5 Health Benefits of Eating Vegan
According to a recent study survey by BOL, 44 percent of young people (18-24) believe that veganism is ‘cooler than smoking’, while a YouGov poll discovered that one in five young people believe that the future will be meat-free.
Considering the health benefits of plant-based foods, it’s no surprise that so many young people, as well as world-class athletes and celebrities, are opting to eat vegan. Many vegan foods are rich in plant-based protein, which doesn’t have the harmful health effects of animal-derived protein. These are some of the health benefits of eating vegan:
#1 Rich in nutrients
A healthy, balanced diet rich with wholefoods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and grains provide us with all the nutrients we need. Some studies have found that those who eat vegan consume more fibre, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E.
#2 Helps reduce the risk of suffering from diseases such as Cancer
Studies suggest that eaten vegan can help reduce the risk of us catching disease, thanks to phytochemicals such antioxidants contained in fruits and vegetables. Researchers argue that those who follow a vegan diet have a higher concentration of antioxidant carotenoids, a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, and lower levels of saturated fatty acids.
#3 Helps lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
Studies suggest that a vegan diet helps manage type 2 diabetes and combat declining kidney function.
Research shows that vegans usually have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and a 50-78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, some studies concluded that vegan diets lower blood sugar levels in diabetics more than the diets recommended by official medical institutions, such as the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).
In one study carried out in America, 43% of participants following a vegan diet reduced their dosage of blood-sugar-lowering medication, successfully, while only 26% of those following an American Diabetes Association (ADA)-recommended diet were able to do so.
Other studies report that that diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein could lower risk of poor kidney function.
#4 Linked to lower risk of heart disease
Studies suggest that diets that are high in plant foods and lower in animal foods are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and death in a general population.
British Heart Foundation dietitian Victoria Taylor explains:
A study published in 2014 looked at 198 patients to further investigate whether eating a strict plant-based diet could stop or reverse heart disease. It found of the 177 patients who stuck to the diet, the majority reported a reduction in symptoms and 22 per cent had disease reversal confirmed by test results. But that study didn’t just rule out animal products – it also cut out added oils, processed foods, sugar, refined carbohydrates, excess salt, fruit juice, avocado, and nuts. Physical activity was also encouraged and prescribed medication continued.
#5 Could have a positive impact on your mental health
Plant-based diets appear to have a positive influence on our mental health. People who follow a strict vegetarian diet, in cross-sectional and interventional studies, showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and mood disturbance than omnivores.
Research published in the Nutritional Journal found that vegetarians could be happier than those who eat meat, noting "it was found that vegetarians had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to fish and meat-eaters." This could be due to "The elimination of long chain fatty acids, predominantly arachidonic acid which is present in meat and is associated with symptoms of depression, means you are less at risk of suffering from it," explained Geeta. "Vegan diets also have more complex carbohydrates present which increase the feel good hormone serotonin in the brain."
Should I switch to a plant-based diet?
Overall, it is fair to say that a plant-based diet might suit some people, however there isn’t enough evidence for the experts to endorse this way of eating for everyone, just yet.
The general advice is to eat more fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains, while putting a greater emphasis on plant-based proteins over meat. If you think that adopting a vegan diet is not for you, you might find the less-strict Mediterranean-style diet more suitable – it incorporates plenty of fruit, veg, pulses and fish, and only small amounts of meat. It’s also linked to lower rates of heart disease than a conventional Western diet.
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