We’ve all heard the stereotypical myths of plant-based diets—think under-nourished, salad-loving hippies. Despite the criticism, plant-based eating has become one of the most popular diets around the world. Propagated by the popular Netflix documentary, Game Changers, and the lengthy list of vegan celebrities and athletes—Russell Brand, Ellen Degeneres, Natalie Portman, Arnold Schwarzenegger (mostly vegan), Serena Williams, Mike Tyson and Chris Paul—for many, a plant-based diet is more than just a fashionable trend; it’s a way of life.
If you find yourself contemplating going green, here are five scientifically proven reasons to give plant-based diets a try.
#1 Going Plant-Based Helps You Lose Weight
Not only does eating a plant-based diet promise to lower your cholesterol and make your skin glow, it also helps you lose weight. Despite the common misconception that “carbs make you fat”, unrefined carbohydrates—like those found in whole plant foods, including oats, sweet potatoes, and bananas — are consistently associated with decreased body fat.
So, if your weekends consist of endless boozing, cheeseburger munching and pizza scoffing, a plant-based diet might help you shed those extra pounds (as long as you combine it with exercise). A recent study suggested that those who followed a plant-based diet lost more weight than those who followed an omnivorous diet.
#2 You’ll Smell Better
Go ahead—raise your armpits and take a whiff! Smell fresh? Scientists think plant-based dieters smell better! A recent study analyzed the sweat of those who ate a plant-based diet and found that the smell produced a floral, fruity, sweet and medicinal odor. Do you need more reason than that?
#3 You Might Live Longer
More than 60% of all global deaths are due to chronic diseases, with poor diet considered a major contributory factor in all of them. In fact, the leading cause of chronic disease is “diet,” which even beats out smoking.
Despite recent diet trends that promote eating more animal-based products while avoiding carbohydrates, the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBDS) concludes that the top four foods we need to consume more of in order to reduce our overall risk of mortality are fruits, nuts/seeds, vegetables, and whole grains. The GBDS calculated that roughly 1 in every 5 deaths worldwide could be potentially saved if human beings simply ate more of these unrefined plant foods. The same study found that processed meats—bacon, ham, hot dogs—were responsible for 800,000 deaths annually.
While these statistics are startling, by sticking with a plant-based diet, you just might live longer. While going green isn’t for everyone, plant-based diets certainly reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. A plant-based diet also helps prevent obesity and significantly reduces the symptoms of arthritis-sufferers. An Oxford study suggests that adopting a plant-based diet could cut 8.1 million deaths per year.
#4 Get More Out of Your Workout
Your muscles primarily run on glycogen, a form of carbohydrate stored in your liver and muscle. Not only that, your brain’s primary fuel is carbohydrates. Without carbs, your focus and sharpness significantly decrease and your energy level depletes, especially during intense training sessions.
Research suggests diets built around meat and other animal products provide dietary fat at the expense of carbohydrates. Unlike carbs, animal fat can’t produce energy fast enough to meet the demands of intense exercise, which impairs the benefits of physical training. In fact, low-carb diets (like the keto diet) have been shown to cause so much fatigue that even your motivation to start a training session, let alone finish one, significantly decreases.
To get the most out of each workout, carbohydrates are your ideal source of energy and will fuel you through each training session and help you recover more quickly. Additionally, plant-based diets lead to decreased body fat and increased muscle tissue, which upsurges your body’s metabolism and keeps the weight off.
#5 Eating Vegetables Boosts Your Immune System
I’m guessing no one needs to tell you that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. But just in case you’ve forgotten everything your parents tried to teach you, fruits and vegetables are chocked-full of essential vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and immune-boosting vitamin C. And even if going completely plant-based isn’t for you, adding a 5-a-day fruit and vegetable mantra to your balanced plate will help you look and feel your best while fighting off infections and viruses.
Whether you’re a competitive athlete, weekend warrior or someone who simply wants to look and feel better at work, at home and everywhere in between, eating more plants and fewer animal products can have a significant effect on your overall health. And if you’re worried that plant-based food is boring, there are innumerable and delicious ways to eat fruits and vegetables. If you need some inspiration, head to Gymondo and check out 100s of easy-to-make plant-based recipes. Who knows, you may just love it!