What do Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, Gandhi, Paul McCartney, Charles Darwin and Betty White all have in common? This inspirational crowd has all embraced a plant-based diet, but why?

In addition to weight loss, improved heart health and some extra pocket change, embracing a vegetarian lifestyle has major environmental benefits and supports animal rights. There are also many physical benefits to cutting out meat completely.

Vegetarian food What happens when you embrace a vegetarian diet? Photo courtesy of Pexels

By eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables, the world could avoid several million deaths per year by 2050, as Medical Daily previously reported. Individuals who choose plant-based diets often experience a decrease in blood cholesterol levels, which, according to studies, could drop by up to 35 percent. Additionally, animal-free nourishment is naturally anti-inflammatory — it’s generally high in fiber, antioxidants and other phytonutrients, according to Forks Over Knives.

New research shows that Type 2 diabetes goes hand-in-hand with consuming a lot of animal protein, especially red and processed meat. Astonishingly, omnivores who eat meat once a week or more over a 17-year period have a 74 percent higher risk of diabetes. Overall, omnivores have double the rate of diabetes compared with vegans, even accounting for differences in body weight.

A common misconception about vegetarianism is that it leads to protein deficiency, but there are actually many tasty alternatives to meat — like tofu, beans, lentils and nuts.

“Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe,” Cynthia Sass. RD — a vegan and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association — told Vegetarian Times.

Not eating meat won’t leave you hungry, either. There are a slew of snacks available for satisfaction and smart eating.

“Recent studies show that even though nuts are high in calories, eating them does not lead to weight gain,” Sass said.

When it comes to climate change, adopting vegetarian diets would cut food-related emissions by 63 percent, and vegan diets would cut them by 70 percent.

Ending a life-long relationship with meat can be a difficult move to make. If you’re not ready to commit completely, try going meatless just one or two times per week.