Why change to a vegetarian diet? Reasons may include the well-researched health benefits, compassion for animals and environmental concerns. The rampant use of medications in livestock rearing is also increasingly concerning, with unknown health consequences. Whatever the motive, vegetarianism has grown enormously around the world, and culinary options for plant-based diets are readily available.

For years, criticisms of vegetarianism have focused on concerns about nutritional deficiencies, but this has changed with many studies clearly showing the benefits offered by a plant-based diet. This has led to a significant shift in the general mindset, with more people appreciating vegetarian food for its nutritional value and the role it plays in promoting health. Nevertheless, appropriate planning is needed when becoming a vegetarian or vegan.

‘Appropriate planning’ can maximise the benefits of a vegetarian diet and guarantee its suitability. It’s necessary to consume a range of foods to ensure that an intake of all essential nutrients is received, especially if eating a vegan diet. A high proportion of fresh ‘living foods’ also helps to bring vitality to the body.

Michael Kern, a Craniosacral Therapist and Naturopath with a practice in London, has enjoyed the benefits of a vegetarian diet for the last 45 years. Michael Kern is a strong advocate of animal rights and the prevention of cruelty to animals, as well as an activist for holistic health.

Helps Fight Disease

Becoming a vegetarian offers numerous health benefits, especially in the reduction, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. As most vegetarian diets are low in fat, they have proved effective in preventing or stopping the progression of coronary artery disease. A vegetarian diet that’s rich in fibre and antioxidants also helps the body fight off a range of diseases.

Better Weight Control

A meat-based diet, especially one that’s high in processed foods and saturated fats, contributes to weight gain, perhaps leading to obesity, which is a major risk factor for ailments such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Adopting a vegetarian diet, on the other hand, can help with weight management. A study conducted in California in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute showed that overweight people who adopted vegetarian diets low in fat were able to lose up to 24 pounds in the first year after making the switch. Five years later, those who lost weight could still manage their weight loss without having to resort to methods such as counting calories.

More Energy

The body’s main source of energy comes from the foods that we eat. By consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – staples of a vegetarian diet – the body obtains a rich supply of complex carbohydrates that can provide abundant energy. On the other hand, diets rich in fats clog up the heart’s arteries, reducing the potential amount of oxygen that reaches the muscles. The result may be a feeling of lethargy and tiredness that can compromise an individual’s ability to function.

For those transitioning to a vegetarian diet, science backs up this decision on a number of levels. Those who are already vegetarian probably need little convincing.