By Rachael Kaplan, Virtual Intern
Every year around this time (or more than a month ago now because the editor The Veggie Queen, Jill, got too busy to post this), hordes of people flood the gyms and the diet aisle at the grocery store in hopes of improving their health in the New Year. This year, rather than switching to unappealing and unhealthy diet foods or getting stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, why not adopt a diet that’s good for your health, the environment, and your wallet? The benefits of a plant-based diet are limitless!
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like: a diet that is centered on plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Most of the time, plant-based diets also exclude animal products, like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, and milk. To put it simply, the plant-based diet focuses on eating whole, unprocessed plant foods to promote health.
The Benefits of a plant-based diet include the following:
A plant-based diet can improve your health
Plant-based diets are likely to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are good for supporting heart health.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which can help regulate bowel health, control blood sugar, and help you maintian a healthy weight.
Plant-based foods are generally lower in calories, which can help you maintain your weight. Additionally, studies have shown that vegetarians usually have lower BMI (body mass index) s and lower rates of obesity.
Research has shown that following a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of hypertension, heart attack and type 2 diabetes, cancer due to the decreased saturated fat and cholesterol and the increase in fiber and phytochemical intake.
A plant-based diet is better for the environment
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 1/5 of the world’s greenhouse gases are generated by livestock production. That’s even more than the greenhouse gases produced by transportation! Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, geophysicists at the University of Chicago, estimate that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by 20%, it would have the same environmental effect as if we all switched from a standard sedan, like a Camry, to a Prius
Saves Natural Resources
One pound of wheat uses about 108 pounds of water, while one pound of beef uses over 20,000 pounds of water! Of all the water used in the US, over half goes to livestock production and 70% of all US grain is fed to farm animals. If all the grains fed to animals in western countries were fed to people instead, we would be able to feed twice as many people as we do right now.
You can save money by adopting a plant-based diet
It saves you money now
Unfortunately, plant-based diets (and healthy foods in general) have a bad reputation of being expensive. While comparing the costs of fresh fruits and vegetables to the $1 burgers and fries readily available, it can seem like eating healthy is impossible to do on a budget. On the other hand, whole grains, legumes, and beans can be bought in bulk and can add up to just a few cents per meal. That doesn’t seem so bad when you think about how much you would be spending on convenience food that’s not nearly as filling or nutritious.
It will save you money in the future
One of the best investments you can make is in your future. As mentioned before, plant-based diets can help prevent many chronic diseases, which could end up costing you thousands of dollars in medical bills in the future. Switching to a plant-based diet now can actually save you money in the long-run.
So this year, focus on a lifestyle change that will actually make a difference. Start out by trying some of the delicious plant-based recipes here on The Veggie Queen’s blog and by trying out some recipes in her book, The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment or The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes.
Here are some tasty recipes to get you started