It is always said that going vegetarian will make you lack important nutrients. While the American Dietetic Association clarified that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”. A study done in 2013 also proved that vegetarians live longer than non-vegetarians by almost 20%. Below are the specific great changes you’ll undergo when you stop eating meat.
1. Your Skin Will Start to Glow
The benefits of going meat-free can be external too. According to holistic nutritionist Susan Tucker MD, the founder of Green Beat Life, the higher amounts of minerals, antioxidants, and fiber included in plant-based diets help detoxify and lead to clearer skin. Plant-based diets can lead to the clearing of common skin problems like eczema and acne.
2. Your Body Will Be Less Acidic
Tucker explains that processed foods, and animal products, like milk and cheese, lead to an acidic environment in the body. Over-acidification causes commonly felt symptoms like nausea, fatigue, headaches, and fogginess. Plant-based diets are more alkaline, counteracting over-acidification and its unwanted symptoms. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and sprouted grains can help boost energy and clarity.
3. You’ll Start Consuming the Right Types of Protein
A common misconception of transitioning from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one is that your body won’t receive the protein it needs to function properly. McMacken explains that the average meat and vegetable eater consumes more than 1.5-times the amount of protein it should from animal sources. Excess protein is then stored as fat and can result in weight gain and more serious issues like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The protein you consume from a plant-based diet actually helps prevent a number of chronic diseases. According to Janice Stranger PhD, author of The Perfect Formula Diet, the longest-living people on earth receive 9-10% of their total calories from protein. The average American now receives roughly 15- 20% of their total calories from protein.
4. Your Cholesterol Levels Will Decrease
Like inflammation, high blood cholesterol levels can lead to stroke and heart disease. Animal products, like meats and cheeses, are high in the saturated fats that cause high cholesterol and ultimately harmful heart conditions.
According to McMacken, studies consistently show that those who switch to a plant-based diet undergo a blood cholesterol drop of up to 35 percent. Plant-based diets are low in saturated fat and high in fiber — two characteristics that lead to dropping blood cholesterol levels.
5. You’ll Probably Lose Weight
There are a number of ways to lose weight when choosing a plant-based diet. Many lose weight when they first make the switch due to finding their protein in lower-calorie food sources, like tofu and other vegetarian-friendly products.
A recent study published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that participants prescribed a vegetarian diet experienced an average weight loss of 7.5 pounds. Meals high in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains can lead to even more rapid weight loss.
6. You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Common Diseases
One of the biggest perks of making the change to a plant-based diet is that you’ll reduce inflammation in your body, and ultimately, reduce your risk of many serious diseases. According to board-certified internal medicine physician Michele McMacken MD, those who eat diets full of meats and highly processed foods experience elevated levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to autoimmune diseases, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and a number of other serious conditions.
Naturally anti-inflammatory plant-based diets are full of phytonutrients, like antioxidants and fiber. They typically include fewer dietary elements that lead to chronic inflammation, like saturated fats and toxins.
7. You’ll Feel Better About Your Impact on the Environment
Choosing a plant-based diet has as much of a positive impact on the environment and wildlife as it does on you. According to a 2014 article published in Pacific Standard, animal agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The animal agriculture industry causes more greenhouse gas emissions than can be linked to all forms of transportation.
The industry uses an irreplaceable amount of the earth’s forests, water, and wildlife habitats. Choosing to go plant-based means you’re taking a stand against the destruction of earth’s resources and its inhabitants.
Tips for Achieving Your Goal
Stopping your meat consumption “cold turkey” may not be easy. However, the Vegetarian Society offers some helpful tips for first-timers making the transition to a plant-based diet.
- Don’t feel like you have to make every change at once. If you’re having trouble cutting out meat entirely, start by reducing your meat consumption one meal at a time.
- Ask your doctor or a nutritionist for help. It can be difficult to know exactly how to stay healthy and energized on a plant-based diet at first. A qualified doctor or nutritionist can help you determine the difference between healthy choices and not-so-healthy ones.
- Go easy on yourself. It’s not easy for anyone to switch their diet in a day, so don’t be discouraged if you’re struggling to make the change. Go easy on yourself, give it another try if you have a “cheat day,” and refer back to the benefits of going plant-based for inspiration.