Veganism and the interest in a plant-based diet have risen so much so that even famous sportspeople and celebrities are advocating the health benefits of a diet free from animal products.
With all the hype, it’s hard to ignore the fact that veganism provides countless benefits – and not just for the environment. While it is the most restrictive diet, it is also one of the most beneficial in terms of its health benefits.
The top 5 health benefits of a vegan diet
Vegan diets consist of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. As popularity and demand for plant-based foods grow, vegans also have access to plant-based meat substitutes, helping to further provide a balanced and nutritious diet.
Because of this fresh, organic, and non-GMO approach to food, vegans find that their health is significantly improved.
1. Weight loss
A vegan diet is more effective for weight loss since it has the lowest total energy intake of all other diets. It also has a better fat profile and the highest levels of dietary fiber when compared to meat-based diets.
Studies have also revealed that vegans tend to be thinner and have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). This is because the lower calories of a plant-based diet make it easier to maintain a healthier weight. Animal proteins tend to have higher levels of saturated fat which slows down the digestive system, impacting weight loss efforts.
2. Improved heart health
A vegan diet helps lower the risk of heart disease. Seeds such as chia and hemp are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation in the body and decreases the risk of strokes and heart failure.
Fruits and vegetables in a vegan diet are also heart-protective. Fruits or vegetables that are darker in color – such as blueberries and red cabbage – are rich in antioxidants, plant sterols, phytochemicals, and potassium. All of which reduce the risk of heart disease.
Red meat contains a high amount of saturated fat, which has long been known to contribute to heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. The meat-free diet of veganism, therefore, lowers the risk of heart disease considerably.
3. Clear skin
There have been studies on the negative effects of dairy on the skin. Most of these studies suggest that acne can be irritated by the consumption of dairy products when combined with refined foods and processed sugars.
While it’s still unconfirmed whether a vegan diet is the cure-all for acne, the elimination of dairy products has helped many to achieve clearer skin. Celebrities such as Billie Eilish have joined the list of celebrities who claim that their skin has significantly improved since cutting out dairy.
Another reason a vegan diet may be beneficial for skin health is because of the increased amount of fiber in the diet. Eating fiber from whole grains helps the body flush out toxins from the body, improving the appearance of the complexion.
4. Lowers blood sugar levels
Eating plant-based foods has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels. A diet rich in unprocessed, high-fiber plant foods delivers a potent mix of vitamins and nutrients to the body, also helping to lower cholesterol.
A recent study of over 300,000 participants found that those following a vegan diet had a 23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, people who adopt a vegan diet tend to have higher insulin sensitivity. This is in part due to the fact that plant-based foods and whole grains have a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.
5. Reduces the risk of cancer and chronic illness
The rise of chronic illness and certain cancers in recent years are suspected to be due to lifestyle factors such as inactivity, obesity, and poor diet.
Eating plant-based foods and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and legumes can reduce cancer risk and illness simply because it’s healthier for the body.
A 2016 study into nutrition and its link to prostate cancer found that vegan diets were linked with a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer compared to non-vegan diets. Similarly, a study in cancer epidemiology showed that vegan diets were associated with a 16% lower likelihood of developing cancer compared to non-vegan diets.
A well-balanced vegan diet brings many health benefits. The abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains delivers a range of antioxidants and nutrients to the body which helps to maintain a person’s health and optimum bodily function.
Plant-based diets can be appealing to those looking to lose weight, improve skin, or to manage diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The simple act of reducing or eliminating high-fat meat products and processed foods and replacing them with organic, wholesome foods increases the body’s ability to repair and maintain overall health.