Believe it or not, the benefits of a vegetarian diet are endless. Adapting to this way of eating may take some getting used to—but you probably won’t be sorry you converted to a plant-based lifestyle after reaping the many health and nutritional benefits. Here are six reasons to consider going meat-free.
1. A Lower Body Weight
If you’re overweight or obese, switching from a carnivorous diet to a vegetarian meal plan may help you shed unwanted pounds. A 2016 review published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that vegetarian diets (especially vegan diets) are more effective for weight loss than non-vegetarian diets. This makes sense, as many animal-based foods are high in fat and calories—but plant-based foods are higher in fiber (which aids in healthy weight management).
2. Reduced Risk of Disease
Following a primarily plant-based diet appears to protect you against a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Harvard Medical School says vegetarians tend to eat more vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients (and less cholesterol and saturated fat). Therefore, this population group often has lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and body mass indexes.
The American Cancer Society says processed meat causes cancer, and red meat probably causes cancer, as well. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine notes that large studies have shown vegetarians have a 40 percent lower risk for developing cancer than meat eaters. Just one more reason to nix meat.
3. Less Animal Cruelty
While some farms provide animals with humane lifestyles where they can roam freely in pastures and fields, that’s not always the case with some livestock farms. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says about 10 billion farm animals in the U.S. are raised in sub-par conditions that many consumers would not find acceptable. Not eating meat means fewer farm animals suffering in cruel conditions.
4. Reduced Carbon Footprint
A reduced environmental impact is one of the most discussed benefits of a vegetarian diet. Eating less meat can lower your carbon footprint—meaning fewer greenhouse gases emitted. Penn State Extension says agriculture contributes about 6 to 7 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock like cows, goats and sheep are the main contributors to the greenhouse gas methane.
5. Fewer Hormones Ingested
Hormones are added to meat and milk, there’s no doubt about it. One 2015 review published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health found that the presence of steroid hormones in foods could be a risk factor for cancer, and is a public health concern. Choosing organic foods lowers your risk of ingesting hormones, but these foods are often much more costly than non-organic products.
6. Cost Savings
High-quality organic cuts of red meat can be expensive, which is why nixing meat altogether can save you money. Because your health and wallet can reap benefits, you may want to consider a meat-free lifestyle.