Here's some encouragement as to how powerful a plant-based diet can be. BTW: Some of my favorite legume-dishes are falafel, hummus and tempeh. If you haven't tried tempeh, it's a great meat-replacer for sandwiches (I add avocado slices, hummus, pesto, and cucumbers). So yes, eating "healthy" can be very tasty... and easy.
This is from the website of Jay Lavine, MD, "The Nutrition MD":
He says there's a compound called "mitochondrial superoxide dismutase"(impress your friends by dropping this in casual conversation) that works together with the mineral manganese as an antioxidant in the body. Research has shown higher levels of this enzyme, abbreviated MnSOD, help protect against chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's.
A recent study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition (2008) examines levels of MnSOD in vegetarians vs. non-vegs. They found that the vegetarian group had "a 3-fold increase in the expression of the MnSOD gene" as compared with the nonvegetarian group.
The best dietary sources of manganese include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and tea by the way.
Dr. Lavine cites that superior manganese status of vegetarians has been documented in the past. The Nutrition MD also reminds us that "simply following a vegetarian diet is not enough to insure adequate manganese intake. It must be a healthful diet, rich in the whole plant foods mentioned previously. For example, whole wheat flour contains over five times as much manganese as refined flour."
Five times more manganese in whole wheat flour! I bet that's why people who change to a healthier diet are constantly telling me they have more energy. Not to mention they lose copious amounts of weight... not a bad side effect.