The 6 Surprising Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet
Tired of being hammered over the head with a head of lettuce about eating more plants? Fair enough. But eating more plants - whether you want to call yourself plant-based or not - has some pretty powerful perks when it comes to your health, way beyond a smaller jeans size (though research has shown losing weight is one of the top benefits of a plant-based diet). Read on to find out what they are and give that kale in your crisper a second chance.
1. Plant-Based Eating Is Easy (Really!)
“While there’s no official definition of a plant-based diet, many people take it to mean that you’re eating more plants but that you may be eating a flexitarian or vegetarian diet,” says Amy Gorin, RD, an NYC-based registered dietician. Being vegan is a little more extreme, she adds, restricting all animal products like eggs, fish, and even honey. For those not willing to give up their Sunday scramble, adopting a 'plant-leaning' or 'plant-forward' approach is a nice middle-ground to help you begin to integrate more plants and fewer animal products into your diet. Learn more about the distinctions between the labels plant-based, vegan, plant-leaning and more here.
2. You Can Lower Your Risk of Certain Diseases
It’s not just the lack of meat that goes along with a plant-based diet, but the shift in what you’re adding to your diet instead of your usual foods. “People who eat pulses (such as chickpeas, white beans, and lentils) regularly are 22% less likely to be obese,” Gorin says. “Beyond weight loss, eating a vegetarian diet can also help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.”
3. Plant-Based Eating Can Boost Memory
A 2014 study published in Trends in Food Science & Technology suggested that plant-based diets can improve your memory largely by preventing the degeneration of the mind. The researchers argue that, since bodily stress and inflammation can lead to degenerative diseases and neurodegeneration, it’s important to have a diet that helps minimize these issues and a plant-based diet are able to accomplish this.
4. It’s Way Healthier for the Planet
A major contributor to client change in the United States is the means by which we support meat-based diets. According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “The U.S. food production system uses about 50% of the total U.S. land area, 80% of the freshwater, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country.” As the population increases, so does this number.
On the flip side, a 2014 study of Europe’s meat and dairy intake found that lower livestock production leads to 40% lower nitrogen emissions along with 25–40% lower greenhouse gas emissions. By not eating meat, or simply lessening the amount of meat in your diet in favor of plants, your impact on the earth and your carbon footprint lessens with it. It’s also worth noting that it’s easier and more practical for many people to raise their own fruits and vegetables than livestock, so if you are able to take your plant-based diet “in-house” and grow your own plants, you’re able to continue cutting down on this impact and be more sustainable. Read more about what difference one person can make by switching to an entirely plant-based approach here.
5. Plant-Based Eating Works As a Long-Term Diet
Many diets serve as quick fixes, helping you get healthy and lose weight fast, only to gain every pound back the moment you stop it. And the reason you have to stop them is because many of these diets are too restrictive to realistically live off of indefinitely. But plant-based diets offer a functional take on a healthier lifestyle, meaning that the steps you take forward in your health are more likely to stick.
6. It Can Help Fight Seasonal Sickness
Beyond slashing your risk of chronic and long-term disease, a plant-based diet can also keep you from getting the common cold or the flu each year. Switching to a diet that centers fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and forgoes animal products has been proven to strengthen your immune system and fend off seasonal illnesses such as the flu. Adding more plants to your diet ensures that your body receives plenty of antioxidants which are key in defending your immune system and reducing your risk of disease.