With the world’s staggering rates of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases, the role food plays in our lives – and how it is making us sick – has become increasingly prevalent. In the midst of the hundreds of obscure fad diets with self-proclaimed magical benefits, the plant-based diet has emerged as a consistently effective way of eating that can provide a wide range of benefits.

So what exactly is a plant-based diet? As the name suggests, a plant-based diet revolves around plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Also, zero animal products (meaning no meat, eggs, or dairy). Given the lack of animal products, you may by thinking, so you’re asking me to be vegan?

Not exactly. Before you scoff at this article and navigate away to watch more Tasty videos, let me explain the subtle, yet important, differences.

Veganism is defined by its creator, Donald Watson, as, “A way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.”

Veganism is not just a diet, it’s deeply rooted in animal rights and requires excluding any animal products from your entire life. 

Someone who follows a plant-based diet, on the other hand, is not necessarily a vegan. An absence of animal products in a diet doesn't necessarily mean it is plant-based. For example, French fries, white bread, and some candies are vegan because they don’t contain animal products, but these are not plant-based. You could be vegan and continue eating processed foods, sugar, and imitation meat.

A plant-based diet requires eating whole foods, while still allowing you to keep your favorite leather jacket. Read on for more reasons to switch to a plant-based diet.

1. It helps prevent chronic disease.

Type 2 Diabetes is largely a preventable disease, yet nearly 400 million people suffer from it. Eating more fruits and vegetables lowers the chances of developing diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. One shocking study even found that animal proteins “turn on” cancer genes, and reducing intake of animal products could “turn off” cancer genes. The plant-based diet has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, aid digestion, and prevent constipation from increased fiber intake.

2. It can make you feel more energetic.

People eating a plant-based diet have consistently found themselves to be happier, stronger, and more energetic. Better yet, a plant-based diet can boost your immune system.

3. It’s better for the environment.

beer, wine, alcohol
Photo courtesy of Cowspiracy

According to the film Cowspiracy, it takes 660 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger (the equivalent to showering for two months). One to two acres of rainforest are cleared every second for animal agriculture, which is also responsible for 91% of Amazon destruction. Additionally, livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 13% from all transportation)!

4. It can help reduce world hunger.

Lauren Kruchten

The U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain it feeds to livestock. World hunger isn’t an issue of scarcity, it is an issue of resource allocation and distribution.

5. It saves money.

vegetable, pasture, pepper, legume, garlic, chili
Emma Delaney

Eating a plant-based, whole food diet doesn't have to break the bank. You can make a week's worth of plant-based lunches for under $15, even by shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's

6. It can clear up acne.

blueberry, berry, pasture, bilberry, sweet, blackberry
Aurelie Corinthios

Cutting back on animal products (especially dairy) will lessen your intake of saturated fats, which is a culprit for clogged pores and acne. Plus, the pigments and vitamins in fruits and vegetables contribute to healthy skin.

7. It can help with weight loss.

Those on a plant-based diet tend to consume fewer calories because fruits and vegetables are lower in calorie density. If you are trying to lose some weight, a plant-based diet can leave you feeling fuller on fewer calories, making weight loss easier.

8. You'll be like Beyoncé, Jay Z, Ariana Grande, and Liam Hemsworth.

What do these celebrities have in common besides being absolute #goals? They have all are eating a plant-based diet. Other pro-plant celebrities include Jennifer Lopez, Ellie Goulding, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Miley Cyrus.

After all this, you may be thinking, how will I get enough protein? Don’t fret – vegetables have protein in them. Not to mention nuts, beans, and legumes, are all chocked full of protein and part of a plant-based diet. Check out this article for to learn where to get your protein.