Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Photo of vegetables at the market

Vegetarian diets are healthy, nutritionally complete and delicious. They are suitable for people at all ages and stages of life, including infants, the elderly and athletes. According to the American Dietetic Association, a comprehensive vegetarian diet is associated with good health, reduced disease and better management of any existing health problems.

“Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

Albert Einstein

Here are ten benefits of giving up meat and fish and focusing your daily meals on vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.

  1. Less animal cruelty. By being vegetarian you save between 371 and 582 animals each year. This includes both land and sea animals. That’s at least one animal’s life saved each day you are vegetarian.
  2. Lower risk of disease. The consumption of both processed and red meat is associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, and processed meat is also linked to increased risk of stomach cancer. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts as a group 1 carcinogens which means that there’s strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer.
  3. Lower body weight. Many animal-based foods are high in fat and calories. A vegetarian diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. It is lower in fat and calories, and high in fibre which also assists with weight management.
  4. A longer life. People who eat a meat diet that is heavy in saturated fat have been found to die an average of 13 years earlier than people who eat a healthy vegetarian diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. 
  5. Ease perimenopause symptoms. Foods rich in phytoestrogens, especially soy, have been found to help regulate female hormones and reduce some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with the menopause transition such as hot flushes. Between one third and a half of all women have the specific gut bacteria that is required to convert the soy isoflavone (phytoestrogen) to the more potent form called equol. 200g of tofu or 100g of tempeh per day is the amount required to achieve a beneficial effect.
  6. Better digestion. Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre and assist with healthy digestion. This in turn improves metabolism and the elimination of toxins from the body. It takes between 24 to 72 hours to fully digest meat as opposed to less than a day for vegetables.
  7. Reduce climate change emissions. The farming of livestock is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. Calculations released by the United Nations in 2006 say that approximately 18% of the global total emissions came from animals bred for meat. That’s more emissions than cars, planes and other forms of transport put together.
  8. Less world hunger. As the world population grows it is increasingly less viable to feed the majority a predominantly meat based diet. It takes approximately two and half times the amount of land to feed a person a typical meat diet compared to a vegetarian diet. Scientists have found that if we didn’t eat meat or dairy, global farmland could be reduced by 75% and still feed the world’s population.
  9. Save water. It takes a lot more water to produce meat than vegetables and grains. 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water depending on the type, compared to between 500 and 4,000 litres for 1kg of wheat and 287 litres for 1kg of potatoes.
  10. Save money. Good quality meat is more expensive than healthy vegetarian foods!

Click here for a list of 20 famous vegetarian women of today.

Resources and links for further reading: