Why Aly Raisman Gave up Meat and Switched to a Plant-Based Diet

Aly Raisman is one of the most inspiring female athletes in the world. The six-time Olympic gold medalist has awed us with her body confidence over the years, revealing her own struggles with self-acceptance and motivating others to embrace their bodies with love.

While many gymnasts have experienced issues with healthy eating, Raisman has never struggled publicly with her diet and has been a serious advocate for a sensible diet. For most of her career she relied on animal proteins to fuel her rigorous training regimen, however, she recently had a change of heart.

In a new interview with PEOPLE, the 24-year-old revealed she has majorly revamped her diet — and has jumped on the plant-based diet bandwagon.

“Around April last year I actually stopped eating meat,” she told the magazine. Before Raisman was able to do so, she did some serious research. “When I was training, I thought that you had to eat meat in order to be strong. Now I’ve been reading up on all the amazing things that plants can do for your body and your mind.” Raisman previously boasted that incorporating more plant-based foods into her diet has improved her “overall well-being and energy.”

She also explained that there is an ethical component of her decision to go meat-free. “I started watching all these documentaries and it really freaked me out seeing how some of the animals are treated so poorly”, she added. “I’ve always loved animals, my sister has done horseback riding her whole life, we have two dogs.”

Raisman, who has teamed up with Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal delivery preparation service (that also counts Tom Brady as a fan and partner) reveals that she sometimes struggles with being “completely plant-based” for all of her meals. However, she is learning how to prepare creative vegan meals with the help of the service.

One of her favorites is a mango chia parfait and she explains “whenever they have a recipe that I like I’ll try to either remake it or I’ll try to swap in some new ingredients to switch it up a little bit.” She also reveals her new go-to snack: cashew-based cheese.

While a plant-based diet isn’t for everyone and requires a little bit of nutritional research, ditching meat can have a variety of health benefits. Vegetables, particularly non-starchy varieties, and fruits are the most vitamin and mineral dense, and additionally provide lots of disease-fighting antioxidants. Plant-based foods are also the only way to obtain fiber, which is crucial for regulating digestion and reducing heart disease risk.

One 2018 study even concluded that those who eat a vegetarian diet not only lose twice as much weight as dieters who eat meat, but also speed up their metabolism by reducing intra-muscular fat. Just ask Beyoncé, who famously shed a ton of weight with the help of her nutritionist and trainer Marco Borges’ 22-Day Revolution vegan diet.

Actress Kate Hudson claims that banishing animal products from her diet even improved her skin — and Kimberly Snyder, longtime vegan and nutritionist to-the-stars agrees. “Nourishing your skin begins from the inside with the foods you eat. Because the skin is an organ, it requires nutrients to maintain vibrant health,” she explained on her website.

Raisman has not only changed her diet, but her approach to exercise. In fact, it isn’t even a part of her daily schedule — and she’s not upset about it! “I don’t work out every day at this point, but that’s okay,” she told the magazine.

“I worked out my whole entire life for very long hours every single day and I’m enjoying taking care of my body and my mind and learning that it’s okay to just chill.” Instead, she is focusing on things that make her happy, including traveling, going for walks and meditating.

We are all for Aly Raisman's new approach to health and fitness and can't wait to see the many ways she is sure to continue to inspire us in 2019. Let's hope to see her back on the beam at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo!