Ugh, 2017 — am I right? Just about everyone I know had a crazy year marked by feelings of helplessness and frustration. It's hard to watch the news without being triggered, let alone to find the time to eat right or figure out how to make the world a little better. Fortunately, there's one simple new year's resolution you can make for 2018 that will not only better your health but save lives and protect the planet: going vegan.
Adopting a plant-based diet will help you meet your health and fitness goals while also flexing your muscles of compassion. Since I went vegan over two years ago, I can honestly say I've never felt healthier or more empowered. My only regret is that I didn't know all the benefits of making the switch sooner.
So with that in mind, here are eight reasons to make going vegan your 2018 new year's resolution.
It Will Protect Your Long-Term Health
Unless you missed the awesome documentaries What the Health and Forks Over Knives on Netflix, you've probably heard by now that adopting a plant-based diet is one of the all-around healthiest things you can do. Vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Eating meat, dairy, and eggs, which are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, nearly doubles your risk of heart disease and raises your risk of diabetes by 22 percent. A plant-based diet, on the other hand, significantly lowers both risks, sometimes even reversing the diseases. One study suggests that removing dairy from the diets of migraine or asthma sufferers can significantly improve their conditions.
It Is an Easy and Healthy Way to Lose Weight
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If your goal is to shed some pounds in 2018, you should know that a vegetarian diet has been proven at least twice as effective for weight loss than a meat-based diet. Generally, vegans weigh less than people on other diets, and most people lose weight after making the switch, sometimes without changing any other lifestyle habits.
Your Skin Will Probably Clear Up
It's common knowledge that dairy is a leading cause of acne. Researchers have proved that certain products produce and stimulate hormones linked to breakouts, especially cow's milk. And it's no wonder — cow's milk is full of estrogen and other sex hormones. Even a little cream in your coffee or the occasional grilled cheese can do it. Try cutting the stuff out altogether and using delicious dairy-free creamer and vegan cheese instead! See if you don't notice a difference after just a month. An improved complexion can be noticeable even if you don't frequently break out. I didn't, but people said my skin "glowed" after I made the switch.
You'll Help the Environment
If you were mad that President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, know that you aren't helpless to stop global warming. A vegan's carbon footprint is about 50 percent lower than an omnivore's. The reason is simple: the livestock sector is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution and the largest human-induced source of methane and nitrous oxide, potent greenhouse gases. Animals release greenhouse gases themselves (you've heard about the cow farts), but it's the entire fossil fuel-burning industry built to raise, kill, and transport their bodies that especially taxes our world's resources.
Animal agriculture also sucks up Earth's increasingly scarce water supply, and farmed animal waste pollutes the poor rural communities that host factory farms.
Biking to work and using a reusable water bottle is all well and good, but opting out of this system is perhaps the single most impactful thing anyone can do. Won't it feel good to know you're protecting the planet every day simply by how you eat?
Your PMS Might Be Better
Many people report improved PMS symptoms after going vegan, which makes sense — a vegan diet reduces inflammation, making for less bloating and cramping. Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that a low-fat vegan diet significantly reduced pain and PMS for many people.
I know it has for me. Not only is my bloating virtually nonexistent, but my cramps are generally milder.
It Will Probably Make Your Digestion Awesome
If someone had told me my bloating and constipation would pretty much vanish if I went vegan, I would have tried it much sooner. I didn't think I was lactose intolerant, but it turns out most of us are to some degree. An astonishing three-quarters of us lack the enzyme to properly digest cow's milk. An estimated 98 percent of Southeast Asians, 90 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, and the majority of Jewish, Latino, and Indian people all suffer from lactose intolerance.
Basically, anyone's digestion stands to improve on a high-fiber, healthy vegan diet. But if you're a person of color or Jewish, you're especially likely to notice a huge difference.
You'll Be More Likely to Make It to 2019
Meat eaters just don't live as long as vegetarians and vegans. According to a study of over 70,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely to have died during a six-year follow-up period than their meat-eating peers. Vegetarian men live an average of 83.3 years, while non-vegetarian men live an average of 73.8 years. Similarly, vegetarian women live an average of 85.7 years — over six years longer than their non-vegetarian counterparts.
Given the link between eating dairy and eggs and elevated risk of cancer and high cholesterol, being vegan protects you even more than being vegetarian. In fact, every 3 percent increase in calories from plant protein reduces your risk of premature death by 10 percent and your risk of dying from heart disease by 12 percent. If you want to live to see what 2080 looks like, this is the diet for you.
You'll Feel Empowered
There are so many things wrong in the world today that it's easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. For me, eating vegan reminds me three times a day that I can make a difference by living more compassionately. Discovering the ease and unexpected benefits of eating in line with my values made me look for other ways I could live more ethically and keep improving. My relationship with food and my body has improved right along with my health, and knowing I'm sparing dozens of animals a year by not eating them or products of their suffering feels even better. A vegan diet is one of intense fulfillment.
If you'd like to give it a try, check out The Green Plate, which offers free live-chat coaching and extremely affordable meal-planning services to get you started.
Here's to a great 2018, one in which you remind yourself every day that so long as you are free to choose, you are never powerless.