Why people choose to give up meat can be a mystery for many. After all, most of us are brought up to seek meat to get protein. Not to mention, when cooked right, our steaks, fried chickens, and many more can be quite the irresistible savoury delight.
Despite all that, however, more and more are turning to plant-based diets, with some becoming vegetarians who abstain from eating meat, and with others transitioning to veganism, a stricter form of vegetarianism that also gives up animal by-products like eggs, dairy, and more. It's a difficult decision to make, but why do they find vegetarian and vegan diets necessary? Three women share what made them shift to greener diets, and how this choice changed their lives — plus, 10 reasons why you should consider a vegetarian or vegan diet, too.
For an overall healthier body
Some go for a plant-based diet in pursuit of better health. Celebrity raw chef Boey Yin Yin, simply called as Raw Chef Yin, cites that as her main reason. "In the early 1990s, I became aware of how meat wasn’t good for our bodies — I read about this in books, magazines and newspaper articles so I started cutting out on chicken, beef, lamb," she recounted. Raw Chef Yin initially started with a pescetarian diet, still eating some seafood to get some protein, but she found she can still get all the nutrients her body really needs even if she totally gave up all animal products. This finally led her to slowly transition to a vegetarian and finally to a vegan diet around the mid-2010s. Being a chef, she has found incredibly delicious ways to reinvent vegan food that's totally palatable for all. In making the shift, she exclaimed, "Seriously, one doesn’t need a “cheat day” at all!"
For losing weight
If you're planning to go on a weight loss journey, going on a vegan or vegetarian diet is one of the lifestyle shifts that you could help you with your goal. It is believed that plant-based diet could promote weight loss because the fibre-rich foods vegan or vegetarians consume boost the metabolism. Joslyn Lim, the woman behind @lovekindeat, an Instagram food account about comforting vegetarian recipes share that her newly converted husband felt lighter and more energetic a few months into his journey, noting that "in the first three months, [my husband lost] about 6 kg without any extreme exercise, and his waist [was reduced] to 28 inches from 32 inches."
For better sleep
There is evidence that plant-based diets also promote better sleep, and consequently, lower risks of cardiovascular diseases. The high isoflavone (protect against osteoporosis, loss of cognitive function) and tryptophan (helps with sleep quality) content of plant-rich diets are some of the reasons why a vegan or vegetarian diet could potentially give you a good night's sleep, according to a 2019 study.
For better skin
Another benefit Raw Chef Yin got from being a vegan is having better skin. She shares that going meatless helped her recover from 30 years of suffering from eczema. As vegetables and fruits are abundant in skin-loving antioxidants like vitamin C, E and A, Chlorophyll, CoQ10 and more, consuming a good plant-based diet can indeed have a good impact on the skin and may even prevent ageing.
For lower type 2 diabetes risk
Conscious of your sugar consumption? If you feel that eating alternatives to sugary and salty snacks isn't enough and you want to cut back on sugar more to lower your type 2 diabetes risk, you can try going on a vegan diet. Switching to a plant-based diet has shown that it promotes better hormone regulation in the long run.
For less costly groceries
It's a common misconception that a plant-based lifestyle can be an expensive one to maintain. However, if you stick to basics and simple veggie meals, you won't break the bank.
Christina Talosig, a pre-school teacher and a pediatric nurse who shares her vegan life on her Instagram @bonitapeteat can speak for this. "There are a lot of cheaper substitutes available out there," she pointed out. Take it from Raw Chef Yin, who suggested filling your meals with fruits and vegetables that are readily accessible for cheap in your local market. "I spend about USD100 on my groceries per month. That’s not expensive at all," she added, saying, "It only gets expensive if you’re eating gourmet vegan food all the time or you’re eating pre-packaged vegan food, which is most probably not healthy anyway because most of it is highly processed."
If you want to cut back on groceries, consider substituting meat for protein-rich vegetables like edamame or mung beans. This is especially a practical shift to consider as meat prices continue to surge amidst supply disruption during the pandemic.
Plant-based dishes are faster and easier to prepare
Compared to preparing meat, which often needs to be cooked for long periods of time for safety and tender texture, plants are easily cooked. In fact, whipping up a sumptuous salad could only take 15 minutes or even less. "For over 30 years, most of my food is plant-based, vegetables, greens, fruits, tofu. It is simple, inexpensive, and nutritious," Joslyn shared. Eating all those doesn't have to be boring and bland either; there are a ton of vegetarian recipes out there that are easy to cook.
May reduce food poisoning
Meat that is not cooked well is one of the main causes of food poisoning as it can be contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella. In contrast, a vegan or vegetarian diet is less susceptible to food poisoning, a 2018 study suggests. Even so, it's still good practice to always thoroughly wash your greens.
Care for animals
What really secured Christina's decision to become vegan was when she learned eating meat impacts the environment as well. After watching another documentary entitled Earthlings, Christina realised that "animals aren’t here to be served to us to have functions for us but rather, they deserve to have a normal life without conditions and without fear that they’ll be used or eaten by humans." In recent years, the meat industry has received scrutiny for practices that are deemed unethical and cruel including inhumane slaughter methods, torturous conditions for animals and so on.
Joslyn shared that her choice to be a vegetarian was inspired by her beliefs and morals. "I love all living souls on earth," she professed, and as a Buddhist, she believes "we should not kill any of them" to lead a peaceful life without violence. Perhaps inspired by her and his love for her, she says her husband also turned to a vegetarian diet eight years ago.
Care for the environment
There are many ways to save the environment, but one of the biggest impacts that you can make is to go vegan or vegetarian. Eating a plant-based diet or even just less meat can lessen the strain on Mother Earth, as cattle require more land and water which drives deforestation and contribute to water scarcity. Meat, especially beef, also contribute a lot of greenhouses gases which is one of the main drivers of global warming.
With these reasons, vegetarianism and veganism aren't just diets — they become an ethical way of living for people as well.
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