I wasn’t sleeping right and always felt sluggish and bloated. And, I had an endless share of headaches, acne breakouts, and digestion problems. My joints ached and I felt way older than I should have for being in my early twenties.
Something had to give. And that thing…was my diet. Ultimately, spoiler alert, going plant-based was it. It changed my life forever and I never looked back!
How Going Plant-Based Will Improve Your Overall Health and Wealth
This post was written by our staff writer, Kerah Kemmerer.
What I Was Doing Wrong
In addition to not exercising nearly enough during this point in my life, I was consuming a lot empty calories. It wasn’t all junk food, but it wasn’t particularly nourishing either. I ate a lot of simple carbs, tons of sugary foods, and drank a gallon of green tea and a two liter of diet Pepsi every day.
I would often…
- polish off a 16-ounce container of cottage cheese + 8 ounces of yogurt every morning for breakfast,
- annihilate a four-pack of Uncle Wally’s corn muffins for lunch (1600 calories and almost 100 grams of sugar in one sitting!), and then
- round out the night with some sort of sandwich or a restaurant-sized bowl of salad smothered in cheese and sugary dressing.
I was never a huge meat eater, but I still had my fair share of poultry and the very occasional serving of red meat. It seemed that no matter how much I ate, I still always felt hungry.
How I Discovered the Secret to Better Health
It was during a weekend outing to Barnes & Nobles that I started perusing the health section. A few colorfully titled books caught my eye, and interestingly, they both had to do with:
- veganism, and
- plant -based eating.
I read the summaries but put them back down, because, quite honestly, I thought maybe people who ate only plant-based foods were a little bit crazy. I didn’t think I could ever make such a big change in my life and shuddered at the thought of giving up dairy.
But I was so miserable that I eventually caved. A few days later, I bought the books and immersed myself in learning all about this strange, new idea of plant-based health and wellness.
What I Learned
Put simply, my mind was blown.
Everything I had ever been led to believe about health and nutrition was turned upside down.
Things such as:
- We don’t need dairy to meet our calcium needs. Plants provide more than enough.
- Plant-based foods provide the same daily intake of protein – if not more – than foods in the Standard American Diet.
- Every nutrient in meat and dairy can be found in a vegan diet. The one exception is vitamin B12. While B12 can be found in nutritional yeast, plant-based eaters should take a supplement to make sure they are consuming enough.
I also learned that our bodies burn plant-based food more efficiently than meats, dairy and highly-processed, additive-laden foods.
Consuming meat can lead to:
- high cholesterol, and
- high blood pressure.
In fact, cutting meat out of your diet has been shown to improve energy levels, decrease risk of certain cancers, and reduce acid levels in the body.
Other benefits to nixing meat and dairy include:
- getting to opt out of supporting animal cruelty methods often found within the industrial farming process,
- reducing the environmental footprint,
- and enjoying optimal personal health benefits.
You can learn even more about these benefits here.
Making the Change
I was game to try anything at that point, so I dove in the next day and went – pardon the pun – cold turkey.
It was very challenging at first. Going from consuming over a pound of dairy every day to none at all was a struggle for a good ten days or so. While I had only consumed meat moderately, just knowing I wasn’t supposed to have it made it seem all the more appealing.
But there were some noticeable changes within the first few weeks:
- my skin started to clear up and I experienced fewer breakouts.
- bloating went away (after my body got adjusted to all those beans and legumes, of course!)
- energy levels were through the roof! (and I was able to kick my diet soda habit over the course of a
- I was sleeping better.
- I had way more stamina for workouts.
- I was consuming healthier fats (nuts, seeds, avocados) and reduced my sugar cravings.
- I lost over 10 lbs of excess weight without changing anything other than the type of food I ate.
- I experienced increased mental clarity and focus.
A few weeks in and I was hooked on plant-based eating. It’s been 9 years and I have never once been tempted to go back to my old way of eating. Granted, it’s important to check in and make sure my body is still functioning at full capacity.
Sticking With It
Over the years, our nutrient requirements may change based on lifestyle shifts, activity levels, increased stress levels, etc., and it’s important to stay on top of getting a proper balance of vitamins and nutrients. I know many people who eventually give up on this diet because they neglect to pay attention to their overall health needs, and blame the lack of meat and dairy as the cause.
But eating plant-based goes beyond just eliminating meat and dairy.
It eliminates added sugars, processed foods (pretty much the majority of items found in the middle aisles of the grocery store), artificial sweeteners, and anything that contains animal byproducts. Plant-based eating focuses on whole foods and how they nourish our body for optimal wellness. It’s not just about what you aren’t eating – it’s about paying specific attention to how what you are eating is affecting you.
While eating plant-based follows the same general diet as a vegan there are two big differences:
- Eating plant-based focuses on diet and health only. In fact, many vegans still eat highly processed, sugar-laden or high fat foods, so long as they do not contain meat or dairy.
- Being vegan is a lifestyle choice that goes beyond food. Vegans do not wear any products that come from animals (leather, wool, fur, silk) and do not use any products or toiletries derived from animal products or that have been tested on animals. They also are committed to advocating for the ethical and humane treatment of animals.
So Why Should You Consider Going Plant-based?
Other than it being the “gateway diet” to veganism, the health benefits of this diet stand on their own.
I had blood work done after several years of consuming this diet. The doctor told me she has never seen such perfectly ranged numbers. And my “bad” cholesterol was incredibly low.
Now obviously, I wouldn’t expect you to drop everything and change your life overnight because of one story you read on the internet. However, if you are curious to learn what others have to say, you can check out these athletes who have gone plant-based/vegan, as well as these personal accounts of regular people who took the lifestyle plunge and experienced some pretty amazing results.
Where Does the Wealth Part Come In?
You will see your first financial returns at the grocery checkout.
The cost of meat and dairy products tend to range higher than most plant-based, whole foods. Unless, of course, you shop at Whole Foods. In which case, good luck!
Keep in mind that anytime you purchase any kind of pre-packaged food, the cost is going to be higher. The savings come from shopping for in-season, fresh produce, frozen fruits and veggies, and hitting up the bulk aisles for dry goods.
Foods such as:
- brown rice
- basmati rice
- buckwheat flour
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- black, kidney, northern, and garbanzo beans (can also be bought in cans for a slightly higher cost)
You can add tofu or polenta to this list, as well as the occasional meat substitute if you are still craving the texture. However, its recommended to take it easy on soy products due to concerns too much could cause negative health affects.
Making simple but flavorful one-dish meals is my preference. It keeps me motivated to cook at home and less tempted to want to go out to eat. Making a big batch of rice or quinoa and dressing it up with different ingredients throughout the week goes a long way. There is no shortage of plant-based food recipes on Pinterest either! It’s almost overwhelming.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to give an exact savings amount here – but I do know that I tend to spend less overall on our groceries than some of our meat and dairy eating family with the same size household.
You Save on Health Care Costs
Since your body will now be getting more vitamins and nutrients than ever before – and won’t be working so hard to digest not-so-great-for-you-foods – you’ll start to experience staying healthy more often.
I generally do not catch all the nasty bugs going around during cold and flu season. (I say generally because I don’t want to jinx myself, and I also don’t know anyone who escaped the clutches of that one nasty stomach bug that came around Christmas a few years ago.) But you get the idea. Fewer trips to the doc’s office and less getting sick overall.
And don’t forget the potential long-term issues you’ll be preventing such as:
- heart disease,
- high blood pressure,
- and high cholesterol.
You may even be able to prevent certain cancers, thyroid issues and slow down the affects of aging.
You’ll Make More Money…Probably
With your increased energy and mental clarity, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and still have energy to focus on new ideas and opportunities. The sense of accomplishment that comes from committing to such a huge lifestyle change should boost your confidence and morale, reminding you that you are capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Is It Worth It?
Food is a very personal and oftentimes emotional subject. It won’t be easy. The majority of people you know will question, sabotage or make fun of your new lifestyle. Some will take it personally – especially if you come from a family that shows their love by sharing traditional meals together. Others may accuse you of thinking you are better than them, or will feel uncomfortable eating around you.
There is definitely an adjustment period when making a big change like this.
However, as long as you are patient with this sort of push-back and accept that you have just thrown the entire premise of your social interactions off balance, people will eventually begin to understand that you are committed and they will get used to it.
Ideally, over time they will seek you out for health advice and become genuinely interested in how you always manage to stay well and full of vibrant energy.
Maybe your story will start with “one day, as I was browsing the internet, I came across an article that really got me thinking…”
Who knows? But obviously, I do think it’s worth it. In fact, I created a 14-day challenge for anyone interested in trying this diet and lifestyle out. You can learn more about it at @krisandkerah on Instagram!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you vegan/plants-only? Would you ever consider this diet? Tell us below!
AUTHOR Kerah Kemmerer
Hello! I'm Kerah. I'm a writer and personal finance enthusiast with a background in marketing. I'm also a wedding and portrait photographer, part-time RVer and a lover of simple and minimal living. Always up to some project or adventure over @krisandkerah on Instagram.