Americans are trying to eat more plant-based for their health and the planet, according to research. Nearly half of all adults are adding plant-based foods to their diet and 54 percent of people aged 24 to 39 call themselves "flexitarians." If you're looking for ways to boost immunity, lower inflammation, lose weight and get healthier, declaring your independence from meat and dairy is a great place way to start. Numerous studies have linked meat-eating with higher inflammation. This is a great month to start. Need any more motivation? Check out these top 8 reasons to cut out meat and dairy this month,

Meat used to be considered healthy, essential for protein and building strong muscles. Now we know it's full of antibiotics, causes inflammation, and meat's saturated fat leads to heart disease, while studies show that people who eat more red meat have a higher incidence of certain cancers, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The same is true of dairy: Milk used to be considered necessary for calcium, to build strong bones. Now we know dairy, and especially cheese, contains elevated estrogens and doctors want it to come with warning labels that it promotes breast, and other hormonally driven cancers like uterine, and prostate cancer.

Whereas the flip side is true: Eating more whole-food, plant-based diet, full of fiber and antioxidants, lowers your risks of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and breast cancer while boosting your immune system. You reduce your risk of dying prematurely from all causes, a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found. Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of not only heart disease but "all causes of mortality" the study concluded.

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The top 8 reasons to declare YOUR independence from meat and dairy,

1. Eating a diet of plant-based foods boosts your immunity

There are known benefits to eat a diet high in vitamin-packed foods full of C, A, E, D, B, and minerals like zinc, iron as well as potassium and calcium. Plant-based foods like deep leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and seeds are full of these essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that supply the body with the building blocks of your immune systems' defenses.

You will never need to take vitamin C if you eat a red bell pepper a day since it packs three times the vitamin C as an orange. Start your day with hot water with lemon and get 1/3 of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C for the day. Eat a large vegetable-filled salad for lunch, and get several greens for dinner, and you'll never feel tired or sluggish after a meal. Nature's fast food is a piece of fruit. Eat a peach, an apple or a plum for slow-burning clean energy. To fight off all viruses, COVID-19 included, keep your body in the best shape possible, inside and out, by getting sleep, exercising daily and eating plant-based foods.

The list of Immunity boosting foods is so long, we chose the top 13, but when you look at a farm stand, bets are on that you could find immune-boosting phytochemicals or antioxidants or vitamins or minerals, from A to Zinc, that will help your body fight off the virus. Here is the story on the Top 13 Foods to Eat to Boost Immunity Now. One favorite: Mushrooms.

2. Eating a mostly whole food plant-based diet helps you lose weight

Studies show that those who eat a low-carb, vegan, or plant-based diet have a smaller waist circumference than those who don't and that the most dramatic weight loss has been found among people who adopt a vegan diet. "Obese participants found the most pronounced effect on weight loss [from] a vegan diet." Meanwhile, over the course of months, the most dramatic health benefits also come from a vegan diet. So it's a win-win across the board.

There is no question that nutrient-dense food such as vegetables and fruit will help you lose weight. When you fill-up on fiber and vegetables–which are made up of water more than any other molecule–you get satisfied with fewer calories, and your body burns off these calories quicker than calorie-dense foods full of fat, added sugar, simple carbs, and chemicals. Try the VegStart Diet for a weight-loss plan you can live with. It will teach you how to prepare and create meals that are delicious, filling, and help you lose weight naturally.

3. Eating plant-based and ditching meat and dairy reduces your risk of heart disease

There are so many studies to support the fact that a plant-based diet is beneficial for your heart. Respected heart doctors like Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, Joel Kahn and Joel Furhman, Andrew Freeman, who calls himself the Vegan Cardiologist, and T. Colin Campbell who is co-author of The China Study, all tell us that science backs up the fact that red meat adds to coronary heart disease while a diet rich in plants can reverse symptoms of heart disease.

Consider this recent study, for one: "Plant-based diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and reduced platelet aggregation than non-vegetarian diets, and are beneficial in weight management, reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Well planned vegetarian diets provide benefits in preventing and reversing atherosclerosis and in decreasing CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk factors and should be promoted through dietary guidelines and recommendations."

Dr. Joel Kahn wants the public to understand the dangers of saturated fat. This whole "butter is back" reasoning is ill-founded, he wrote. Butter is not back. Meat is also off the plate, as is poultry. The best heart-healthy fats are those that come from plants you could grow: Avocado, Olive, Nuts, and Seeds. Better yet limit the oil altogether. But if you need oil for cooking, make sure it's not derived from something that walks. Your heart will thank you. While you're avoiding sat fat, stay away from coconut and palm oils, since they contain it as well.

4. Ditching meat can lower your grocery bills by $23 a week.

We have heard it over and over again: Eating plant-based or vegan is expensive. It's elite, It's for people who shop at Whole Foods. Well here is some news for you: It's actually cheaper. the priciest item in your cart is likely to be meat, followed closely by sugar. There's a reason that the entire world subsists very healthily on rice and beans. Meat used to be a sign of prosperity in many cultures. People ate meat to show that they were rich.

In a study that tracked the shopping receipts of nearly 1,100 meat-eaters versus nonmeat eaters, the authors found that those who eat vegan or skip meat saved an average of $23 on their grocery store every week. That adds up to $23 a week, multiplied times four, and you have yourself an extra C-note per month to spend on whatever you like. May we suggest a new bathing suit to show off your super svelte physique from your plant-based VegStart Diet?

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5. Eating a diet high in fiber-filled plant foods lowers your risk of cancer

You never want to think that something you did "gave" your cancer. That's just the wrong way to consider risk factors. But you can lower your risk of getting cancer by not smoking, not sunbathing or using tanning beds, and not eating meat, dairy, or animal products. That is what we are learning from studies on cancer risk and diet that review large swaths of the population over decades and report on eating habits and cancer incidents. Consider this like the 70s. After more smokers got lung disease, warning labels were put on cigarettes. Now the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine wants to see labels on cheese: That the estrogens in dairy can contribute to a lifetime risk of breast cancer.

In several studies, those who ate the least meat and dairy and ate the most plant-based foods over the years also had the lowest cancer risk. You don't smoke; quit meat and dairy.

Fiber appears to be the magic pill. Women who ate the most fiber had the best chance of avoiding breast cancer, likely because a high fiber diet also keeps weight in check and clears out the digestive system so toxins have less time to linger in the body. In one study, the more often you go to the bathroom, the less the "waste" has a chance to be reabsorbed where toxins get stored in breast tissue, creating more risk for future cancer to form. The Beet covered this in our story about the healthiest "elimination" habits. The more often the better.

For male readers, note this: There is often a correlation between breast cancer and other hormonally sensitive cancers such as prostate cancer. There is still much to be studied; but while research is often focused on breast cancer, studies on meat, dairy, and other cancers. Studies confirm a link between meat-eating and colorectal cancer. So do yourself a favor and eat more plant-based foods to avoid an elevated risk of any cancer.

6. Eating less meat and dairy won't make you feel sluggish or have dark circles

That sluggish feeling after a big meal of meat can be a sign that your body has trouble digesting meat, which can slow down in your intestines and cause fatigue as your body works harder to digest your food.

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Other signs your body isn't digesting meat properly, according to experts: Dark circles. You may not be tired or have to live with dark circles. Cut out meat and see if they improve. This is because as the animal product gets stuck in your intestines "the compromised gut lining allows meat particles to pass through the gut wall" and into the bloodstream where they are regarded as “foreign” invaders, according to a medical paper from Geelong Medical Health Center. "The body will try to produce antibodies to eliminate the foreign substance, and the reaction to this can be dark circles under the eyes, a symptom which is usually overlooked by health professionals." Skip the meat and see if your dark circles disappear.

Other symptoms you are not digesting meat properly: Bad breath, body odor, constipation, and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms after eating meat, declare your independence from animal products for three weeks and see how you feel.

7. Ditch meat and dairy to perform like your favorite artist or athlete

Joaquin Phoenix, Harry Styles, Harrison Ford, Zac Efron, Sir Paul McCartney, Usher and Mike Tyson all have ditched the meat. On the gal's side of the aisle, it's Kristen Wiig, Sandra Oh, Miley Cirus, Ariana Grande, the Bailey Sisters, Lizzo, Billey Eilish, and .A$AP Rocky, and Will.I. Am. The list goes on and on and on.

Kevin Winter

And that doesn't even include athletes. Novak Djokovic, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and many marathoners and triathletes, endurance athletes who need to be lean and strong and injury-free have all adopted a plant-based lifestyle. So has Lewis Hamilton, Formula One Driver and in the NFL, Cam Newton and Tom Brady and others are playing on plant protein. In the NBA, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan and others are crushing it without eating meat. Again, there are dozens of athletes who have seen their endurance improve on a plant-powered diet. Watch The Game Changers for inspiration and a better understanding of why athletes are increasingly choosing this higher octane fuel choice: To recover faster, fight inflammation, avoid sluggishness, stay light, and avoid injury.

Our admiration for these artists and athletes leaves us thinking: What do they know that we don't know. Generally, if they are this tuned into the plant-based, vegan or meatless lifestyle, it's probably because they look better and feel better, and can perform better. We'll have what they're having.

8. Eating Plant-based is more sustainable for our planet. Lower your impact.

Consider this: Eating just one plant-based meal a day for a year is the equivalent of saving the same carbon emissions as driving across the country, according to science offered by One  Meal a Day, the organization started by Suzy Amis Cameron, activist, author, and actor, and wife of James Cameron, so eating three plant-based meals is like driving from New York to LA and back!

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The land use, water use and fossil fuels needed to raise farmed animals is the biggest human contributor to greenhouse gasses that we can control. (There are naturally occurring methane emissions that we can't control.) So if you want to lower your carbon footprint, along with eyeing and new Tesla for your next ride, or if that isn't in the budget, just leave the meat and dairy in the grocery store. Already sales of meat are down 18 percent during COVID-19. That may be rough on meat processing companies but it's much better for the planet, for animals, and for our health.

Even if you're not ready to go the whole distance, every small step toward a more plant-based diet has a benefit on you and on the planet. For more on how this works, read The Beet's story: More People Going Mostly Plant-Based Has Vast Climate Benefits