There are hundreds of reasons why people make the switch from a predominately processed and meat-filled diet toward vegetarianism or veganism. Most of these reasons are pretty individual and personal, tied to emotional decisions. I’m in no way trying to tell people how to eat. If anything, years of hiding broccoli under mashed potatoes when told to eat it has proven that the only person who can change the way you eat is yourself.
This list contains only a few reminders of what is going on inside our bodies and out in the world that we may want to pay attention to. If they help convince you to eat even a tiny bit better, then they have done more than I ever hoped. Ultimately, you, and only you, control what you put in your mouth.
- Health – Health is probably the biggest reason people adopt a plant-based lifestyle of any kind. Vegans and vegetarians are less likely to develop many diseases and disorders that continue to plague first world nations. These include inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and yet it is also easily prevented with healthy food choices that include much more whole-food plant options like fresh fruits and vegetables. People who eat more plant foods feel better and have fewer digestive problems. Even those who adopt plant-based diets part time get amazing health benefits.
- Slim Down – Vegans weigh less than those who eat meat and they have far lower rates of obesity. Unlike meat and processed food, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain a large amount of fiber and are usually much lower in calories. This means you fill up faster, feel satisfied, and manage to eat less. Vegans do still have to limit themselves when it comes to vegan junk foods and processed foods that have become more available in grocery stores and whole food markets though.
- More Energy – We are severely lacking in nutrients even as we over-consume calories. Animal products and processed foods may provide some basic nutrients, but our bodies need the multitude we’re missing from plant foods like the antioxidants that protect our cells from damaging stress. Many of these antioxidants are still being discovered and studied for their host of health benefits. We’re also missing minerals, good fats, and vitamins that nourish cells, boost energy, protect, revitalize, build important enzymes, and even go into making the right hormones and neurotransmitters we require. Feel more energetic fast by giving your body what it’s missing.
- Live Longer – Literally. Vegans live on average 6 to 8 years longer than meat eaters. The antioxidant rich diets protect cells from damage, prolong life, and stave off many degenerative illnesses much longer. Vegans need and use less pharmaceutical drugs too.
- Save the Environment – The livestock industry is built on waste and pollution. The animals give off huge amounts of methane and the transportation of feed and livestock burns through massive amounts of fossil fuels. About 18 to 20% of all human air pollution comes solely from the livestock industry. It uses more land and water than plant-based foods to make and also contributes to deforestation as more land is required to feed and maintain the animals.
- Feed the World – Once again, the livestock industry is wasteful. It takes an insane amount of feed to create a steak or pork chop. That feed is actual plant food, mainly grains, which could be going toward people instead. It takes more land and more water too, that could be going toward people as well. World hunger will only become a bigger problem if we continue to focus on meat as a large part of our food sources worldwide.
- Help Animals – Whether you feel a moral obligation toward animals or not, there are few who would disagree that the conditions for livestock are deplorable. Factory farms are overcrowded, disease ridden, and often downright cruel to animals throughout their short, brutal lives.
- Avoid Food Poisoning – About 80% of all food poisoning comes from contaminated animal products. Food poisoning isn’t the only concern. There are other bacteria, hormones, and antibiotics flooding our meat and dairy too. Highly processed and grilled meats also contain toxins that contribute to cancer.
- The Right Amount of Protein – Most of us get way more than the daily requirements of protein. This excess protein has to be dealt with one way or another. The extra calories lead to weight gain and fat storage while it also puts more strain on the kidneys to get rid of them. We only need about 10 to 15% of our calories from protein. Plant foods naturally contain the right percentage to provide us with the right amount of protein if we eat a variety of them.
- Delicious – Vegan cuisine is much more than twigs, bark, leaves, and berries. There is a huge variety of foods and recipes to choose from and many of them are beyond delicious. Decadent desserts, savory soups, tasty stir fry, and so much more are still on the menu. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor by eliminating something from your diet.
- Flowage – Around 80% of people suffer from constipation at some point in their lives, that’s tens of millions of people each year. This can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or even plain old painful. A diet rich in fiber and water and low in calories makes it easier to go when you need to.