There is an increasing number of people moving toward vegan diets due to health, animal welfare and environmental concerns. You could almost call it trendy. But is going vegan healthy?
Research definitely suggests the diet has many benefits, such as improving some chronic diseases, protecting against cancer and lowering weight. But they do point out that people who eat only plant-based foods need to be aware of how to obtain all their essential nutrients. This just means you need to be proactive and educate yourself to make sure you are making the right food choices!
Below we will look over various research articles to show you how your choice to go vegan can be the best thing to happen to your body (and life)
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan or plant-based diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs and honey. When people follow it correctly, a plant-based diet can be highly nutritious.
For some people, being vegan is a dietary choice. For others, it is a lifestyle choice, as they are opposed to animal cruelty or interested in doing their bit to save the environment. The majority of people who choose to live a vegan lifestyle usually avoid clothes, and other products that use or contain parts of animals. This includes leather and animal fur. But remember, it is a slow journey and you must accept that it can take some people a bit longer to completely turn their lifestyle around. Some start with just vegan food, before moving further into vegan clothes, accessories etc.
Vegan diets tend to include a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. The vegan diet is commonly seen as restrictive than most, but with all the luxury brands and restaurants including vegan ranges, it proves that this misconception is not as it seems. It is important to consciously consider where your nutrients are coming from so you can meet your daily dietary requirements.
Research is starting to prove that a carefully constructed and balanced vegan diet can provide all of the nutrients a person needs. Along with eliminating some of the possible health risks associated with poor diet choices. Here are some of the research backed scientifically proven health benefits of implementing a vegan diet.
Recently, a large scale study (Kim, et al., 2019) has linked a higher intake of plant-based foods and a lower intake of animal foods with a reduced risk of heart disease and death in adults.
There are numerous studies showing that vegan diets may benefit cardiovascular health by significantly reducing the risk factors that contribute to heart disease. (Bazzano, He, Ogden, & et al, 2001) (Casiglia, Tikhonoff, & Caffi, 2013) (Nagura, Iso, Watanabe, & et al, 2009) (Oyebode, Gordon-Dseagu, Walker, & Mindell, 2014) (Threapleton, Greenwood, Evans, & et al, 2013).
All of these studies have shown that eating a large number of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and fiber contributed to a lower risk of heart disease. In a well planned vegan diet, these are all eaten in abundance.
Vegans also have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure and a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease (Le & Sabate, 2014). Additionally, compared to the general population, it has been found that vegans tend to eat more whole grains and nuts, both of which are good for your heart (Kelly & Sabate, 2006) (Mellen, Walsh, & Herrington, 2008).
Lowers some cancer risk
According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within our control. That includes making changes to our diet. It would appear that certain aspects of the vegan diet may offer protection against prostate, breast and colon cancers.
It seems that eating legumes regularly may significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by up to 18% (Zhu, Sun, Qi, Zhong, & Miao, 2015). More significantly, researchers have reviewed 96 observational studies. They found that vegans benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer due to the considerable increase in the amount of fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals that protect against cancer (Dinu, Abbate, Gensini, Casini, & Sofi, 2017).
It is also believed that avoiding processed or smoked animal products may help lower the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers.
Basically, vegan diets have a natural tendency to reduce your calorie intake. This makes them effective at promoting weight loss without the need to focus on cutting calories.
There is plenty of social media posts and advertisements suggesting people are turning to plant-based diets to shed excess weight. Many observational studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes than non-vegans (Craig, 2009) (Dinu, Abbate, Gensini, Casini, & Sofi, 2017).
Additionally, a gold standard study showed that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss and superior at providing essential macronutrients (Turner-McGrievy, Davidson, Wingard, Wilcox, & Frongillo, 2015).
Lowers Type 2 diabetes risk
A vegan diet may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The diet appears to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels and may help prevent further medical issues from developing with this chronic disease (Qian, Liu, Hu, Bhupathiraju, & Sun, 2019). This review believed the link was due to eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nut and legumes.
I know it’s good for me, but how do I change?
So you want to consider changing from an unrestricted meat based diet onto a plant-based or vegan diet. Trust me, you will be feeling better in no time. However, this can be daunting, especially if you haven’t changed your eating pattern for years.
There are many simple, tasty and nutritious ways to ease into a vegan diet. You don’t have to jump into the deep end straight away. Almost of the products below are in the same supermarket you do your regular shop, its just about looking in a different section or asking for assistance. We also highly recommend joining Thrive Market or searching on Amazon as they have a great vegan collection
- Start with milk. Instead of cow milk, use a plant-based alternative. There are plenty to choose from, coconut, hemp, almond, and rice are just a few. Experiment and see which ones you prefer.
- You can also simply swap out your dairy, for plant-based cheeses, vegan yoghurts and vegan butter.
- Consider buying some alternatives to honey, such as agave or maple syrup. Remove the honey from your pantry, so you aren’t tempted.
- Test out some of the different protein substitutes, such as tofu, tempeh and seitan in your usual recipes. You can also use meaty mushrooms to add a meat-like texture to your usual dishes.
- Buy a great vegan recipe book. There are plenty out there. They can show you the absolute joy and variety with the vegan way of eating.
- Experiment with making one meal a day plant-based. This can be breakfast or lunch. Try your hand at several different dishes that you can prepare quickly and effortlessly to improve the chances of you making them every day.
- Then move up to having one day a week completely animal product free—breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure you have everything prepared, so you aren’t tempted to buy any quick fixes that aren’t plant-based.
Vegan diets are definitely growing in popularity. Plant-based eating can offer many health benefits, including cardiovascular health, weight loss and the reduction of other chronic diseases.
If you want to adopt a vegan diet, start small and substitute some animal products with plant-based products first to help you along your journey.