Muscle Recovery with Reduced Inflammation
Athletes undergo intense training, so their bodies constantly bear a lot of physical and emotional pressure. That stress level on joints can cause inflammation if they don't replenish their nutritional stores properly.
Radishes, turnips, dark cherries, kale, and spinach are good choices in this regard. Consuming cherry juice before a workout can improve performance and tackle soreness.
Efficiency is crucial for athletes to ensure that their efforts hit the right mark and produce desired results.
Having a vegetarian diet will help them have more nitric oxide, which is pivotal in transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.
Blood flow can continue with lower nitric oxide levels, too, but it's not efficient, and the distribution isn't balanced. With nitric oxide, the blood flow distribution is improved significantly, which helps dissipate the heat generated during exercise.
Benefits of Being Vegetarian While Pregnant
Taking care of your health during pregnancy becomes even more important as you now have two lives in your hands.
The foods you consume will also affect your baby's health, and going vegetarian ensures you and your baby stay healthy throughout the pregnancy.
Women often suffer from obesity during pregnancy because of intense cravings. Giving in to them can cause your weight to skyrocket, putting you at risk.
The way out of this problem is consuming a plant-based diet, which ensures that you do not consume too many calories or fats from animal products.
Gestational Diabetes Prevention
Diabetes during pregnancy is another medical scare faced by women. Increased intake of fats during pregnancy can heighten the risk of gestational diabetes. However, consuming a vegetarian diet low in fat can prevent that problem.
Plant-based lifestyle controls fat intake, ensuring that your blood sugar levels do not spike. This reduces the risk of gestational diabetes significantly.
Research has consistently shown that the cardiovascular health of vegetarians is much better than that of meat-eaters. Besides that, vegetarians' cholesterol levels, blood lipid levels, and body weight are also better.
Therefore, eating a vegetarian diet during pregnancy can improve your cardiovascular health and benefit your baby in multiple aspects.
Furthermore, the fiber and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables will ensure your heart health remains optimum to deliver a healthy baby.
Develops Strong Bones
For strengthening your baby's bones, you need vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium in ample amounts.
Fortunately, a plant-based diet is rich in these nutrients, ensuring that your baby develops strong bones.
Improvements in Overall Health
Stress and irritation can become common occurrences during pregnancy, which aren't welcome. To deliver a healthy baby, you should stay stress-free and relaxed.
Consuming a vegetarian diet helps you manage stress and boosts your general health.
However, ensuring that you take the right nutrients is crucial for maintaining your health. Your diet should ideally have lots of vitamin D, calcium, protein, and energy-rich foods.
Benefits of Raising a Vegetarian Child
We all know about the kind of life animals live in factory farms. The conditions are cruel as they are kept in cages where even moving a few inches is impossible. Cows and pigs are inseminated repeatedly to reap maximum financial benefit without caring about them.
We should raise kids that disapprove of those conditions and refuse to eat animal-based products. Raising kids on a vegetarian diet teaches them empathy and helps them understand the cruelty around them every day.
It's not just about kindness towards other living things, as a vegetarian diet is also healthier than a meat-based one. From heart health to lowering obesity to improving athletic performance, raising your kid as a vegetarian can help him in the longer run.
Mental Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
There is increasing evidence to suggest that diet and mood are interconnected, and you become what you eat. People usually focus on the physical health benefits of vegetarian diets and often ignore what it has in store for their mental well-being.
A plant-based diet can not only keep you healthy physically but can also bring multiple mental health benefits.
Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Animal-based products such as eggs and chicken contain arachidonic acid that has been known to cause inflammation in your body. Ultimately, this inflammation hits the brain and causes anxiety and stress.
However, those who rely on plant-based nutrition usually have improved moods over those who consume animal-based foods.
In addition to that, plant-based foods also help with reducing depression. A study analyzing dietary patterns of 3,486 individuals estimated that those who ate whole foods had fared much better regarding depression than those who did not.
Could Tackle ADHD
The connection between diet and ADHD is not well-established. However, some suggestions suggest that a plant-based diet may help reduce ADHD symptoms.
For instance, a study on preschoolers showed that those who consumed processed food had a higher chance of developing ADHD than those with a vegetarian diet.
Similarly, another study suggested that eating vegetarian foods might prevent a cognitive decline as you age, and vegetarians had 18-33% fewer chances of that decline.
Promotes Mindfulness & Improves Focus
Mindfulness is a concept that has been around for centuries. Developed by spiritual leaders and yoga masters, it has become an integral part of the vegetarian lifestyle. When you consume a plant-based diet, you are always aware of what you consume.
You are wary of your diet not hurting any living being and choose only cruelty-free foods. Besides that, you are always looking for foods that can improve your health, so staying aware of what you put in your body becomes necessary.
The more you eat healthier, the better it makes you feel because you know you are doing good to your body. The repetitive cycle of mindfulness fills you with happiness and confidence.
Vegetarians also have improved focus, as a study suggested. Those who relied on plant-based foods for their nutrition performed better at their workplaces and took fewer leaves.
Spiritual benefits of vegetarianism
Besides physical and mental health benefits, vegetarianism also has multiple spiritual benefits. Vegetarian wellness has been a topic for quite some time now.
People want to switch their diets to improve their spiritual experience and get away from the materialistic lifestyle. Let us explore the spiritual dimensions of vegetarianism and how they improve your well-being.
Promotes Non-Violence & Compassion
The association of vegetarianism with non-violence and compassion is nothing new. Many great spiritual and political leaders have adopted it to make a case for compassionate living throughout their lives.
Caring for sentient beings instills a sense of love for everything around us, and we appreciate the beauty of the world even more, when every living thing lives to its fullest.
Leads to a Peaceful Life
Vegetarianism and a peaceful life go hand in hand. Vegetarians often report how they feel lighter and more content after quitting meat.
It leads to better sleep and a positive mood, giving you a healthy lifestyle devoid of any stress. Because of that, you are more positive in your daily affairs and take challenges with a winner's attitude.
Builds a Stronger Connection with the Planet
The Earth is our home, and it is our responsibility to take care of it. The world-ecology comes from "Oikos," meaning home. If we plunder its resources endlessly, we usually develop a cold attitude towards the suffering of others at our hands, especially animals that end up on our plates.
On the other hand, a vegetarian diet reverses all of these ills. Instead of eating meat burgers, we can use the same resources to feed hundreds and thousands of people worldwide.
More efficient use of Earth's resources can improve our connection with it and helps us care more about our surroundings. It makes us selfless and pushes us towards a better planet where resources are for responsible use and not abuse.
Improves Your Meditation
The quality of meditation depends on how pure and noble your actions are in real life. The more compassionate you are, the more you will enjoy meditating.
Meditation brings you to the realm of pure love, possible only if you practice compassion towards other living things.
Economic Reasons to Become Vegetarian
As our planet heats up at a scale never seen before, it will have a devastating economic impact, especially on the global poor. Therefore, the need for switching to vegetarianism is more important than ever. Let us discuss some of the economic reasons for adopting a plant-based diet.
Are there economic benefits to becoming a vegetarian?
Believe it or not, a vegetarian lifestyle does much more than just help you lose weight or lower your cholesterol. Switching to a plant-based diet can potentially save billions of dollars for countries worldwide. You don't need to source animals for food and clothing to create a healthy, thriving lifestyle.
First off, shifting to a vegetarian diet in the US alone can produce surplus food that can feed around 350 million additional people. Now imagine what vegetarianism can do to end world hunger. What's more, a PNAS study states that the Standard American Diet can cost the US as high as $197 billion to $289 billion annually. Moreover, the global economy will lose up to $1.6 trillion by 2050 on the animal-based dietary lifestyle.
And considering that the US plant-based food industry is predicted to bring in around $13.3 billion in tax revenues alone over the next decade, it’s no wonder that celebrities are so keen to invest in plant-based businesses. This proves that a plant-based lifestyle can go a long way in strengthening the global economy and reducing world hunger. Meanwhile, our planet Earth will get a much-needed break from the damage created by the livestock industry.
Lost Productivity from Various Diseases
For instance, the health expenditure in the US resulting from cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and loss of productivity currently stands at $363 billion dollars.
Obesity is the worst economic culprit of all the diseases caused by plant-based diets. Its impact on the economy has been estimated at $147 billion.
Pandemics Should Serve as Lessons
The treatment of animals in farms and factories is not just cruel, and it is dangerous for our economy too. The hygienic conditions of those farms are appalling, with non-existent safety measures. As a result, the chances of another pandemic always remain high, the latest example being the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandemics are not just health problems, they also devastate economies — as we have already witnessed during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The United Nations Environment Program estimated that emerging diseases wiped off $100 billion from the American economy.
Similarly, the animals inside farms are given hefty doses of antibiotics, which leads to antibiotic resistance in those animals and humans consuming them.
As a result, superbugs are emerging which can't be tackled with our regular medicines, and developing new ones costs billions of dollars. Just the antibiotics resistance has cost the US economy $16 billion in the last few years.
The Rising Costs of Climate Change
Climate change is already taking a toll on our economies, and the costs are rising with every passing day. According to Morgan Stanley, the costs of climate change during 2016-2018 were $650 billion.
Similarly, if the climate crisis continues unabated, it could shrink agricultural yields by 30% by 2050, having a terrible impact on the planet's food security.
Besides that, a leading insurance company named Swiss Re estimated that climate change is expected to clip $23 off the global economy by 2050. These losses would result from lower crop yields, coastal city damages due to rising seas, disease spreads, etc.
It also suggested that South Asian countries would see their wealth fall by one-third if much-needed measures weren't taken.
Vegetarianism & Personal Finance
Vegetarianism isn't just healthy for the global economy but your finances too. Meat is relatively expensive, so switching to a vegetarian diet can shave some expenses from your current bill.
The most impactful financial difference vegetarian foods make is regarding your health. When you switch to a vegetarian diet, your health improves significantly, which means fewer trips to the doctor and more savings.
Besides reduced health-related spending, vegetarian foods also boost your energy levels. Because of it, you will be more productive at your workplace and have more chances of promotion.
Environmental Benefits of Vegetarianism
Besides its economic and spiritual benefits, we cannot underestimate the environmental upsides of vegetarianism. Climate change is killing our planet, and to stop this slow death, we need to act fast and adopt a vegetarian alternative to our typical meat-based diets. Let us see how it will improve the ecology of the Earth.
How does becoming a vegetarian help the environment?
Behind our beef and chicken meals is an astoundingly wasteful, land-and-energy farming system that wreaks havoc on forests, pollutes water bodies and air, and delivers a huge blow to climate change. So, how exactly can reducing our meat consumption help the ecosystem?
For starters, a meat-based diet depletes many resources, particularly water. Eating steak or chicken means you’re effectively consuming the tons of water that the animals require to survive and grow. In fact, vegetarian author John Robbin calculates that a pound of beef needs a whopping 9,000 liters of water instead of the 60,108, 168, and 229 lbs of water required to grow potatoes, wheat, maize, and rice, respectively.
Similarly, over 190 gallons of water is required to produce a single chicken breast—water that could conceivably keep a family of three alive for around 150 days. Quite simply, you could substantially reduce water consumption by 27% to 41% by adopting a vegetarian diet.
In addition to exhausting our water reservoirs, meat consumption can significantly eat up our lands as well. Unfortunately, over a billion of the global population go hungry each day as livestock farming consumes a huge portion of the world's crops.
A distressing figure shared in a 1997 study at Cornell University states that a staggering 302m hectares of land in the US were used for livestock. In contrast, only 13m hectares were required to grow fresh vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, and potatoes. If humans were to consume the grain fed to livestock, twice if not more people could be fed in the world.
Lastly, switching to a vegetarian diet can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll be surprised to learn that the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming are greater than that of all transportation forms on Earth combined—18% of the global total precisely. Beyond that, livestock farming also produces other harmful gasses–Nitrous and Carbon Dioxide–that contribute to ozone pollution.
To make matters worse, we're currently consuming almost 230m tons of animals per year, twice the amount we did 30 years ago. Meaning that climate change will only accelerate, and we're already dangerously close to Irreversible damage to our ecosystem.
Similarly, cows emit four times more greenhouse gasses than pigs and chickens. Processing and transporting meat is also more resource-intensive than processing plants for consumption.
Meat factories burn 17% of fossil fuels in the US alone, releasing toxic greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
Meat is having a horrific impact on our water resources. Almost one in every nine people don't have access to clean drinking water, which is excessive use of water by the meat industry.
Similarly, large pig farms consume water resources equivalent to a city. The only way out of this mess is to eat plant-based foods and avoid meat as much as possible.
Most of the agricultural land is used by meat-eaters, as livestock grazes down 80%, producing only 20% of the world's caloric intake. Plants only occupy 23% of the land but feed us most of our calories and proteins.
The problem isn't just about the sheer use of land but also about its degradation. Industrial livestock and overgrazing in the US is to be blamed for 85% of total soil erosion.
Too many hooves on grazing lands cause the soil to erode rapidly and remove vegetation. As a result, the soil ends up in waterways, choking them and hurting marine life.
Nowadays, animal agriculture involves growing corn, oats, and soy. Monoculture farming reduces the nutritional value of the soil. So, farmers deploy pesticides and fertilizers to make up for the deficiency which pollutes waterways and causes health problems.
This model is unsustainable and inefficient as getting so few calories while eating up most of the land doesn't make much sense.
With our world's growing population, livestock will need to make way for more vegetarian foods to feed the planet. It will result in less hunger worldwide and restore our forests, capturing excessive carbon in the atmosphere.
Preserves Marine Ecosystems
Vegetarianism isn't just about giving up on beef and chicken; it also demands a stop to seafood consumption.
With all the modern equipment in our hands, thousands of pounds of fish have been wiped off the ocean within a short while, damaging coral reefs and other life in the sea.
Benefits of Adopting a Short-term Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian diets can positively impact your health in the short run. A 10-day study on 1615 individuals observed the impacts of the short-term dietary switch to plant-based foods. After seven days, it measured blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and blood lipids.
The results were encouraging as the weight of participants dropped by 1.4kg on an individual level, and significant improvements in blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and blood lipids were also observed. The most overweight individuals saw the most improvements.
Their diet was based on wheat flour, beans, rice, potatoes, peas, fresh fruits, different vegetables, lentils, etc.
Ethical Reasons for Vegetarianism
Now that the social change movements are on the rise, more people are standing up against injustice and asking to end harmful practices — one of which is through adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Here’s how vegetarianism can improve the ecology of the Earth.
Prevents Animal Cruelty
Perhaps the biggest ethical argument favoring vegetarianism is the cruelty towards the animals in the meat industry. Whether cows, pigs, chickens, or any other animal, all are considered machines for human consumption and nothing else.
For instance, female pigs are kept in tight cages where they can only stand straight and can't move beyond an inch or two. They are inseminated repeatedly to get more pigs from them while suffering endlessly. If any of them falls ill, they are mercilessly slaughtered.
Whenever animals hurt each other out of spite, their injured parts are clipped off their bodies without relief later on.
Since a huge chunk of your population relies on meat, factory owners want to maximize their profits by ensuring the animals grow as fast as possible. The highly concentrated diet isn't suitable for all animals, and many develop severe physiological problems such as infections, weakened bones, etc.
So much nutrition is pumped into chickens that their bones can't support their weight anymore and become unable to move. So, their only option is to stay at one place until they are slaughtered.
Helps the Global Poor
All the world's ethical lessons are incomplete if they don't care about the poor. The meat industry is a highly inefficient machine that keeps wreaking havoc on our planet for the interest of a small section of the population.
We hurt the poor in multiple ways through our consumption patterns. First, the demand for grain for livestock jacks up the prices of grains worldwide, making it hard for the poor to afford a quality diet. There is enough grain to save 11 billion people, 3.5 billion more than the current world population.
The pollution and toxic gasses coming out of factory farms also affect the poor disproportionately. For instance, during pork production, 25% of workers suffer from respiratory issues such as bronchitis.
Materials used in growing feed are also problematic and are used uncontrollably in developing countries with weaker laws. Similarly, soy plantations use toxic chemicals that result in chronic health issues for the farmworkers.
Local small-scale farmers are under severe pressure, and many have left farming because it is no longer enough to feed themselves. Participation in the agricultural sector is declining rapidly and is expected to continue due to the unabashed mechanization of farming.
Besides that, local community bonds are also weakened when small farms disappear. Family farms have been the means of subsistence for many, but it has changed fast, and many farmers now accept lower-wage work to feed themselves. So, animal agriculture is unacceptably inefficient and fuels poverty.
What are the Pros and Cons of becoming a Vegetarian?
From helping the ecosystem to promoting animal welfare and improving overall health, there are countless benefits to a plant-based lifestyle. The truth is vegetarianism is more just a diet; it is a whole way of life. However, there are certain drawbacks to this eating style. If you're considering making the switch to vegetarianism, consider the following pros and cons to ensure it's the right eating plan for you.
Are more people switching to a vegetarian lifestyle?
Be it for health reasons, climate change, or animal welfare, the number of vegetarians in the US and everywhere in the world is swiftly increasing. Businesses are jumping on the bandwagon, too. The vegetarian market is booming, making plant-based products more accessible than ever. And restaurants and fast-food chains are churning out more plant-based options as demand rises.
Needless to say, the statistics alone suggest that vegetarianism is more than just a trend. Following a slow start in the early 2000s, a plant-based lifestyle is now spreading like wildfire in the US–particularly in the last five years. The American plant-based community is thriving and increasing exponentially.
And since renowned celebrities–the likes of Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Joaquin Phoenix, Natalie Portman–have joined the plant-based movement, it sure seems like the vegetarian lifestyle won't fizzle out any time soon. And while we've got a long way to go in this revolutionary food movement, the numbers already prove just how much vegetarianism has changed the world already. And we can't wait to see what comes next.
And that's a wrap!
We no longer live in a world where choosing vegetarianism made us the odd one out. Gone are the days when the only plant-based options restaurants served were a small bed of iceberg lettuce, a side of fries, or unseasoned blocks of tofu.
The global surge of plant-based enthusiasm has led to the evolution of alternative proteins like Beyond meat and impossible burgers that mimic the texture and flavor of meat so well that they taste just as good as their animal-based counterparts, if not better. And plant-based restaurants dedicated solely to dishing up plants in all forms are popping up everywhere. Becoming a vegetarian is finally about what you can eat, not what you can't.
We understand that the decision to become a vegetarian is a big one. However, you can start in small ways to make the transition easier. A great way to do this is through plant-based Mondays or alternating your weeks.