LOWER RATES OF HEART DISEASE
According to the Vegetarian Times, a low-fat vegetarian diet is the "single most effective way to stop the progression of coronary artery disease or prevent it entirely." This is a definite perk since CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, with 1 million dying from it annually. One 2013 study of 44,000 people also revealed that vegetarians were "32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease." In addition, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss explains that vegetarians have lower cardiovascular disease mortality rates than meat-eaters due to less animal fat and cholesterol consumption and higher fiber and antioxidant-rich produce consumption.
LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that data from 7 clinical studies and 32 additional published studies over 100+ years confirmed that not only do vegetarians have lower blood pressure on average, but that vegetarian diets could also be used to lower blood pressure.
Another study from 2012 examined people on three different diets for two weeks, (1. allowed all meats 2. allowed only fish and 3. allowed only vegetarian/no meats) to find that those on the vegetarian-only/no meats diet had greater reported mood improvements than the others overall.
You'll live at least 20% longer on a vegetarian diet according to a Loma Linda University Medical Center study. (This study was quite substantial, says Tree Hugger's Zachary Shahan. Having delved into the details, Shahan explained that over "73,000 participants were analyzed, with data collected over the course of decades.") Michael F. Roizen, MD explains why: "People who consume saturated, four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy and slow down your immune system. Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age." Vegetarian Times also shared that "Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese and likely the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world, according to a 30-year study of more than 600 Okinawan centenarians. Their secret: a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and soy."
LESS LIKELY TO BE OVERWEIGHT
Vegetarian diets can help maintain a healthy weight over time and also assist with weight loss when necessary. A 2013 study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined nutrient profiles from the various diets mentioned above (1. all meats allowed, 2. only fish allowed, or 3. only vegetarian/no meats allowed - but all maintained similar caloric intake). Final results revealed that, "Vegetarians tend to be leaner than their meat-eating counterparts, and they also tend to have lower cholesterol and body mass index (BMI)."
LOWER RISK OF DIABETES
Although vegetarianism won't cure diabetes, it can help prevent its onset and also assist with maintaining a healthy weight and improvement of blood sugar control/insulin response.
Calcium from the bones is sometimes used by our bodies when there isn't sufficient amounts available in the bloodstream. The solution? Make it available in the bloodstream through foods. Vegetarian Times explains that, aside from dairy, "you can get a healthful dose of calcium from dry beans, tofu, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens" while One Green Planet adds bok choy, fortified plant milks and other calcium-rich foods to that list.
REDUCED RISK OF FOOD-BORNE ILLNESS
Since the FDA states that foods most frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks include protein-rich foods (which provide the ideal environment for harmful bacteria) like meats, poultry, fish and seafood, a decrease in such intake would logically lessen one's risk. This is great news, since the CDC reports, "food-borne illnesses of all kinds account for 76 million illnesses a year, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States."
Dr. Michael Roizen explains that, "Good nutrition generates more usable energy" and that, "Too much fat in your bloodstream means that arteries wont open properly and that your muscles won't get enough oxygen." Vegetarian diets, according to Vegetarian Times, are "both full of complex carbohydrates which promote energy (like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, etc) and also naturally free of cholesterol-laden, artery-clogging animal products that physically slow us down."
REDUCE POLLUTION, FAMINE, AND ANIMAL CRUELTY WORLDWIDE
From the chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms into rivers and streams to the massive levels of deforestation, species extinction and habitat loss created by animal agriculture, there's no mystery as to the environmental benefit of reduced meat consumption. In addition, since the grain we produce in the United States is 70% devoted to feeding livestock raised for slaughter, we could easily decrease hunger worldwide by using it to feed people instead. According to Cornell University Professor of Ecology David Pimentel, If all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million. He later adds, on an economic note, "If the grain were exported, it would boost the US trade balance by $80 billion a year." In addition, the average vegetarian spares the lives of approximately 404 animals per year - with vegans saving even more than that! This and other animal welfare and cruelty issues can be evaluated through the facts and figures shared in several documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Meat the Truth, and Food, Inc.