I recently stumbled my way into eating a plant based diet. I must admit that I was shocked a few days in when I hadn’t died or crumpled into a malnourished ball who’s only chance of survival was to eat double bacon cheese burgers with a side of steak. In hindsight I’m not too sure why I was surprised. For years I had heard about the benefits of eating a plant based diet, things like higher and more stable energy levels, better health outcomes, and a leaner Body Mass Index (BMI). It wasn’t until my wife and I had gone through our normal routine of batch cooking (read How I lost 10 Pounds Without Exercising to learn more about batch cooking), and one of the meals was vegetarian that I had my first sustained experience without eating meat. You see the day after we had prepared these meals my wife had a business trip that lasted a few days. Without thinking too much about it I started working my way through the vegetarian meal first. Then about two and a half days in I had this realization that I hadn’t eaten any meat during that time. My mind was blown. I’m pretty sure that was the longest I had gone my entire adult life without eating meat, and I was still alive?!
It wasn’t until I had this experience that I really thought this was a path I could walk down. I mean I had always eaten and enjoyed meat. Why would I give it up? But the stark reality was sitting right in front of me – I felt fine, in-fact I felt great, and I wasn’t experiencing any cravings for meat. When I went back and looked at my grocery bill it was surprisingly small. Those factors combined with what I had heard about plant based diets meant that I might well be on my way to implementing yet another life altering habit that could simultaneously improve my happiness, health, and wealth all at the same time. So, I had to do my due diligence. What follows is what I discovered.
Plant Based Diets are Healthier
- Studies show that vegetarians are 19% to 25% less likely to die of heart disease. (Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. for a number of years and accounts for roughly 23% of deaths annually).
- Hundreds of different studies show that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, a byproduct of eating a plant based diet, can reduce the risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. (Cancer has been the second leading cause of death in the U.S. following closely behind heart disease accounting for roughly 22% of deaths annually).
- Research also indicates that eating a predominately plant based diet can help you avoid developing type 2 diabetes. (Diabetes, the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., including both type 1 and 2, account for approximately 3% of deaths annually).
Plant Based Diets Increase Happiness and Lower Rates of Depression
- Studies indicate that eating a plant based diet is actually better for increasing your happiness compared to adhering to other types of diets (and all this time I thought bacon was the key to happiness).
- There are a variety of antioxidants and nutrients that are more prevalent in a plant based diet which act to chemically improve your mood.
- Greater fruit and vegetable consumption is positively associated with reduced depression, less psychological distress, fewer mood and anxiety problems, and improved perceived mental health.
Sources: PCRM and Blue Zones
Plant Based Diets are Less Expensive
- Switching to a plant based diet could save a person on a 2,000 calorie per day diet about $750 per year compared to the MYPlate federal guide.
- It was recently demonstrated that a person can eat a plant based diet for less than $5 per day (Yes, that says per day, not per meal).
Below are some recent pictures of receipts from my weekly grocery shopping trips. Be honest, do you spend this little on your grocery bill for two people?
Plant Based Diets are Better for the Environment
- “Shifting away from animal-based foods [could not only] add up to 49% to the global food supply without expanding croplands;” but would also significantly reduce carbon emissions and waste byproducts that end up in our oceans and as seafood byproducts (Jalava et al, 2014).
- “The same dietary changes that can add about a decade to our lives can also prevent massive environmental damage…In particular, if the world were to adopt variations on three common diets, health would be greatly increased at the same time global greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by an amount equal to the current greenhouse gas emissions of all cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships. In addition, this dietary shift would prevent the destruction of an area of tropical forests and savannahs as large as half of the United States.”
The following graphic from the World Resources Institute really brings home the magnitude of the differences in environmental impact when comparing plant based diets to animal based diets.
Hopefully that is enough information to get your wheels turning. Whenever I run into a lifestyle design choice that offers me a longer healthier life, increases my wealth, adds to my happiness, and is ecologically better for the environment I have to at least consider it.
As things stand right now (06/2019), my wife and I have dramatically reduced our meat intake over the past four weeks but have by no means eliminated it entirely. I think that is one thing to keep in mind with these plant based diets is that you don’t have to stop eating meat entirely but rather change the proportion of meat you eat relative to everything else. As a result we are already seeing a savings on our weekly grocery bill. Realizing the health affects may take several decades, but what I can say is that our waist lines are starting to shrink again for the first time again in about a year. The last time this happened was when we made our initial switch to focusing on home cooked meals. By batch cooking we made it more convenient and cost effective for us to cook at home than eating out (again see How I lost 10 Pounds Without Exercising).
I hope you give a plant based diet a try. I believe this is one of those small decisions that will have an enormous impact on your life.
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