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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

There are an estimated 1.5 billion vegetarians around the world. Whether it is for religious reasons, health conditions, personal preference, beliefs, morals or monetary issues, there are a number of reasons why people become or continue to be vegetarian. But did you know that being vegetarian is actually very beneficial to your overall health?

Benefit #1: Lower Risk for Cardiac Events

For the most part, vegetarians have less “bad” cholesterol in their body. According to Harvard Health, when compared to nonvegetarians, vegetarians eat less saturated fat and cholesterol and more Vitamins C and E along with other fibers, vitamins and minerals. This results in vegetarians having lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI when compared to nonvegetarians, leading to a reduced risk of cardiac events such as heart attacks.

Benefit #2: Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Being vegetarian can reduce your risk of cancer. Healthline reports that there have been studies conducted showing that a vegetarian diet can reduce your risk for cancer in general. Along with this, the reports have said that certain animal-free diets can reduce the risk for specific types of cancer. All of these studies show one main point: a diet of fruits and vegetables could be the key to preventing a lot of diseases and health conditions, including cancer.

Benefit #3: Helps the Environment

Consuming a vegetarian diet is actually a benefit to the environment. According to EatLove Blog, animals release various greenhouse gases, which cause a bigger carbon footprint than vegetables or grains. There has been research that shows that eating meat and having a more meat-based diet increases carbon emissions by 2.5 times more than having a plant-based diet. These greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, which is a global issue. So, yes, switching to a vegetarian or more plant-based diet can help the environment, but on a larger scale, it can help the whole world.

Benefit #4: Reduce Risk for Type 2 Diabetes 

According to Harvard Health, there is research that suggests that having a more heavily plant-based diet can reduce the risk for Type 2 Diabetes. A completed study shows that a vegetarian’s risk of developing diabetes was half the risk of a non-vegetarian.

Benefit #5: Keeps Your Brain Healthy

According to the National Institutes of Health, there have been studies that have shown that eating more vegetarian or plant-based foods could be linked to lowering your risk of various cognitive issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s. This is because whole grains and produce have an abundance of polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds in certain plant-based foods that are packed with antioxidants and have many potential health benefits. These polyphenols have been found to slow the progression of various cognitive issues and neurodegenerative diseases.

Benefit #6: Reduces Animal Cruelty

Going vegetarian or vegan is one of the best things you could do to help stop animal cruelty. The most obvious reason is that being a vegetarian means you won’t be eating meat, which prevents the killing of innocent animals. But going beyond that, being vegetarian means that you are not paying for animal products in stores, which in turn reduces the demand for animal products. Reducing the demand for animal products means that there are fewer animals that are bred to suffer and die in farms and slaughterhouses. These animals are, for the most part, given the bare minimum to survive and are forced to live in very unhygienic sheds, where they usually don’t even have room to move around. A lot of these animals are only a few weeks or months old, and they usually aren’t even able to breathe fresh air or see natural light. According to the Animal Aid Organization, male chicks of egg-laying hens are killed at just one day old. This is because they will never lay eggs or gain weight fast enough for meat production. This happens on free-range and organic farms as well. Becoming vegetarian helps decrease the amount of animal cruelty that occurs in the food industry.

Although at times meat may taste way better than vegetables, and you would rather eat a juicy piece of chicken than a tasty salad, there are so many reasons why you should choose a plant-based diet over eating meat. Becoming vegetarian can benefit you and the environment in countless ways. Not only does it improve your overall health and reduces certain health risks, it benefits the environment and reduces animal cruelty. Even if this article did not convince you to become fully vegetarian, I hope it has made you more aware of the benefits of being vegetarian, helps you think twice the next time you choose to eat or buy an animal-based product and makes you a more conscious consumer.

A writer for HerCampus in the Saint Louis University chapter.