Humans are naturally omnivorous, with front teeth that can tear meat along with molars to pulverize plant foods. Our long digestive tracts efficiently process meats, fruits, vegetables and grains. Because humans can and do eat all sorts of food, a decision to dine upon plants in lieu of animal flesh is more about ethics, ecology and philosophy than pure science.
That’s what biologists say. Take a minute to ask someone who enjoys a balanced, plant-based diet how they feel, and chances are good they’ll mention a marked improvement in many aspects of their life. Vegetarians and vegans who get their nutrition from non-meat sources report myriad benefits that include weight management, increased energy, lower grocery bills, a smaller carbon footprint and an overall sense of lightness and well-being. Great bennies, to be sure, but that’s not all you can expect from a plant based diet.
Improve heart health
Several studies conclude that people who focus their feasting on vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and fresh fruit may reduce their risk of heart attack. Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and other respected researchers affirm a plant-based diet’s efficacy at arresting and even reversing cardiac disease.
Feel full with far fewer calories
A typical American fast food meal of a burger, fries and cola drink weighs in at a whopping 1,140 calories, most of which come from unhealthful fats and white flour. For roughly the same caloric intake, a plant eater can consume eight cups of mixed salad with creamy hummus dressing, two apples, two bananas and two cups of yummy blueberries.
Reduce cancer risk
The American Cancer Society recommends reducing or eliminating consumption of beef, lamb and pork products for optimal human health. The official ACS website, Cancer.org, refers to studies that prove a link between a mostly- or all-plant diet and significantly reduced instances of colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
Better for you, better for the planet
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) determined that growing and preparing a single hamburger patty produces as much greenhouse gas as driving a 3,000 pound SUV a distance of ten miles, according to Scientific American magazine. Acres devoted to agriculture produce significantly more food than the same amount of land used to graze livestock.
Spend less on groceries
Americans are fooled into believing that cheap fast food is more economical than a vegetarian diet. Actually, this is not the case at all. According to registered dietician Carole Bartollo in Huffington Post, a family of four can buy a meal at McDonald’s for around $24. That’s one medium burger, an order of chicken nuggets, two Big Macs, four medium orders of French fries and four small drinks. For less than half that price, four people can share a big pot of tasty lentil soup, a mixed veggie salad, sparkling water and several pieces of fresh fruit for dessert.
Lose weight easily
Most plant foods offer far more bulk than calories. Lessen or even eliminate your daily intake of meat and cheese, limit intake of nut and plant oils, and you will probably lose weight without a whole lot of effort.
Everyone’s got to eat. Food provides energy in the form of calories, and it does make a difference where those calories come from. “Empty” calories may offer a temporary boost of short-term energy, but offer nothing in the way of nutrition. To achieve and maintain optimum health, humans should consume whole, minimally processed foods along with ample amounts of fresh, clean water.