For the past four years, I committed to a vegetarian lifestyle. The decision came after watching the documentary, Forks over Knives. Have you seen it? After viewing the evidence-based studies on several individuals living with heart, cancer, arthritis, obesity, and other chronic diseases, the film and the featured physicians and professionals convinced me to make a change. Research tells us that chronic conditions are costly and put a significant burden on the health care system. Today, the National Council on Aging reports that 92 percent of older adults live with one disease.
The problem with chronic diseases–they strip away our independence to perform the easy to do daily tasks:
- driving a car.
Eating more vegetables and fruit, and less meat will help mitigate the potential development of a chronic disease. And if you’ve considered switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, here are the reasons to take the leap.
- A vegetarian diet can lower your body weight through eating fewer calories. In the book by Kerrie K. Saunders, 2003, The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, reports that studies illustrate a plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism, causing it to burn calories faster compared to a meat-based diet (for at least the first 3 hours after meals.)
- A vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol levels – a study by the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital reported that specific plant foods can reduce cholesterol as effectively as a drug treatment. The study compared a diet of known cholesterol-lowering, vegetarian foods to a standard cholesterol-reducing drug called lovastatin. The diet consisted of nuts (almonds), soy proteins, oats and barley and leafy green vegetables.
- A vegetarian diet lowers the risks of chronic conditions – studies show that meat eaters are more likely to develop these chronic illnesses compared to a vegetarian.
To confirm the findings, here is a list of benefits and health changes that I’ve experienced since changing to a vegetarian (but mostly vegan) diet:
- Lessened eczema outbreaks – I struggled with chronic dry skin but now I rarely have an episode.
- Better mood – I experience less stress at work or during life challenges.
- Sleep better – I fall asleep almost as soon as the head hits the pillow, rarely tossing and turning or waking up in the middle of the night with trouble sleeping.
- Have fewer sick days (actually, none at all) – before the switch, I developed colds at least twice a year. In the four years eating a plant-base diet, I have been healthy and not once have come down with a cold or flu–not ever in four years!
- Have more energy – I can easily walk two hours daily with ease
- Lost 10 lbs.
Committing to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle will not guarantee the same results, but they might. It’s suggested that if you plan to make the switch, do so slowly. Try eliminating meat one day of the week and work your way to complete elimination, and of course, exercise. But before making any drastic diet change, consult your physician or medical team. I’m glad I made the change. Today, my body craves eating vegetables, nuts, and fruit when hungry and not sodas, chips, cheese, and processed meats.