Thriving on a plant based diet has never been easier

In Opinion

Over 78.6 million people—one-third of the U.S. adult population—are obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart disease and cancer top the list of leading causes of death in the U.S., yet over 60 percent of those deaths could have been prevented with minor changes in diet and activity.

It’s a serious wake-up call to re-evaluate the everyday food choices many students make today.

Obesity rates are rising and an estimated 30 percent of all diseases and one-third of all cancers are related to diet, according to the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

There’s no better time to consider a plant-based lifestyle.

Choosing to go meat-free yields a considerable amount of health benefits. Studies show vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer, according to The American Heart Association.

“Fatty red meats and many processed meats are high in saturated fat, which raises low density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol and increases risk of coronary heart disease,” Dr. Rachel K. Johnson of The American Heart Association said to Women’s Health Magazine.

Herbivores also enjoy a smaller waistline by eliminating unnecessary fats and cholesterol from animal products. Eating healthy means a lower rate of obesity, ensuring a longer and a much fuller life. Eating more fruits and vegetables provides essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, folic acid and vitamins A, E and C, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Along with raising your immune system, these essential nutrients promote better digestion, lower blood pressure and provide a healthier appearance.

Despite questions concerning if a plant-based diet provides enough calcium and protein, a balanced diet can be achieved without animal products.

Most Americans already consume more protein than their bodies need, according to The American Heart Association.

Consuming too much saturated fats from meat can lead to increased risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. A higher risk of kidney and liver disease can affect those who aren’t able to process high amounts of protein.

Consuming enough protein, calcium and vitamins in a plant-based diet is easier than ever, due to the variety of natural sources already present in everyday foods.

Legumes (beans, peas and lentils), tofu, whole grains, nuts, spinach and broccoli provide wonderful sources of protein that can satisfy and exceed daily recommended amounts. Soy products in general infuse a protein-packed meal into any diet, without any cholesterol or the levels of saturated fat in meat.

There’s also the benefit of knowing you’re making a compassionate choice by not supporting factory farming. It’s well-documented that animals slaughtered for consumption are treated cruelly, often spending their entire lives injected with hormones and crammed into tiny cages.

Choosing to go meat-free will mean taking a stand for compassion. When it comes to health and wellness, ensuring a balanced diet along with physical activity is always essential.

If eschewing meat altogether is a big step, incorporating more fruits and veggies is a good way to start. Sticking with meatless Mondays is a great way to see if a plant-based diet is right for you.

Eating a greasy burrito, washing it down with a soda and having ice cream for dessert is technically vegetarian, but that’s clearly an unhealthy diet to sustain.

With any diet, the same principle holds true: avoid processed foods. Processed foods are typically high in sodium, sugar, artificial ingredients and trans fats, which have been proven to bring poor health and disease.

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