Most animal-based products—even including chicken, shrimp, dairy and eggs—are high in cholesterol, which is linked to a risk for coronary heart disease. Plant-based meals, on the other hand, do not contain any cholesterol. Eating vegan lowers our blood cholesterol and reduces our likelihood of getting heart disease, the number one reason we die.
Obesity, increasingly recognized as a chronic progressive disease itself, contributes to the development of a number of other diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and even depression. Eating a plant-based diet is associated with a healthier weight, with its attendant benefit of protection against multiple chronic diseases.
Acne, the plague of many teenagers, has been associated with the consumption of milk and egg proteins. In addition, eating antioxidant-rich foods assists in protecting our skin and reducing the impact of sunburns. Antioxidants are everywhere in plant-based foods—in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts—but rarely found in animal products.
Eating fiber offers protective benefits against cardiovascular, circulatory, digestive, and inflammatory diseases and is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and some cancers. Meat and other animal products do not contain any fiber, while a whole foods plant-based diet makes it really easy to get adequate fiber.
Adult onset diabetes, which sometimes leads to chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplants, can be managed well and even reversed on a plant-based diet. Vegan diets have been shown to better improve blood sugar control and are associated with a substantially lower incidence of diabetes even after controlling for weight.
A Mediterranean-style diet—with a higher emphasis on produce, legumes, grains, and healthy oils compared to the standard American diet—has been associated with better brain health as we age. Reducing our consumption of meat helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline and prevents the loss of brain cells equivalent to about three or four years of aging.
The vast majority of antibiotics produced in the US are intended for use in the livestock industry. The current overuse of antibiotics in our factory farms encourages the growth of deadly and drug-resistant superbugs, a lurking threat to our public health. Whether it is swine flu or avian influenza, their ultimate origin is our animal-centric diet.
Phytochemicals are compounds that assist in the smooth functioning of many of our body's systems. Whether it is the anthocyanins in berries which help protect vision or the carotenoids in carrots and cantaloupe which help prevent cell damage, plant-based diets are full of phytochemicals which improve our health and the quality of our daily lives.
Processed food companies and pharmaceuticals are not sufficiently vested in our health—we are the ultimate guardians of our bodies. It is up to us to make choices to eat better and take the under-prescribed medicine—a healthful diet. Let’s start eating more plant-based meals and stay healthy, fit and strong!