Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Chad Sarno on the benefits of plant-based cooking

You’ve probably heard the joke “How can you tell if someone is a vegan?” Answer: “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you – over and over again.” Yes, our pro-plant community is so stoked on eating this way that we shout it from the rooftops. Forgive us. We just want to inspire people to eat more plants. It’s soooo good in so many ways! Maybe you’re eating “flexitarian” these days. Or maybe you’re just trying to move toward eating less meat? Go for it! Even eating just one plant-based meal a day will do you and the planet a world of good. We plant pushers tend to go on and on partly because the benefits of a plant-based diet are so vast. Here’s an overview of just the top three benefits to your health, the environment and, of course, the animals.

Plant-based diets can boost your personal health 

With Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat everywhere, you may have noticed that plant-based eating has gone mainstream. According to aggregated statistics, there are now about 88 million plant-based eaters worldwide. Hell yeah! That’s partly because the advantages of plant-based diets have been well researched in various countries and because healthcare providers often recommend this way of eating to their patients. With more and more incredible results from reliable peer-reviewed studies, the benefits of a plant-based diet for personal health are undeniable. Eating more plants has been shown to help support a healthy weight and reduce risk of major diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

It goes beyond your physical condition. Being healthy includes your emotional, intellectual, social, economic, and spiritual health. Consciously choosing to eat more plants can have an amazing effect on your overall health. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your own well-being. Everyone’s health journey is different and that one simple choice to eat more plants can really help. Wicked Kitchen is here to make the journey as fun and delicious as possible. Not sure where to start? Here’s Wicked co-founder Derek Sarno on the PlantStrong podcast talking about how he got into plant-based cooking after a moment of unthinkable loss that led to profound compassion.

Vitamins A to Zen

Plant-based diets improve your physical well-being by providing the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health. Concerned about getting enough protein? Don’t be. You don’t need much. Check out our complete article on plant-based protein and how much protein you really need each day.

If you go full-on vegan, there’s only one nutrient you really need to keep in mind: Vitamin B12. This vitamin is abundant in meat and dairy products but less so in plant-based foods. Seaweed and shiitake mushrooms are decent sources of vitamin B12, as are breakfast cereals and soy milk, which are fortified with it. Another fantastic source is nutritional yeast, or nooch as we call it. Nooch is a dry pantry staple that keeps forever and has a cheese-like flavor. It tastes great in all kinds of sauces, creamy soups, mashed potatoes…almost anything! Just 1 tablespoon (3.7 g) of nooch provides 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12, the recommended daily amount for adults.

Other than that one vitamin, you can rest assured you’re getting everything you need—and then some—on a plant-based diet. Take fiber, for instance. Plants are much higher in fiber than animal products, so eating a lot of plants gives you all the benefits of a higher-fiber diet, which includes helping reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Fiber helps improve your digestion, too. There’s even some research showing that plant proteins like pea protein and soy protein can keep you feeling full longer than animal protein, which may help prevent overeating. And it’s no secret that colorful vegetables and fruits are packed with scores of key vitamins and other beneficial “phytochemicals” (plant compounds). These micronutrients play a huge role in helping ward off disease. Like mom always said: Eat your vegetables!  

Need more convincing? How about this: Plant-based foods can help you get deeper sleep because they stimulate the release of serotonin. And more vitamins and micronutrients can help improve your brain function. Better sleep and clear thinking put you in a better mood and that improves your productivity. With a zen-like state of being, your whole body and mind can operate optimally. From decision-making to digestion, plant-based eating just helps your day go a lot smoother! 

Plant-based is planet-based

It’s clear that eating plant-based is good for the planet. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that food production worldwide contributes more than one-quarter (26%) of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. According to the UN panel, a shift to plant-based eating is the most significant and actionable way that individuals can help reduce their environmental impact. ‘Going plant-based’ — even for just one meal a day — can reduce your carbon footprint by nearly 60%, according to another study. A more recent and more comprehensive study found that every time you enjoy a plant-based meal instead of a meat-heavy meal, you reduce your environmental impact with:

  • 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • 46% less water use
  • 25% less land use
  • 34% less biodiversity loss

Our friends over at Beyond Meat agree. You’ve probably seen their Beyond burgers at your local grocery store, or maybe even at McDonald’s. The company’s CEO, Ethan Brown, puts it this way: “The decisions you make about what you put in the center of your plate are far more important than the decisions you make regarding what type of lightbulb you put in your house or what type of car you drive in terms of impact on climate.” Amen. 

When you opt for a pro-plant diet, you’re doing the planet a favor! We haven’t even scratched the surface on this one. Numerous studies show all the different environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, including reduced water usage, helping to prevent air pollution, helping to prevent water pollution, reducing overfishing and improving the health of our oceans, cutting back on deforestation, and increasing the availability of the world’s arable land. We feed land animals inordinate amounts of food to produce meat. It’s estimated that 700 million tons of food that could be consumed by humans goes to livestock each year. Bottom line: being pro-plant means being pro-planet. 

Give a shift about the animals

Here’s the most obvious benefit: Not eating animals helps the animals! With billions of beloved pets around the world, it’s a real wonder that people aren’t more compassionate about animals used for food. We raise and slaughter billions of animals every year for no other reason than to eat them as meat. These animals are usually grown in crowded, unsanitary conditions that force us to pump the animals full of antibiotics so they don’t get sick. There’s definitely something wrong with this picture. Our solution: eat more plants. 

It’s easy and it’s worth it 

You’re obviously here because you’re thinking about a plant-based diet. Want to see what kind of impact you could have right now? Crunch the numbers on this plant-based calculator. It shows you how many animals, forests, gallons of water, pounds of grain, and kilos of carbon emissions you could save by making this one simple dietary choice. For instance, by swapping out just one meat-centered meal a day for a plant-based dish instead, after only one month, you will have saved 30 cute animal lives, 913 square feet of beautiful forest, 33,481 gallons of precious water, and 620 pounds of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. Just one meal a day for a month will do all that good! Get started by making some of our simple recipes here.

If you want to read more, have a look at our article on How to Start A Plant Based Diet For Beginners. If you need more inspiration, check out Derek’s TED talk. This impassioned video shows you why Derek cooks plant-based food all year long. As he says, “There are so many reasons to eat plant-based, and any reason that resonates with you is the best reason.” Here’s to your Wicked health!

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