With emerging claims about the impact of meat consumption on overall health, more and more people are turning to a vegetarian diet to help them live better and longer. However, as with every kind of movement there is controversy and false claims, so it can be hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the veggie diet.

These days, there are so many books, blogs, and recipe books aimed at vegetarians, so it couldn’t be easier to make the switch. If you’re on the fence, however, here are four ways shunning meat, or at least lessening the amount you eat, can be good for you.

Vegetarians tend to cook more

 

When you first give up meat, it can be tricky to find replacements that taste just as good. However, once you delve into the many delicious meat substitutes, you’ll see that you don’t need to miss out just because of your dietary requirements. These days, you can even find vegetarian butchers who create delicious plant proteins while opting out of the “destructive” livestock system.

 

It’s cheap and easy to pick up vegetables from your local grocery store, and you’d be surprised what you can do with them. Cooking more meals from scratch is far better for you, as takeout meals and processed foods usually contain high levels of salt and harmful additives.

 

Butternut squash lasagne, cauliflower mac and cheese, and Portobello mushroom burgers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to veggie home cooking. If you don’t have much time to scour recipes online and you want to keep it simple, HelloFresh has a delicious eggplant korma recipe you can try, as well as plenty of other plant-based dishes.

 

Vegetarians lose weight without feeling hungry

 

Vegetarian diets tend to be low in saturated fats and processed foods but high in plant-based protein sources and complex carbohydrates: the low-calorie foods that keep you fuller for longer. As a result, vegetarians and vegans tend to have an easier time keeping their weight down compared to meat eaters.

 

A study conducted by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, found that overweight people who followed a low-fat, vegetarian diet alone (without counting calories or measuring portions) lost an average of 24 pounds in the first year and still kept off that weight five years later. What’s more, those same participants reported never feeling hungry on a vegetarian diet.

Vegetarians actually live longer

In case you needed more convincing that vegetarianism is good for you, evidence suggests that people who regularly consume fat from meat products have a shorter lifespan and a higher risk of disability and disease than those who eat plant-based foods. Experts say this is because animal products clog your arteries and slow down your immune system.

Want more proof that vegetarians live longer? The residents of Okinawa in Japan have the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world according to a 30-year study. Their secret is a low-calorie diet of unrefined complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and soy-based products.

 

Vegetarians have less exposure to toxic chemicals

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that almost 95 percent of the pesticide residue in the typical American diet comes from meat and fish products. Fish, in particular, contains carcinogens and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium) that cannot be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat can also be laced with steroids and hormones, so be careful to read the ingredients of any meat you do buy.