We should all know by now that all food is not considered equal, especially when it comes to our health. We can also all rattle off what nutrients certain foods contain, but do we really know what eating certain foods does to our bodies over time? Or what happens if we remove certain foods from our plates?
With World Vegetarian Day on October 1, we are reminded of the benefits of choosing plant foods over animal products. Here are just some of the reactions our bodies have once we stop eating meat in favor of plant-based foods.
You will improve your heart health
It’s no secret that the leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease. Both cholesterol and saturated fats play a huge role in the development of cardiovascular disease, and both are found in high amounts in meat products, as well as other animal products. Plant-based foods, on the other hand, contain no cholesterol whatsoever and nowhere near the amounts of saturated fats. In fact, a 35 percent drop in blood cholesterol is possible for those switching from a meat-laden to plant-plentiful diet. Higher amounts offiber in whole plant foods also help lower cholesterol levels, leading to an overall reduced risk for heart disease over time.
You will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
Time and time again, science has shown a link between eating meat and developing type 2 diabetes. As many as one in three adults in the U.S. have prediabetes, the stepping stone to the full-fledged condition, according to the CDC. Luckily, your trajectory can be reversed by switching to plant-based foods. In fact, by incorporating whole grains into your meals—yes, those “evil” carbs—you can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight gain.
You will get adequate protein from healthier sources
Perhaps the most startling thing that happens when you say goodbye to meat is that your body gets all the protein it needs from plant foods. Yes, you heard that right, the ubiquitous Protein Question is actually not worth fretting over, as a well-balanced, plant-based diet provides all the protein you need. America’s obsession with protein means people are getting at least 1.5 times more of the stuff than our bodies know what to do with. This can create consequences in the long run, seeing as animal protein has been linked to cancer, heart disease, inflammation and diabetes.
You will experience less inflammation
Acute inflammation comes as a typically normal process within our bodies, but chronic inflammation is a whole other animal. Meat, cheese and processed foods have been tied to inflammation, which can be responsible for developing—you guessed it—heart disease, strokes and autoimmune disease. Fortunately, plant foods are packed with anti-inflammatory properties, and you will see them dominate lists of anti-inflammatory foodswe all should include in our diets.
You will improve your gut health
Our gut microbiome contains trillions of microorganisms who either help or hinder our digestion and other biological processes. Diets low in fiber, like those high in animal products, were found to trigger the growth of disease-promoting bacteria in our guts, namely a toxin called TMAO. This substance ties right back to heart disease by increasing hardened plaques in blood vessels. When plant-eaters are given a meal with meat, however, their microbiomes produce little or no TMAO, thanks to a completely different ecosystem than meat-eaters. There are also plenty of vegan probiotic sources to give your gut a boost and keep it balanced and healthy.