You’ve seen all the bright yellow flags, all the red Chinese fonts, all the tofu-laden menus — the Thai Vegetarian Festival is now going in full swing. Also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, this is a nine-day celebration throughout Thailand in which people forego meats and perhaps even animal products in order to cleanse the mind, body, and soul.
Although the word ‘Vegetarian’ is in the title, what you can or can’t eat during this festival may be a lot more complicated than that. Some choose to cut out all kinds of animal products, such as eggs, dairy, and honey. Some also leave out ingredients with strong flavours, such as garlic and onion.
Kudos to you if you’re already doing the basic vegetarian diet, or even going for the full vegan extravaganza. But if you haven’t brought yourself to actually give up the steak knife yet, here are a few reasons why you might consider doing so. Eating vegetarian has long been known to have great health benefits, but what exactly are these benefits? Here are 8 reasons why you should join in the Thai Vegetarian Festival this year.
1. Lower cholesterol
When done right, a vegetarian diet can significantly lower your bad cholesterol levels. The foods you’ll be eating will have higher levels of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavanoids, and carotenoids — all of which help to clear your arteries of fatty build-up. And of course, with lower bad cholesterol levels, the lower your chances of getting diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 Diabetes, gall stones, and so many others.
2. Getting a lean figure
Vegetarians, on average, are slimmer. Their diets tend to be higher in fibre, which means they’re often fuller for longer after a meal and are less likely to snack in between. Foods that take up the bulk of a vegetarian diet, such as legumes, grains, seeds, and vegetables are all relatively low in calories too. Eating grains has also been proven to regulate your blood sugar levels, which helps to prevent those cravings for sweet treats.
3. Natural detoxing
Assuming you’re sticking to organic produce, a vegetarian diet is a great way to constantly detox. Food-born illnesses, bacteria, parasites, and chemical toxins are more common in commercially-bought meat, poultry, and seafood when compared with plant-based foods. And that’s not even counting the extremely high bacteria levels of street food meat that’s often very poorly stored and chilled. Vegetarians also generally tend to eat much less processed food, which is a hotbed for chemicals and harmful substances.
4. Being happier
If you’re worried about having less fun on a vegetarian diet, think again. Research has found that vegetarians may be happier than their carnivorous counterparts. Vegetarians tend to score lower on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to meat-eaters. There’s still some speculation as to why this is, but many point back to the effects of eating more organic produce, which helps to purify our minds by avoiding hormone-imbalancing chemicals in processed foods.
5. Glowing, younger skin
As well as helping you keep in tip-top shape, a vegetarian diet is also high in vitamins that improve the skin complexion and texture. This is hardly surprising, considering you’re having to eat more fruits and vegetables. All that extra collagen in your diet can only mean wonderful things for your skin! Not to mention also that detoxing from hormones found in animal products will help to clear and balance your skin.
6. Less stress
Striving to eat less meat has been suggested to link to better mental health. Scientists have found that animal fats can activate inflammatory pathways in the brain that are responsible for stress and mood disorders. Eating more fruits and vegetables also means a higher intake of concentrated Vitamin D, which naturally lowers stress and anxiety.
7. Better athletic performance
Contrary to what many believe, working out isn’t all about chowing down the protein. Actually, more athletes choose to focus on high-carbohydrate, good-fat, vitamin and mineral-rich vegetarian diets for their best sports performance. This diet helps to fuel your workouts better, meaning you can exercise harder and for longer in one session. Some of the world’s best elite athletes swear by a vegan diet — Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton, and boxer David Haye, just to name a few.
8. Saving the planet
It’s not just health benefits you’ll get when you start eating a vegetarian diet. It’s long been known that reducing meat intake corresponds to reducing the effects of global warming. Did you know that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined? What’s more, the amount of water required to produce a kilo of beef varies from between 13,000 litres to 100,000 litres, whereas the water required to produce a kilo of wheat lies somewhere between 1000 to 2000 litres. And, of course, remember that the huge fires happening in the Amazon rainforest is down to deforestation to make space for grazing land. Go vegetarian and you could be helping to save our rainforests!