Great Reasons to Adopt a Plant-Based Diet

Those who have chosen to go vegetarian — and then who transition to vegan — appreciate knowing that their food choices can not only be tasty and healthy, but compassionate and humane as well. Not to mention the enormous benefit of whole-food plant-based diet to our rapidly deteriorating environment.

Did you know that vegan diets:

…are arguably the most healthy way to eat. Numerous studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower rates of obesity (a significant and timely point, now that our nation has become so fat, with 300,000 Americans dying each year of obesity-related diseases, according to our Surgeon General), heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and adult-onset diabetes.

…give their practitioners the edge against cancer. Studies show that death rates from cancer are much lower than those experienced by the general population. Research has shown that vegetarians have a stronger immune system, possibly due to higher than average intake of vitamin-packed vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fiber-rich plant-based diets may reduce the risk of cancers of the digestive organs.

…help guard against gender-related cancers such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, and prostate cancer.

…protect against heart disease. Health experts agree that eating foods high fiber and complex carbohydrates can help reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, plant-based proteins reduce cholesterol levels, while animal protein raises them.

…help avoid some of the most virulent forms of food-borne illnesses caused by e coli, salmonella, and listera. Food-borne illness, a majority related to contaminated meat, sickens 750,000 Americans each year enough to send them to hospitals (this doesn’t count unreported cases) and is believed to kill about 5,000. Food-borne illness is particularly dangerous to children, whose immune systems may not be developed enough to withstand the dangers of contaminated meat products. Other benefits of plant-based diets are numerous and include:

Weight control: It’s hard to get fat—or stay fat—on a balanced vegetarian diet. Grains, legumes, many types of vegetables, and soyfoods are bulky and filling, yet contain little or no fat. They provide a feeling of fullness that keeps the body fueled and satisfied for hours.

Economy: It’s hard to match the economic value of bulk grains and legumes supplemented with fresh produce carefully chosen in season. Even a ready-to-eat food such as tofu aver ages about $1.75 a pound—less expensive than quality meats and fish. Variety: Those who eliminate meat almost inevitably discover a world of diverse foods. And diversity is not only fun and appetizing, it’s also a healthful way to eat, ensuring a balance of essential nutrients.

Ecology: Many environmentally aware consumers derive satisfaction from “eating low on the food chain” —that is, getting the bulk of their diets from plant-based foods. It’s not only good for the body, reducing the intake of pesticide and animal antibiotic residues, but also for the planet as livestock deplete enormous land and water resources. Consider that:

  • Raising livestock contributes to the loss of millions of tons of irreplaceable topsoil each year.
  • It takes 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, as compared to 390 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.
  • Livestock produce massive amounts of excrement, which has been shown to pollute soil, water, and air.

Compassion: Animal agribusiness is one of the cruelest practices imaginable. Millions of sentient creatures are subject to confinement, overcrowding, disfigurement (as in the common practice of debeaking poultry) only to face an equally cruel demise in the slaughterhouse (which, by the way is no picnic for its human workers). I can’t imagine enjoying the results of such misery on my plate. A primarily plant-based diet is a more humane way to enjoy the fruits of the earth.

Animal agribusiness also primarily goes to feed those who already have enough to eat. The tons of grain that used to feed animals each year could be put to better use by feeding it directly to those who need it most.

Good company: Some of the world’s most brilliant and influential people have practiced and promoted the vegetarian way of life, including Pythagorus, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Gandhi, Charles Darwin, George Bernard Shaw—just to name a few. Wouldn’t you like to join them?

Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas

  • For more tips on plant-based nutrition, make sure to browse VegKitchen’s Nutrition page.
  • For lots more features on healthy lifestyle, please explore VegKitchen’s Healthy Vegan Kitchen page.
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4 comments on “Great Reasons to Adopt a Plant-Based Diet

  1. Sandy Lubinski

    I went vegan for health reasons and was able to get off 3 blood pressure medications I had been on for over 20 years. I also went vegan for weight control. My all time high was 182 pounds; a size 16. I am now 120-125 on any given day and wear a size 0-2. I feel better than ever and love being plant based!
    I post often on my facebook page to assist others who want information. I am a frequent quest on a local talk radio show in Bullhead City, AZ: KAAA & KZZZ, name of Super Nurse Sandy. Yesterday I did a seqment on Healty Holiday Cooking, Vegan style. I discussed how to make a Tofurkey, with all the fixings. I work at Bullhead Urgent Care Center where we have a Wellness Program, run by Dr. Don Wagner. We have books, videos, and offer Dr. McDougall’s vegan Right Foods (delicious, healthy, quick convenience foods) for sale.

  2. Linda A.

    I began my vegan journey June 18, 2011 for health reasons – after reading “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. C. B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. I began with an 8 week TRIAL of his plant-based diet. and began to feel better almost immediately.

    I recently read the “China Study”, and know that this is the eating plan for me! I am excited about cooking again – and truly enjoy every bite!

    After 3 months, my cholesterol had dropped 32 pts. Now … with 5 months behind me, I have also lost 32 pounds. I love how I feel, and the direction my health is headed :)

  3. Nava Post author

    Sandy and Linda, your comments are such great endorsements of the plant-based lifestyle! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with VegKitchen readers.

  4. Dmitri

    I’m Eastern Orthodox and every year, we have two 6-week periods (in addition to other periods in the year) where we eat basically a vegan diet. At the end of each 6-week period, I have typically lost anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds plus saved a bit of money that I give to charity. Vegan diets work! One of these times I’m going to continue on with being vegan (or near-vegan, I love cheese and yogurt!) even after the “fasting” periods and see what happens. :)

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