12 Real Health and Weight Loss Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
By Lucy Clark, wlr
The benefits of being vegetarian encompass health, weight, longevity and even saving the planet!
Vegetarians tend to be healthier, live longer and are less likely to become obese than their meat-eating counterparts. However, it's important to remember that quality of diet still counts.
While becoming a vegetarian can help you lose weight and reduce your obesity risk, going veggie doesn't guarantee weight loss - calories from plant based foods count just as much as those from meat and fish.
Eating a vegetarian diet full of junk food won't help your weight or make you healthy. For an idea of how to lose weight on a veggie diet, take a look at our vegetarian weight loss meal plan
12 Reasons to Become Vegetarian
Our 12 science-backed benefits might be just enough to encourage you to give vegetarianism a try! There are resources to get you off to a good start below the list.
1. Live longer
Following a vegetarian diet can increase your life span and lower your risk of death.
Recent studies1 have shown that following a vegetarian diet improves your mortality rate by up to 12%!
All of the health benefits mentioned below accumulate to improving mortality and decrease risks of chronic illnesses. You’ll be surprised by how much a meat free diet can help your body inside and out!
2. Lose more weight
Choosing a vegetarian diet will help you lose weight more effectively according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition2.
Research found that a vegetarian diet could be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2 kg for the conventional diet.
You could potentially lose twice as much weight following a vegetarian diet, so what are you doing still eating meat?!
3. Lower blood pressure
32 studies3 have collectively shown that following a vegetarian diet can lead to lower blood pressure in comparison to omnivorous diets.
Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium but rich in potassium, characteristics that help to lower blood pressure!
4. Lower cholesterol
Plant based vegetarian diets are commonly associated with lower cholesterol levels due to reduced intake in saturated fats and an increased intake of plant based foods, a recent study has shown4.
Researchers believe the link between vegetarian diets and lower cholesterol can be found in the increased intake of plant foods that are naturally rich in components such as fibre, soy protein and plant sterols.
Why not start switching the pork in your casserole for plentiful pulses?!
5. Lower the risk of bowel and colon cancer
Those who follow a vegetarian diet can reduce their risk of colon cancer by up to 22% a recent study from the University of California has shown5.
Many people are already aware that eating less red or processed meat, regardless of if you chose vegetarianism or not, will reduce your risk of colon and bowel cancer.
6. Lowers risk of becoming obese
A vegetarian diet could cut your risk of becoming obese by up to 43%6 supporting recommendations to make the shift to diets rich in plant foods, with lower or no intake of animal foods.
7. Protects against common bowel disorders
Vegetarians are a third less likely to get diverticular disease – a common bowel disorder.
The University of Oxford’s researchers7 believe this may be due to the increased amount of dietary fibre consumed within a vegetarian diet.
8. Helps with chronic kidney disease
Individuals with kidney disease must limit their amount of phosphorous intake and research8 has shown that following a vegetarian diet can help this.
Patients following a vegetarian diet had lower blood phosphorus levels compared to those on a meat-based diet according to the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology.
9. Lowers risk of heart disease and stokes
A new study9 has shown that, after analysing 451,256 Europeans, people who followed the most pro-vegetarian diets had a 20% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
High cholesterol and blood pressure play an important role in the prevention of heart disease and we already know that following a vegetarian diet lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol. Results clearly showed that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower compared to non vegetarians10.
Researchers explain how they hope their new findings will empower people about the long term cardiovascular health benefits of following a vegetarian diet, which will include reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death.
10. Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
The portfolio of foods found within a vegetarian diet may carry metabolic advantages for the prevention of type 2 diabetes by 50%.
A vegetarian diet rich in plant based foods is low in fat and supplies your body with fuel that helps to contribute to more stable blood sugar11.
11. Glowing skin
Studies12 have shown that high GI foods such as white bread, potatoes, and white rice can make acne worst.
A vegetarian diet is packed full of low GI foods, hence the belief that a vegetarian diet can improve your skin and leave you glowing!
12. Reduce your carbon food print
Following a vegetarian diet can not only improve your health but can also help slash greenhouse gas emissions13.
Current research14 shows that by 2050, emissions could increase by 80% if diets continue to involve eating less fruit and vegetables and more animal products.
Livestock raised for food contributes to 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, following a vegetarian or vegan diet could cut those emissions by between 63-70% by 2050.
So is Being Vegetarian Healthy?
The evidence shows that eating a vegetarian diet is more likely to lead to good health than a diet that includes meat. However, it's important to take into account the type of foods you eat. You'll still need to moderate highly processed foods packed with fat, sugar and calories to maintain a healthy diet.
If you're thinking of becoming a vegetarian and wondering where to start with what to eat, take a look at our vegetarian diet plan or low calorie veggie recipes.
Cancer Research UK's Veg Pledge
You could try going vegetarian for a month, boost your weight loss and raise money for Cancer Research.
Cancer Research UK are challenging people to go vegetarian for November to raise money for the charity.
If your friends and family think there's no way you could go meat free for month, prove them wrong whilst raising money for a great cause!
For more information check out Cancer Research UK.
You can use the WLR food diary and database to monitor and balance your vegetarian diet. You'll also see how many calories and other nutrients you need and consume. Start a free trial here.
- Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death
- Vegetarian dieting may lead to greater weight loss
- Vegetarian diets associated with lower blood pressure
- Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Vegetarian diet linked to lower risk of colorectal cancer
- Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could cut obesity risk
- Diet and risk of diverticular disease in Oxford cohort of European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)
- Vegetarian Compared with Meat Dietary Protein Source and Phosphorus Homeostasis in Chronic Kidney Disease
- Semi-veggie diet effectively lowers heart disease, stroke risk
- Vegetarianism can reduce risk of heart disease by up to a third
- Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes
- Growing evidence suggests possible link between diet and acne
- Live long? Save the planter? Better diet could nail both
- Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary changes