The Health and Environmental Benefits of Following a Plant-Based Diet

There's been a growing trend toward working more plants into people's diets and either cutting down on meat or eliminating it altogether. Is this the right choice for you? It's important to recognize the different ways you can help yourself and the environment, improve your health, and even change the world by giving up animal-based foods.

Types of Plant-Based Diets

Vegetarian and vegan dietary regimens can range from highly restrictive to a simple removal of a few items. The most simple and closest to an omnivore diet is ovo-lacto vegetarian eating. Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but they do eat eggs and dairy products. Some vegetarians abstain from animal products like eggs and milk, too. Vegans do not eat any animal products at all, eliminating foods like eggs, dairy, and honey. And whole-foods or plant-based diets focus on eating non-processed foods.

Health Benefits

With any plant-based diet, the health benefits are unmistakable. Plants are often more nutrient-dense than meat, and most people are lacking in nutrition in their diet. You may lose weight and will definitely be able to eat more and feel more satisfied. You'll also lower your chances for heart disease and diabetes, your cholesterol, and even your odds of cancer.

Environmental Benefits

Cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas, when they digest food. But that's not the only way that meat production harms the environment; the burning of fossil fuels to bring the meat to market, the electricity expended to keep it cool, and the processing required are all terrible for the environment. An animal eats more plants to become meat than a human would if we simply ate the plants ourselves. This is also true for water. On top of that, animals need far more farmland than plants, so meat production takes up more space on the planet. Adopting a vegetarian, vegan, or whole-foods diet is good for the environment as well as your health.

Tips to Be Plant-Based

A great way to start a diet like this is to begin with just a few days a week. This will give you the ability to test out your new eating plan, see if it works for you, and get used to what you may need to cook and eat to make it work. Once you've gotten that down, you can expand the amount of time you spend eating your new diet. If you're trying to eat a whole-foods diet, keep in mind that not all whole foods require a huge amount of prep. Nuts, seeds, and fruit can be fast and easy just like processed foods without being unhealthy.

Tips for Kids

Kids have unique health requirements that require thought when switching to a diet that's based on plants. Making sure a kid gets enough protein means a focus on tofu, eggs, and nuts. Oatmeal and cereal are beloved by kids and great for this lifestyle, too. It's important to consult with a doctor for a child's health, but it's possible and fun for kids to go on these diets and help themselves and the environment at the same time!

Written by

Tomas Hoyos

Tomas is the co-founder and CEO of Voro, the healthcare social network where people share doctor recommendations with their friends and neighbors. Tomas loves a good book and mostly writes about current events in healthcare and tips to stay healthy. Prior to co-founding Voro, Tomas was a healthcare investor and investment banker. Tomas is a graduate of Harvard University where he majored in Government.