Think beyond meat!
Our diets are determined by personal choices or imposed by traditions and culture. For instance, many people adopt a vegetarian diet, either to have a healthier lifestyle or for social causes like protecting the planet and being animal-friendly. Whereas, for several others, meat is the highlight of a meal. But, did you know? ̶ cutting back on non-vegetarian items in your diet can significantly enhance your health.
A vegetarian diet can offer unique benefits to your body as well as the environment. Research over recent years has demonstrated that consumption of animal products can adversely impact our health in the long run, especially in terms of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. These days, people are becoming more health-conscious and prefer a vegetarian lifestyle to achieve improved health outcomes, such as reduced obesity, a lower risk of heart disease, and lower blood pressure.
So, whether you are considering a shift to a vegetarian diet or you’ve already been incorporating it for years, let’s explore some of the advantages of keeping meat away from your daily meals.
What does Science have to say?
The BBC mentioned a research finding by scientists at Leiden University in the Netherlands, “One hundred billion tonnes of carbon dioxide could be removed from the air by the end of the century through veggie diets plus re-wilding farmland.” Dr. Paul Behrens, the head of the research team, described switching to vegetarianism as creating “a double whammy” of positive impacts because a vegetarian diet not only saves “a huge number of emissions by avoiding emissions from animal-based agriculture,” but also saves land, “which can be used to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.”
Similarly, a Harvard Medical School article “What’s the beef with red meat?” mentioned a clear link between the consumption of red meat and processed meats and an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. A large study by the University of Oxford in 2021 discovered that processed meat is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease and urged the public to either minimize their red and processed meat consumption by three quarters or completely quit it.
Vegetarians may outlive meat lovers- Here’s why
Low blood pressure: A recent study revealed that, on average, vegetarians have lower blood pressure, implying that such a diet can be recommended to optimize blood pressure among people who need an intervention.
Lower risk of mortality: In 2013, research involving over 70,000 people found that vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of death compared with non-vegetarians. With diets lacking saturated fats and cholesterol that clog arteries, vegetarians may be at a lower risk of chronic diseases.
Enhanced moods: A study in 2012 split participants randomly into three diets, namely: all-meat allowed, fish-only, and completely vegetarian. The researchers found that after two weeks, the people on a strict vegetarian diet reported having mood improvements than those following the other diets.
Less chance of cardiac disease: A 2013 study analyzing 44,000 people reported that vegetarians were 32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease.
Lower risk of cancer: Researchers at Loma Linda University in California examined different versions of the vegetarian diet and cancer risk among people. They discovered that a meat-free diet may offer protection against carcinogens, where vegans seemed to have the lowest risk of developing cancers. This is especially true when it comes to cancers that are most common among women, like breast cancer.
Reduced risk of diabetes: Studies have proved that vegetarians are at a lower risk of developing diabetes than non-vegetarians. The diet itself cannot cure the disease; however, it can lower an individual’s risk by helping them improve blood sugar control.
Less chances of obesity: As per research work published, vegetarians tend to be leaner than meat eaters, and they also tend to have lower cholesterol as well as body mass index (BMI). Some data suggests that a vegetarian diet can assist with weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy body weight over time.
Decreased asthma symptoms: Previous Swedish research declared that a vegetarian diet, specifically a vegan one, may reduce asthma symptoms. Twenty-two out of 24 participants who followed a vegan diet for a year experienced improvements, including less dependency on medications. It can be assumed that certain animal foods may produce an allergy or inflammation response, so removing these foods from the diet can reduce these responses.
Better bone health: Osteoporosis rates are found to be low in countries where people predominantly eat vegetarian diets. Animal products may cause the removal of calcium from the body, resulting in bone loss and osteoporosis.
Contribution towards the Environment: A vegetarian diet can be considered sustainable due to its benefits to the environment. The greenhouse emissions for non-vegetarian meals fall in the high range, thereby resulting in a larger carbon footprint than vegetable or grain production. In fact, a meat-based diet can increase carbon emissions 2.5 times more than a plant-based diet. These greenhouse gases lead to global warming and climate change around the world.
Moreover, the animal husbandry and dairy industries require large land spaces and huge quantities of water. For instance, manufacturing a single chicken breast requires over 140 gallons of water. Cattle, in particular, can take up more agricultural land than other domesticated animals and crops combined! In contrast, plants generally don’t require as much water throughout their lifetime compared to their yield. Additionally, vegetarian meals need less than half the agricultural land as compared to domesticated animals. A study by the European Commission revealed that a vegetarian diet could reduce water consumption by 27% to 41%.
Every bite counts!
Fact 101- A vegetarian diet increases your chances of boosting your overall health and reducing health risks.
Adopting a vegetarian diet can be a perfect way to stay healthy and happy. Athletes, sports people, movie actors, and many other famous celebrities are examples of how plant-based meals can keep you healthy, fit, and energetic.
The renowned Sadhguru once shared his views on vegetarianism: “What kind of food you eat should depend not on what you think about it, or on your values and ethics, but on what the body wants. Food is about the body. Ask the body what kind of food makes it really happy. If your body feels very agile and energetic, that means the body is happy, for you can consume foods that are plant-based and light, like vegetarian foods, which can be easily digested, leaving the body fresher. If the body feels lethargic and needs to be pumped, it indicates that the body is not happy, which means that the food is not well digested. This happens due to a lot of meat intake, as meat takes a very long time to digest; it makes the body feel down and low.”
In recent years, the focus has shifted to vegetarianism, with studies confirming the health benefits of meat-free diets. Plant-based foods are recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient, but also a way to reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses. Additionally, vegetarian food gets digested easily, takes less time to cook, offers many health benefits, and most importantly, saves you money. Vegetables are essential for our healthy living and they also support a sustainable lifestyle. Integrating a plant-based diet can be a great way to stay healthy and planet-friendly.