Being a vegetarian is its own reward for those who choose not to eat meat for health reasons or ethical beliefs (or both). You attain your objective daily through your diet. Now there’s a surprise benefit for vegetarians and vegans: Some Insurance companies are discounting premium rates for them. This idea makes perfect sense, yet no one had connected the dots until somewhat recently.

Several insurance companies have decided to capitalize on the vegetarian/vegan market because they are often healthier than carnivores and may not need as much insurance coverage as their meat-eating counterparts. Of course there are people who avoid meat and/or dairy and binge on other unhealthy foods, but many non-meat eaters are exceptionally healthy.

Insurance companies evaluate health risks by considering family medical history, alcohol ingestion, and nicotine consumption. It makes sense that eating habits influence our health and should be factored into the insurance equation, too. Vegetarians have a 50% less chance of developing heart disease and are 40% less likely to develop cancers. They are less likely to suffer from hypertension, obesity, strokes, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, and many other diseases.

One study showed that non-vegetarians have 300% more risk of developing colon cancer; eating red meat is also linked to Type 2 diabetes. Carnivores are also more likely to have gallstones and kidney stones. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that vegetarians are also less likely to have food allergies and asthma. According to a Loma Linda University study, vegetarians live nine years longer than meat-eaters. A study published by The Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating red meat increases the risk of death by up to 20%. Those statistics make you want to start abstaining from animal flesh right now, don’t they?

Australia, England, and the Netherlands have been pioneering insurance discounts for vegetarians/vegans for several years, with premium discounts ranging from 4% to 25%. The notion of discounting insurance for non-meat eaters has reached the United States in the form of an American insurance broker who works with a multitude of insurance companies to discount vegetarians’ rates. They offer an online test to determine if you qualify. It’s challenging  — you’ll have sweat on your brow as you complete the questions, which assess your nutrition IQ. It’s on the honor system because compassionate eaters can be trusted not to cheat and Google the answers (although it’s tempting).

Perhaps one day soon a physical will be required so no one can pose as a vegetarian just for the discount. Maybe homes and restaurants will be wired to shock fake vegetarians when animal flesh touches their lips, or at least to notify the insurance company of the breach?

Bad nutritional habits cause chronic diseases, which cost insurance companies a great deal of money for surgery, medications, therapy, and more. Exercise incentives already exist; it’s only natural that incentives for eating healthily are next. Imagine millions of people converting to veganism/vegetarianism to save money on their insurance payments. There would be a seismic shift in the economy and the climate.