When you think of vegetarianism, you likely think one of two things: The first is animal rights’ protesters, protecting the environment and avoiding meat to save animals, and the second is a lifestyle choice. The latter is a choice to reap the rewards of a meat-free diet through both physical and mental health.
Becoming vegetarian can surprisingly work wonders for a variety of health reasons, leaving you feeling energized and revitalized by simply cutting out meat and certain food groups.
You may have a pang of worry to begin with if your mindset is always to see meat as the food that is full of flavor and that it’s the part of each meal that makes it delicious. In cutting out meat from your everyday meals, you might think you’ll be chewing on broccoli twice a day or glumly eating lettuce like a rabbit or guinea pig, but you’re wrong!
This ultimate guide will show you that converting to vegetarianism is not only exciting and adventurous, but can also improve your overall health tenfold.
At the end of your experiment, you may feel ready to ditch meat completely, opening the door to a new and healthier you. In this ultimate guide, we will take a good look at a number of great benefits of becoming a vegetarian, digging deeper into why each point is beneficial for your health.
We shouldn’t forget the awesome, delicious recipes I’ll give you along the way to really help you kick-start your vegetarian journey! They are quick, simple and easy to make, so you can glide into your new lifestyle with ease. So, put down that ham sandwich or chicken leg, and reach for a quinoa salad instead!
Benefit #1: You can save some cash!
When you do your weekly shop or mill around the local market, you may often sigh at the skyrocketing cost of meat. Whether it’s chicken, beef or pork, good quality organic meat can make quite a dent in your purse.
You then end up organizing the meat you have bought in so many complicated ways that it can sometimes be mind-boggling: putting leftovers in the freezer, working out how much you need to defrost for each meal, keeping an eye on sell-by dates—it’s enough to give you a headache.
The beauty of being vegetarian is that you can save so much money by simply cutting out that expensive pack of chicken or those Friday-night steaks.
For the price of three chicken breasts (usually totaling around four pounds), you can buy an entire vegetarian meal—flavors included! Vegetables and vegetarian meat-alternatives are so much cheaper that, for the same price as a meat-based meal, you can either buy a massive banquet-style vegetarian feast or save some cash and spend it on having a great time!
Vegetables from local produce markets or supermarkets tend to be extremely cheap—usually no more than two pounds for a large selection of greens. This includes vegetables that are packed with much flavor, such as garlic, onions and mushrooms. You can then afford to buy pricier organic alternatives to make you feel even better about being meat-free!
The most popular time for people to convert to vegetarianism is usually during university or those first few years of starting out in adult life when money needs to be stretched as far as possible.
From personal experience, saving money as a young adult requires some sacrifices—usually those of the meat variety. You end up cutting out meat altogether, not out of choice but necessity! So, the best way to save some money when you’re feeling the financial pinch is to go with the flow, and enjoy indulging in some lovely vegetarian meals.
Looks like we’ve hit the first recipe to take a look at! This is a simple way of avoiding that daunting task of cooking something new, by starting off easy and working your way up.
The great thing about all the recipes in this guide is that they are basic to start off with, giving you the opportunity to add new ingredients and really make it your own. So, when you host your first veggie-dinner party, you can say it’s your own recipe (that’s fine, I give you permission!).
They are all fun, unique and a playful way to keep your meat comforts—meat-free of course! This way, you don’t have to say goodbye to the classic favorites like burgers, wraps and all of that other meaty-goodness. We no longer need it!
Recipe #1: Yummy Lentil Bolognese
This recipe is a great way of keeping home comforts even without meat. It’s quick, simple and packed with goodness to keep you feeling all warm and healthy.
– 175g Green/Puy Lentils
– 1 Vegetable Stock Gel
– 2 Garlic Cloves (crushed)
– 1 Onion (diced)
– 2 Medium Carrots (diced)
– 2 Celery Sticks (chopped)
– 1 ts Dried Oregano
– 1 ts Chopped Rosemary
– 2 Tins Chopped Tomatoes
– 2 TS Tomato Puree
– Handful of Sliced Green Olives (optional)
– Drained Capers (optional)
– Parmesan to serve
In a medium sized saucepan, cover the lentils with cold water to approximately about a centimeter above them. Drop in the stock gel, and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn it down to a gentle simmer, and let it cook for 20-25 minutes. Make sure the lentils don’t boil down until they dry out; keep some moisture in there.
In the meantime, take a frying pan and add some olive oil, letting it warm through. Add the onions, carrots and celery, and fry gently for 5-10 minutes until they have softened.
Then, add the garlic and herbs, and fry for another couple of minutes. Throw in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, add a tablespoon of sea salt and let it simmer, adding a pinch of castor sugar. Let it simmer gently on a low heat until the sauce has thickened. Add in the lentil mixture, and warm through. Serve with a scoop of spaghetti and sprinkling of Parmesan.
Benefit #2: You can get creative!
Do you ever stare at all those recipe books on your shelf and hope something new will pop up for you to give a go? At the end of the day, you either stick to the old meals you’ve made a thousand times, or these recipes end up looking the same. It’s always meat, meat, meat!
That can be frustrating at times for dedicated vegetarians and pescatarians when every recipe has to be adapted to suit their needs and values. However, it gives you the ideal opportunity to break away from the classic meat-and-two-veg mindset you find yourself in, and instead use your creative skills to make something new and different.
Everything in the kitchen from this point on, when you become a vegetarian, is now a new and exciting challenge—something to really sink your teeth into (no pun intended!).
This is great for when you want to spice up your average weekdays or weekend evenings because you can spend your time making something new and being adventurous without spending too much money or going out all the time.
Why not invite over that date of yours to give it a go with you? It’s such a good way to work as a team to cook up something amazing. Anything that challenges you as a kitchen maestro, and puts you through your paces can really be even more yummy and rewarding when you can enjoy the finished product—and you’re boosting your culinary skills as well!
Benefit #3: Trust your gut and your gut will trust you!
As we said at the start of the guide, people become vegetarians for a variety of reasons, including aiming for better physical health. You may be thinking that vegetarians can’t be healthier purely by cutting out meat because, after all, how unhealthy can meat really be?
This is why it may not seem like a major lifestyle change at first or one of those changes that can make a visible difference. It’s true: just cutting out organic, clean and plain meat is not going to make much of an overall difference—it’s everything that goes with the meat as well that is making the change for the better!
We tend to eat meat once it’s been fried or deep fried in oil, then lathered in sauce, sandwiched between some bread and with a side of fries, which is where the bad stuff comes in!
Meat, nowadays, has become a vehicle for processed food and fatty junk, meaning that it can only be seen as extremely unhealthy. Of course, it’s good to remember that meat on its own with a side of salad is still good for you, offering you plenty of protein and vitamins, but it’s always tempting to lather on the ketchup!
The great thing about becoming vegetarian that will make a great difference to your weight and health is that by cutting out meat, you are also cutting out all of those processed goodies that we talked about before.
You cut out the excess salt, fat and sugar that cause us to gain weight at a rapid pace. It’s not a drastic crash diet, but a lifestyle change, which will make you feel less like you’re dieting but simply improving your quality of life.
The beauty of being vegetarian is that lots of ready-made meals, fast food restaurants and processed food isn’t designed for meat-free people, so you simply have to cut them out of your diet to fit in with your new lifestyle.
Not only are you breaking away from the temptation to visit a takeaway restaurant on the weekend, but you have a new outlook on how bad these greasy places can be; you don’t fit in there anymore! Instead of indulging in processed fat and sugar, you have to find your feet with new vegetarian goodies, snacks and meals that can give you the same satisfaction, which can be a process of mainly trial and error.
For your lunches at work, try bringing along nuts and yoghurt instead of crisps and chocolate, and focus on salads instead of heavy sandwiches or burgers.
A More Natural Diet
By cutting out processed food, fats and sugars by simply not being able to ‘fit in’ in fast food restaurants, you are allowing your body to be as natural as it has ever been.
The human body evolved into what it is today millions of years ago, long before our ancestors could eat greasy takeaways or use a microwave to get a quick meal.
Humans existed on food from the land, vegetables, fruit and the odd bit of red meat here and there, without any extra sugars or fat thrown in. That is what the human body was designed to digest and absorb to keep us alive—before we could eat a heavy curry or deep fried burger!
Modern human bodies are nowhere near as strong or as healthy as they were thousands of years ago, purely because our diets aren’t good enough for our bodies to work to the best of their abilities.
So, when you turn vegetarian, you are cutting out processed and unnatural food, and turning your attention to the food that your body is designed to digest.
This means that you will be working at one hundred percent every day! Your digestive system, especially, will feel nourished and revitalized as it will be getting everything it needs to function brilliantly like a well-oiled machine.
Plus, you’ll never get that horrible brick-like feeling in your stomach after eating a heavy meat-based meal, and never have digestive issues from eating food that’s too harsh or greasy for your stomach to handle.
When you feel sick or unwell after a meal, it’s usually because your gut isn’t able to process large amounts of grease or fat, which you don’t consume with vegetarian food.
By having a healthy digestive system, you can say goodbye to feeling lethargic, unwell or tired after eating your dinner every night!
Also, it’s extremely beneficial for those who suffer from IBS or other stomach issues to become vegetarian as you cut out those foods that can trigger problems (fatty, spicy food).
Digestive System and the Brain
Your digestive system is one of the biggest and most important parts of your internal machine, and can have a massive impact not only on your other organs, but also on your overall mental well-being. Your brain and gut are more closely linked than any other part of your body, meaning that you are what you eat at the end of the day.
Food can change the chemical balances in your brain, which come from your stomach and digestion, meaning that some food can make you sluggish and down, while others can send you bouncing off the walls.
Many people don’t realize that food can actually trigger migraines, anxiety and panic attacks and even depression; it can be extremely powerful on our overall moods!
Many say that food high in sugar can trigger anxiety attacks as the sugar sends your mind spiraling into over-excitement and energy, for example. So, when you cut down on processed food and focus on eating healthy vegetarian food, you are making your mind and gut feel fantastic, which will only improve your overall well-being!
Recipe #2: Delightful Mushroom Lasagna
This is definitely something to make when the weather turns cold! It’ll warm you up from the inside out, and you’ll have so much left over that you can eat it all week (it’s also delicious chilled with a side of green salad).
– 750g Chestnut Mushrooms (quartered or sliced)
– 1 Onion (chopped)
– 2 Garlic Cloves
– 25g Porcini Mushrooms (soaked in boiling water)
– 330ml Double Cream
– 1 Jar Good Quality Green Pesto
– 1 Tub Cheese Sauce
– 1 Packet Fresh Lasagne Sheets
– 150g Grated Parmesan
In a pan warmed through with olive oil, fry the onions gently for ten minutes until they are soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and garlic, and gently fry them until most of the moisture has disappeared.
Drain the water from the mushrooms into the pan, and finely chop these mushrooms before adding them to the pan as well. Cook this down until two-thirds of the water has disappeared. Add all of the cream and three-quarters of the Parmesan, warm gently and remove from the heat.
Get a medium-sized lasagna dish. Put half of the mixture into the base and cover with the lasagna sheets. Spread half the jar of pesto over the sheets and half the cheese sauce before adding the rest of the mushroom mixture.
Repeat with more sheets, top with the rest of the pesto and cheese sauce, and sprinkle with a hearty layer of Parmesan! Now, you’re ready to put this delicious dish into the oven to bake at 180 degrees for around twenty to twenty-five minutes. Serve with new potatoes, salad or green vegetables, and you’re bound to have a dinner success!
Benefit #4: Your mental health will improve significantly
One in three people will, at some point, experience some kind of difficulty with mental health, whether it be anxiety, panic attacks, depression or one of many other issues.
It’s a scarily large number of people who face these problems on a daily basis, yet a lot of information and ideas on mental health issues is very quickly swept under the rug.
Over the past few years, mental health has been something that has been very rarely talked about, and finding help or support can sometimes be extremely difficult, isolating sufferers more and more as they go along with their problems.
However, in the past couple of years, the stigma of mental health issues has slowly begun to disappear, meaning that there is more openness and acceptance towards sufferers’ various problems.
While professional help may still be hard to come by, and is still financially draining, there are now hundreds of new and improved ways to help with anxiety, depression and other issues you may be facing. One way you can make a change to your mental health is through—yes, you guessed it—turning vegetarian!
Your Gut and Mental Health
As we said before, your brain and your gut are closely linked, more so than any other systems in your body. Your heart can beat away without thinking about it and your lungs keep breathing non-stop, but your stomach cannot function without a helping hand from your mind—sometimes without you even noticing.
Have you ever felt hungry without dreaming about what you're going to eat? Have you ever eaten something without thinking about what you’re indulging in?
Everybody has heard the idiom ‘butterflies in your stomach;’ when your mind feels something unnerving, your gut reacts as well.
This tends to be why people who suffer from anxiety also suffer from digestive issues such as IBS; your mind can alter how well your stomach actually functions, so eating heavy, fatty and unhealthy food is the worst way to deal with such situations!
By eating food that is lighter in consistency, offers more nutrition and is low in chemicals and processed fat and sugar, you are stopping food having an effect on the hormonal balances in your brain, thus preventing anxiety and depression!
There are a lot of ‘quick fix’ diets out there that are designed to boost your mental health, but these tend to be crash diets that really have no long term effects on your mood.
By changing your lifestyle to be that of a vegetarian, you are changing your outlook on food and how you eat it, offering you more freedom and less isolation in your detrimental issues.
Certain vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, have been called superfoods or ‘brain foods’ for how unbelievably effective they are for our mental health; they are packed with vitamins and minerals that help the brain work to the best of its ability. They are extremely versatile, too, and can be used in almost all the delicious dishes you can think of.
Boosting Mental Health
However, turning vegetarian doesn’t have to simply benefit you if you suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and panic disorder.
It can also have a very positive impact on your overall mentality and health regardless of whether you suffer from these ailments or not.
Heavy and processed food, which usually goes hand-in-hand with eating meat, can make you feel extremely sluggish and lethargic from the sheer effort your body is using to digest it.
We all know how we feel after eating a massive Christmas dinner, where your body feels so full that you have to lie down and sleep in front of the television before you can possibly move a muscle.
As we said before, meat is usually a vehicle for thick sauces, bread, chips and greasy cheese, which is what makes each meal delicious but also dangerous for our health. It’s the excess of meat, carbohydrates and grease that makes us feel heavy, lethargic and tired, which is never fun when you have a full day of work ahead of you.
The benefit of eating vegetarian meals is that they’re always going to be lighter, less processed and more kind to your body, so you will never get that awful feeling of over indulgence ever again!
All you’ll be left with after each meal is that lovely feeling of satisfaction, leaving you happy and revitalized, not sluggish and sloppy.
From eating this kind of food, you will find yourself with a brighter prospect on the future, you will be quicker to accomplish tasks, you will feel more energized and, most importantly, you will have a fantastic clarity of thought. Get those thinking caps on!
Recipe #3: Refreshing Tomato, Kale, Ricotta and Pesto Pasta
This dish is perhaps the easiest out of the lot to whip up in a hurry. It’s the ideal meal for a busy weekday when you’re running out of time, as it can literally take around twenty minutes from start to finish. Not only that, but it’s absolutely delicious, healthy and can be easily used as leftovers with a lovely salad the next day.
– 2 TS Olive Oil
– 3 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
– 2 400g Cans Cherry Tomatoes
– 500g Penne Pasta (or any pasta)
– 200g Kale (chopped or shredded)
– 4 TS Ricotta
– 4 TS Fresh Green Pesto
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, letting it warm up significantly. Once it’s warmed through, add the chopped garlic and cook it until it’s golden. Then, chuck in the two cans of cherry tomatoes, and season it well with salt and pepper. Let that simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t stick to the pan.
While the sauce is cooking, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta, letting that cook for around fifteen minutes while stirring regularly.
When the pasta is two minutes away from being cooked completely, add the kale and let that cook through until it is soft but still has that distinct delicious crunch. Drain the pasta and kale mixture very well until all the water has disappeared, and add it to the tomato and garlic mixture in the pan.
Serve in bowls (it makes 4 servings). Top each dish with hearty scoops of ricotta, letting it melt into the sauce. Drizzle the dishes with a spoonful of pesto and Parmesan, letting the ingredients slowly amalgamate into each other. Enjoy!
Benefit #5: It’s not just what’s on the inside that counts!
So far, we’ve talked about how fantastic turning vegetarian can be for your internal and mental health, which is of course brilliant for keeping you on the move! However, we must not forget that you can reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet on the outside too, and show the entire world just how brilliant being vegetarian can be.
When you start eating vegetarian food, you offer your body significantly more natural nutrients and vitamins than it would have ever received on an average ‘carnivore’ diet.
Due to the lack of processed foods and fat that you have to cut out, your body receives only the best goodness and nourishment, so how you look is going to definitely change for the better to go along with this positive alteration. The nutrition you are digesting will have a great impact on your skin, as many converts have said in the past.
Red meat and greasy food can have a terrible effect on sensitive, acne and rosacea prone skin and other disorders such as psoriasis. These skin conditions are usually linked with food choices and mental health, so by reducing stress and eating a diet filled with vitamin-packed vegetables, you will see a fantastic improvement.
Your skin will be bathed in minerals and nutrients from the inside out, reducing the number of spots you deal with and the amount of grease that you find in your pores.
Combined with drinking lots of water each day, your body will feel happy and healthy with your skin to prove it. Psoriasis sufferers have also said that after turning vegetarian, their skin improved so significantly that they feel an incurable disease has been cured!
Red meat has a detrimental effect on these kind of skin disorders, sometimes without sufferers even realizing there was a link. So, if you find your skin is simply not getting any better after using endless creams and face-washes, it’s time to make the drastic change of becoming vegetarian to really start seeing a difference.
The healthy change can also leave you with a happy, healthy and revitalized glow, your natural glow before all that processed food took over! I guarantee people will begin to see a difference, and compliment you on how bright and dewy your skin has become.
As we said before, by turning vegetarian, you are eating the food that our ancestors would have eaten thousands or even hundreds of years ago, which wasn’t heavy in processed fats or sugars. It was completely natural, and what our bodies were designed to digest. When we eat sugary and fatty food, our bodies cannot cope with the excess chemicals, which can be reflected on our exterior appearance.
Unhealthy food and excess meat can also make our hair to become thinner and greasier, our skin spottier and, of course, we end up gaining weight!
But, by eating natural food that our bodies were designed to consume, we function at one hundred percent energy. Your health is going to be right where it needs to be, and that will be reflected in your exterior appearance. Your hair will regain its thickness and life, your skin will look happy and healthy and the pounds will begin to drop off!
Recipe #4: The Big Meal In – Quinoa Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries
Now, this is the real deal. Got a group of friends coming over who turn their noses up at your new vegetarian diet? Hosting a dinner party and want to show your nearest and dearest how brilliant your new lifestyle change has been? Knock ‘em dead with this amazing meal plan for delicious quinoa burgers and sweet potato fries.
– 2 Cups Red Quinoa (cooked)
– 1 Cup Cannellini Beans (mashed)
– ½ Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
– 1 Large Egg (lightly beaten)
– 1 Garlic Clove (grated)
– 1 ts Chipotle Chili Powder
– ½ ts Salt
– ½ ts Pepper
– ¾ Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
– 3 TS Olive Oil
– 4 Burger Buns
– 4 Eggs (cooked to your liking; optional)
Sweet Potato Fries
– 4 Medium Sweet Potatoes (cut into thin ½-inch thick strips)
– ½ ts Chipotle Chili Powder
– ¼-½ ts Cayenne Pepper
– ¼ ts Smoked Paprika
– 4 TS Olive Oil
– Salt and Pepper to taste
Beer Caramelized Onions
– 1 TS Butter
– 2 Large Sweet Onions (thinly sliced)
– 1 Cup Beer (any)
In a bowl, combine the quinoa, mashed cannellini beans, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, Chipotle chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix well to moisten the ingredients, then mix in the shredded cheddar cheese. Mix well and shape into 4—5 equal burger patties (I tend to make 5). Place on a plate and put in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with oil, Chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Gently toss them with your hands or two spatulas to evenly coat all the sweet potatoes. Spread them on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then flip and bake for 15-20 minutes more. You want the sweet potatoes to be crispy, but not burnt. If you want perfectly crisp fries, I recommend spreading the sweet potatoes on a greased wire rack and baking them as directed above, but this is a bit of a pain to do. Keep the sweet potato fries warm until ready to top on the burgers.
While the fries cook, caramelize the onions. Heat a large skillet, and add 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
At this point, you want to add the beer slowly: let it cook into the onions, add more and let it cook. Do this until the 1 cup of beer is gone or the onions are caramelized to your liking and the beer has evaporated. Remove them from the skillet and keep warm.
In the same skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Grab the quinoa burgers and cook until golden and crisp—about five minutes per side. During the last minute or so of cooking, add the Gruyere cheese, cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted. My burgers were not crumbly at all and very easy to flip.
To assemble the burgers, place each burger on a bun, and top with equal amounts of caramelized onions and sweet potato fries. If desired, add your egg. Enjoy!
So, there you have it: The top reasons you should consider turning vegetarian today. You will reap the benefits for months and years to come, and along the way discover a brand new you.
It’s invigorating, freeing and extremely exciting to start on a new path towards a happy and healthy lifestyle, which can easily be done without any worry whatsoever.
You are changing your habits to live your life to the full, not struggle on a horrible crash diet! With these recipes in hand and a whole barrel of ambition, you can see drastic changes and take on the world!