Some people feel passionately that humans need meat to survive and thrive, where others feel equally as passionately against the notion. I contend that humans can live healthy, vibrant lives without consumption of animal products. Let’s take a look at some health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Decreased Body Weight
Studies show that a vegan or vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss. In addition, evidence suggests that weight loss in vegetarians is not dependent on exercise. A vegan diet may actually encourage the body to burn more calories between meals. The body burns fewer calories with a meat based diet because food is more often stored as fat.
While many people believe that non-meat diets are deficient in nutrients, this analysis actually shows that plant-based diets are typically higher in fiber, vitamins A, C, E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron. The study further suggests that vegetarian diets may be ideal for weight management.
Decreased Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is an all-too-common condition. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Individuals consuming more phytochemical rich foods (plant-based foods) not only have significantly lower blood pressure, but they have a decreased risk of developing hypertension as well.
There is good evidence to suggest that animal products increase the risk of atherosclerosis (the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in the artery walls). Transitioning to a plant-based diet may reduce cholesterol as much as 35%.
Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Recent estimates show that nearly 10% of Americans are affected by diabetes. Even more alarmingly, the number of cases of diabetes among children is on the rise. This disease results when blood sugar is consistently too high, most frequently due to insulin resistance.
Although genes can play a role in the development of diabetes, lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, have a larger impact. A high-fat, low-fiber diet drastically inhibits the body’s ability to adequately process sugar. Consuming more fiber and nutrients found in a plant-based diet can protect against developing diabetes and may even be a viable means of treatment for diabetics.
Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The typical American diet contains large amounts of sugar, salt, cholesterol, and fat. This is a major contributing factor to the high incidence of coronary artery disease.
A conscious, mindful effort to maximize health benefits per calorie while minimizing potential harmful exposures may provide the answer to this growing problem. A plant-based diet is by definition low in fat, cholesterol, salt, animal products, and sugar. As a result, a plant-based diet may lower the incidence of heart disease.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
Higher consumption of meat, especially red meat (eg, beef, pork, lamb) and processed meat (eg, bacon, hotdogs, lunch meat, chicken nuggets, jerky, and other salted or cured meats) is linked to a variety of cancers in a number of studies. Additionally, diets high in fat encourage the production of estrogens, which also contribute to the incidence of cancer.
Although there is not a lot of conclusive research involving plant-based diets and cancer risk, the evidence that does exist is compelling. Reducing meat consumption not only lowers the incidence of cancer, but it has also been used as a means of cancer treatment.
Reduced Risk of Kidney and Gallstones
Diets high in protein, especially animal protein, cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. These byproducts are the main components of urinary tract stones. A diet rich in plants and lower amounts of animal protein have been shown to reduce the incidence of kidney stones and gallstones.
What About Protein?
Some people worry about whether a vegetarian diet can provide enough protein. However, it is very easy to have a well-balanced diet with plant-based foods. A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans provides adequate protein. Although there is somewhat less protein in a plant-based diet than a omnivorous diet, this is actually an advantage. Excess protein is a contributing cause of kidney stones, heart disease, osteoporosis, and some cancers.
How to Make the Switch to Plant-Based Eating
Even if you aren’t ready to eliminate all meat or animal products from your diet, there are still steps you can take. Simply decreasing your intake of animal products and working towards eating more plant foods is a huge step. Being more mindful and deliberate about eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will benefit your health in the long and short run.
You may consider removing meat from your diet intermittently or for a period of time. Cleansing on a regular basis can help renew your relationship with food. A plant-based cleanse may help to increase your self-awareness, mental clarity, and mindfulness selecting foods.
Want to learn more about cleansing? Come join the Clean Slate Cleanse! We provide all the support, guidance, recipes, and other resources you need to take a positive step for your health and hit the reset button on your relationship with food.