The benefits of a vegan diet instead of a meat-based diet are becoming more widely acknowledged. Veganism has risen to prominence recently, with support from prominent figures in the entertainment and medical industries. There are numerous positive outcomes for our health and the planet if we adopt a vegan diet. Let’s read this article from WhichChoose to know clearly about going vegan.
Here are 21 benefits of a vegan diet you should know:
Vegans Live Longer
Scientists have been talking for years about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on our atmosphere and planet. Now, more than ever, the need to find solutions to these problems has become urgent.
One of how we can help is by switching to a plant-based diet. A study by Oxford Martin School concluded that switching to diets that rely on vegetables rather than meat could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, and two-thirds could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To assess imbalanced diets’ health and environmental impacts, researchers modeled four different dietary scenarios for the year 2050. These included a scenario based on how we eat today; another scenario based on global dietary guidelines, which include minimum amounts of fruit and vegetables and limits the amount of red meat, sugar, and calories; and a vegan and vegetarian scenario conforming to dietary guidelines.
They found that adopting a vegan diet could reduce the number of annual deaths by 8.1 million per year by 2050. This was greater than a vegetarian diet, which reduced the number of deaths by 7.3 million, and the global dietary guidelines, which reduced deaths by 5.1 million annually.
A vegan diet doesn’t only benefit individuals. It also benefits the planet. The study projects that by 2050, following vegan diet guidelines could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70%.
Improved Physical Fitness Levels
Many athletes, from tennis players to bodybuilders, are now following a vegan diet to improve their performance. Amongst them is Barnabas du Plessis, world-renowned bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe, who insists that his vegan diet has given him more energy, fewer aches, and better health. Actually, there are hundreds of top athletes in all sports. Canadian Meagan Duhamel (ice-skating), Michaela Copenhaver (rowing), Helen Fines (extreme running), and so many other athletes testify to their preference for a vegan diet backed by their performance records.
In her book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition,” Julieanna Hever notes that athletes following a plant-based diet recover faster and can maximize their training to improve their performance. These results are borne out by research conducted in amongst Sri Lankan athletes. The study concluded that male and female vegetarian young adults appeared to have higher physical fitness levels than non-vegetarians when assessing endurance and musculoskeletal flexibility.
A Vegan Diet Can Protect Against Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become fragile and brittle, affects a significant percentage of the population over age 50. Worldwide, osteoporosis is estimated to affect 75 million people in Europe, the USA, and Japan, causing more than 8.9 million fractures annually.
Many people believe that increasing their intake of dairy products will boost calcium and bone strength, but that is incorrect. In fact, osteoporosis is more prevalent in developed countries where dairy products are easily available.
Animal protein causes calcium to be leached from bones. This is because animal proteins contain amino acids which are high in sulfur. The body converts these amino acids into sulfate, which acidifies the blood, and in the process of neutralizing this acid, bone gets dissolved into the bloodstream.
Since meat and eggs contain two to five times more of these amino acids than plant-based foods, their effect on bone density can be quite significant. Instead of increasing one strength, animal proteins can actually cause an increase in fracture rates.
According to a 1994 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report, when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.
One of the arguments people make is that vegans can’t get enough calcium in their diets if they don’t eat dairy products, but this is not true. The calcium absorption from milk is about 32 percent. For vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and turnip greens, that figure is between 40-64 percent.
Replacing animal products with plant foods reduces the amount of calcium lost, which may explain why people who live in countries with more plant-based diets have lower rates of osteoporosis, even when their calcium intake is lower than in dairy-consuming countries.
A vegan diet, therefore, provides an easy way to maintain bone health because it allows for easy absorption of calcium in low-fat foods that are good for the body.
Vegan Diets Promote Weight Loss
Obesity is a growing problem and worldwide obesity numbers have doubled since 1980.
A vegetarian diet tends to be lower in total fat, and vegetarians eat proportionally more polyunsaturated fat and saturated fat than non-vegetarians. (Animal products are the major sources of dietary saturated fat).
Low-fat and vegetarian diets have already been proven effective in weight loss. However, a two-year study that compared a low-fat vegan weight loss plan with one that followed the National Education Control Program (NECP) resulted in a significantly greater weight loss for the vegan group. This was true both at one year and two years.
Another six-month study conducted in 2013 also proved that a plant-based diet led to greater weight loss than omnivorous groups, with vegans showing a greater decrease in fat and saturated fat than the pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous groups.
Veganism Protects Against Cancer
In 2016, The UK Cancer Society released figures showing a 45 percent rise in the number of cases of cancer caused by excess weight in the past two decades.
Since obesity is now a growing worldwide problem, the same is the case in many other countries.
A 2012 analysis of five country studies (UK, Japan, USA, Netherlands, and Germany) examining vegetarian diets and their effects on cancer concluded that vegetarians have substantially lower cancer risks.
Similarly, a European study examining 500,000 men and women in 10 different countries concluded that the incidence of all cancers combined for vegetarians is lower than for non-vegetarians.
For women, in particular, following a vegan diet can reduce the risk of breast cancer. A study out of Loma University in the USA, funded by the National Cancer Institute, reported that vegans have lower cancer rates than meat-eaters and vegetarians. Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. This rate is even more significant when you consider that it was compared to a group of healthy omnivores who ate less meat than the general population.
So why do vegans have such a lowered cancer risk? It all has to do with a growth hormone called IGF-1. This hormone causes cancer cells in the body to grow more rapidly. Animal products increase IGF-1 levels in the body, while a plant-based diet reduces the levels of IGF-1 enough to slow the growth of cancer cells.
In a series of experiments where men and women followed a plant-based diet for two weeks, blood tests using cancer cells in Petri dishes showed positive results for both sexes. Women were found to have a reduction in the growth of three different types of breast cancer, and men had a similar result with prostate cancer cells.
A Vegan Diet Controls Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
High blood pressure contributes to a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders, and other health problems. The only treatment has been medication for many people, but that means costs and possible side effects.
Studies dating back to the 1920s show vegetarians have lower blood pressure than omnivores. A recent survey that analyzed data from 7 clinical trials and 32 observational studies concluded that following a vegetarian diet is associated with lower blood pressure. Moreover, the study further suggests that such diets could be useful for reducing blood pressure without needing medication. The authors suggested that, unlike drugs, a plant-based diet produced weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and controlled blood sugar without side effects and at a lower cost.
Similarly, in Japan, a review of 39 studies that included almost 22,000 people found that vegetarians had substantially lower blood pressure than people who ate meat, leading the authors to suggest that following a vegetarian diet could reduce a person’s risk of heart attack by 9 percent and the risk stroke by 14 percent if sustained over time.
A Vegan Diet Protects Against Diabetes
Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases of our time. In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes, and another 2.2 million deaths were attributed to high blood glucose.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that in 2015 seven countries had more than 10 million people with diabetes: China, India, the United States of America, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Mexico, and Indonesia.
Type two diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, occurs when the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin but can’t use it well. Insulin allows cells to convert the glucose from the food we eat into energy. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin but the cells don’t use it as well as they should. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to get glucose into the cells, but eventually, the sugar ends up in the bloodstream.
It has long been accepted that a vegetarian diet can greatly improve blood sugar levels. This is because such diets are usually associated with reduced body weight and reductions in cardiovascular risk factors. Since diabetes often leads to heart problems, this is especially important.
A 2009 study comparing a low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet concluded that although both diets led to a sustained reduction in weight, a low-fat vegan diet appeared to improve glycemia and blood lipids more than the conventional diabetes diet.
Eating a vegan diet is an easy way to improve your blood sugar and keep your risk of adult-onset diabetes to a minimum.
Vegans Have Reduced Cholesterol
It’s easy to have too high cholesterol, but luckily there’s a way to eat your way out of it too. How? By following a vegan diet.
Cholesterol is an essential fat that the body needs. We get cholesterol from our food, and our liver makes some too.
Cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood, so proteins must take it to where it needs to go. These protein carriers are called? Lipoproteins. Two lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells; low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL.
LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it forms part of plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Controlling cholesterol requires 1) reducing foods that raise LDL and 2) increasing foods that reduce LDL. Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol in the digestive system and removes it from the body before it can circulate. Some provide polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL, and some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
A publication by Harvard Medical School recommends adding vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans to our daily diet. The article notes that a largely vegetarian diet noticeably reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure, LDL and triglycerides.
A Vegan Helps Alleviate Arthritis
For years people have suspected a link between diet and arthritis, and there have been numerous stories about individuals who changed their diets and alleviated their arthritis symptoms.
Multiple studies have now demonstrated that this is, in fact, the case. A 2002 study examining the influence of a very low-fat vegan diet on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) showed that almost all measures of RA symptoms had decreased significantly after only four weeks.
The same results were found in a 12-month study examining the effects of a gluten-free, vegan diet on RA. Researchers concluded that this type of diet had a beneficial effect on the symptoms of RA.
Vegan diets are rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals and reduce painful symptoms. A diet based on plant foods is also high in polyunsaturated fats and fiber, which contribute to our health.
In a nutshell, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans which are rich in antioxidants and fiber, helps prevent and, in some cases, treat arthritis.
Vegans Have Lower BMI
BMI (Body Mass Index) is important because it is widely believed that your chances of living a healthy and long life are linked to a healthy BMI.
If your BMI is high, you have a greater risk of developing several dangerous diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists a high BMI as a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, bone, and joint problems, osteoarthritis, and many cancers, including breast, colon, and endometrial cancer.
BMI can be controlled by weight loss and exercise, and research has shown that a vegan diet is the best way to keep BMI at a healthy level.
In a study that compared BMI for individuals following different diets, the mean BMI for vegans was lowest and grew incrementally higher in lacto-ovo vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and non-vegetarians.
Researchers concluded that this difference in BMI indicated a substantial potential for control of obesity by following a vegan diet.
The same results can be seen in a New Zealand study which noted that subjects placed on a whole food plant-based diet (WFPB) showed a greater reduction in BMI than other diets. The study concluded that a WFPB diet significantly improved BMI, cholesterol, and other risk factors.
A Vegan Diet Prevents Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease remains the number one global cause of death, with 17.3 million people dying in 2015. That number is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.
We already know that a diet high in saturated foods and animal proteins can contribute to unhealthy weight gain, raised cholesterol, BMI, and cardiovascular disease. But is the opposite true? Can a vegetable-based diet actually improve cardiovascular health?
In a study conducted at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, 198 patients with heart disease were placed on a plant-based diet that eliminated all dairy, meat, and fish. Their progress was followed over the span of almost four years, and the results showed that patients had a reduced rate of cardiac symptoms and events.
Vegans Have Fewer Migraines
Migraines are often affected by diet. Most migraine sufferers are advised to avoid certain triggers like chocolate, cheese, and alcohol. But a group of Washington, DC researchers recently found that a low-fat, plant-based diet may benefit sufferers.
For the study, 42 randomly selected migraineurs ate either a vegan diet or received a placebo supplement for 26 weeks. Followers of the vegan diet reported a significant decrease in pain and changes in body weight and cholesterol levels.
The authors concluded that a vegan diet could potentially benefit migraineurs due to its exclusion of several common migraine triggers and its effects on hormones.
Vegans Eat a More Nutritious Diet
A vegan diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans has many nutritional benefits.
Following a healthy, balanced vegan diet ensures that the body has sufficient amounts of the following:
- Carbohydrates – provide energy for the body
- Fiber – prevents colon cancer
- Magnesium – aids in the absorption of calcium
- Potassium – stimulates the kidneys and detoxifies
- Folate – helps with cell repair and generates red and white blood cells
- Antioxidants – protect against cell damage and cancer
- Vitamin C – Boosts immune system, strengthens nails
- Vitamin E – benefits the heart, skin, eyes, and brain
- Phytochemicals – prevent and heal cancer
- Protein – a building block of bones, muscle, cartilage, and blood
These foods provide the body with everything it needs to function at optimum levels, as demonstrated by a 2014 study that compared the nutritional qualities of vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, and omnivorous diets.
Vegans are Happier and Less Stressed
A vegan diet can help with stress and anxiety. A study conducted in 2015 indicates that a plant-based diet may positively impact mood. The results demonstrated that vegans had lower anxiety levels and ate a healthier diet.
This could be because meat-based diets are high in arachidonic acid, a saturated omega-6 fatty acid.
In high amounts, arachidonic acid (AA) can upset the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The body needs these acids to be balanced at a rate of 1:1. If not, the body’s immune system and cardiovascular health become negatively affected.
Another outcome of a high intake of AA changes in the brain that can affect mood.
In a randomized, controlled study, 39 omnivores were divided into three groups; a control group eating fish, meat, and poultry daily; a group that ate fish 3-4 times a week but avoided meat and poultry; and a vegetarian group avoiding all meat, fish, and poultry. After two weeks, results showed that mood scores were unchanged for omnivores and fish eaters, but the vegetarian group showed significantly improved scores.
In another study, researchers surveyed nearly 800 participants, including vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. All participants responded to an online survey featuring questions about their dietary choices, vitamins and supplements, lifestyle activities, demographics, and levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. The results showed that overall, vegans, and to a lesser extent vegetarians, reported less stress and anxiety than omnivores.
A Vegan Diet Balances Hormones
Our hormones control most major body functions, including hunger, reproduction, emotions, and mood. When they are in proper balance, hormones help the body to function well, but problems with hormones can cause serious and life-altering symptoms.
Fatty foods affect the body in many ways and strongly influence the body’s hormonal activity. High-fat diets increase levels of estrogen in the blood. Although estrogen is a normal hormone for both men and women, if estrogen levels are too high, it can lead to breast cancer.
Vegetarians have significantly lower levels of estrogen than non-vegetarians. This is partly because their diet tends to be lower in fat. Still, vegetarians also have more of a certain type of carrier molecule called sex hormone binding globulin or SHBG, which ensures that these hormones remain inactive in the blood until needed.
Animal fats appear to be worse at increasing estrogen than vegetable fats. A study at the New York University Center that compared the diets of 250 Italian women with breast cancer to 499 women without cancer from the same province noted that the cancer patients had significantly more milk, cheese, butter, and meat. In fact, women who consumed more meat products had as much as three times greater risk of getting cancer than other women.
A Vegan Diet Can Prevent Strokes
Strokes are essentially brain attacks. They happen when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off, preventing essential nutrients and oxygen from reaching the brain cells. Without blood, these cells get damaged or die. A stroke can affect both the body and mind and its effects can be temporary or permanent.
Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and kill around 130,000 Americans yearly.
The cholesterol and saturated fats present in animal products can clog the arteries supplying blood to the brain, which, in turn, can lead to strokes.
Going meat free can greatly reduce your risk of suffering from strokes. Researchers have found that a vegetarian diet is the only lifestyle change that can consistently reverse the hardening of the arteries that cause strokes and reduce cholesterol simultaneously.
Vegetarians and vegans also tend to have consistently lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of strokes. Researchers who tracked 72,000 women over 14 years have confirmed that those who adhered to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains were less likely to suffer from strokes than those who ate the typical American diet, heavy with meat, dairy products, and eggs.
A Vegan Diet Protects Against Allergies and Asthma
Allergies are an inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. They occur when our bodies recognize an external substance (common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust, smoke, etc.), which triggers an immune response. Antibodies in our blood provoke an inflammatory response, which gives us the symptoms of itchy eyes, runny nose, asthma, wheezing, and tightness of breath.
Nutrition plays a major role in asthma, and there’s increasing evidence that foods can affect seasonal allergies too. For many years, people with asthma have suspected that dietary changes might help. Many noticed that they had fewer episodes and needed less medication when they switched to vegetarian (especially vegan) diets.
In the mid-1980s, anecdotal reports led researchers to put these observations to the test. A 1985 Swedish study demonstrated that individuals with asthma practicing a vegan diet for a full year had a marked decrease in the need for medications and the frequency and duration of asthma attacks.
According to the longest-running study in history comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians, women who eat meat appear to have a 30% greater chance of reporting chemical allergies, 24% more asthma, 17% more drug allergies and bee-sting allergies, and 15% more hay fever.
Why do vegetarian and vegan diets help? Researchers first attributed these benefits to the absence of common food triggers, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, common allergy trigger foods for many people. But there’s probably more to it. Repeated studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have reduced risk of asthma, presumably because these foods improve immune system functions.
Vegetarians are also thinner, which also appears to have a positive effect on asthma. Harvard’s long-term Nurses’ Health Study (an ongoing project studying thousands of nurses for multiple health concerns) found that thin people have only one-third the risk of asthma compared to overweight participants. When heavy people begin a low-fat, vegetarian diet, they typically lose a significant amount of weight, likely improving asthma.
Vegans Have Beautiful Skin
Many vegans rave about how their skin has improved since they started this diet.
Our skin can be affected by many things, including diet and hormones.
Multiple studies of people eating traditional native diets – almost all low-fat diets based on starches, vegetables, and fruits – have found that these people have little or no acne. However, acne becomes an epidemic when these healthy people switch to a typical Western diet.
Examples of well-studied populations include the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea, who live on a diet of 70% carbohydrate from plant foods, and the Ache of Eastern Paraguay, with a diet of about 70% of the calories coming from manioc (cassava – a root vegetable). Acne is absent – not a single sufferer – in these two populations living primarily on unprocessed, low-fat plant foods.
Research has demonstrated that dairy products can lead to acne vulgaris, as can foods with a high glycaemic load. A vegan diet eliminates these products, improving the skin and leading to a clearer, brighter complexion.
Vegan Foods Create Strong and Healthy Nails
To keep your nails looking their best and feeling strong, your body needs to produce sufficient collagen. In order to achieve this, the body needs large amounts of vitamin C. A typical vegan diet includes many the foods that contain Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, peppers, and broccoli.
In addition to Vitamin C, Vitamin A also plays a role in healthy nails. This can be found in fruits such as apricots, while silica, a mineral that helps to keep nails strong, can be found in cucumbers.
Vegans Have Better Body Odour
Although not everyone realizes this, there is a direct link between what we eat and our body odor. Body odor is affected by what is emitted by sweat glands, especially the ones in our armpits. These glands are designed to help us get rid of toxins from the body. The toxins we excrete are what causes body odor, so, therefore, what we eat directly affects how we smell.
Red meat is the number one cause of body odor. It causes stagnation in the body and releases toxins into the bloodstream through the large intestine.
Other foods that contribute to body odor are manufactured foods lacking fiber and made with processed ingredients, including white flour, hydrogenated oil, and added sugars.
Once those foods are eliminated and replaced with a healthy vegan diet, body odor disappears, and what remains is much more pleasant.
Veganism Can Reduce Environmental Degradation
Humanity, based on its current lifestyle, has overpopulated the planet. To continue and develop our modern lifestyle, we need another two planets to supply the raw materials needed by our growing population. Much of our land is given over to producing meat, yet the same land area used for agriculture today could produce sufficient vegan food to feed double our current population.
A vegan diet benefits the individual, society, and the environment. Vegan cooking doesn’t have to involve a lot of work or effort. Therefore, you can quickly and easily find a new and exciting way to eat with just a few fresh items and some pantry staples. WhichChoose hopes that you find incredible benefits to a vegan diet so that you gradually switch your meat-based diet to a plant-based diet soon.
WhichChoose is the website products and services review that helps users in the world to find what the best is and shop easily.