Rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are at all-time highs in the United States. The common denominator between most of these diseases is a poor diet, the Standard American Diet to be specific. This diet is rich in meat, refined grains, added sugars, dairy products, packaged foods, and processed meats. Because more people are aware of the negative effects of this diet, there is a larger interest in vegetarian and vegan diets.
According to a 2020 report, veganism rose to an all-time high. Vegan diets tend to be rich in nutrients and low in saturated fats. In fact, dietitians and food scientists promote the benefits of eating plant-based and avoiding lots of animal-based foods. Plant-based diets, such as the vegan diet, are mainstream now and vegan options are more plentiful in grocery stores. That’s just in regards to packaged foods because fruits and vegetables are always there!
What Is The Vegan Diet?
The vegan diet requires a person to only consume plant-based foods. That means that a person must avoid all meats (poultry, red meat, pork, & fish), dairy products, and eggs. Some strict vegans even avoid honey, as it is a byproduct of bees. Being vegan is a lifestyle choice for some, while it is a dietary choice for others. The primary foods that a vegan should focus on include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. These foods offer a wide range of nutrients, but they may occasionally be low in iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12. For this reason, dietitians encourage supplementation of those nutrients.
In essence, the vegan diet focuses on plant-based foods, but it is possible for vegans to be unhealthy. For instance, it’s perfectly vegan to only eat tofu, potatoes, rice, and nothing else. For people who are “vegan” and eat that way, the diet is not healthy. People who decide to focus on freshness and stick to an assortment of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes can experience the following benefits.
Vegan Diet May Reduce The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often linked to dietary habits that you’ve kept over time. Unhealthy eating habits can lead to weight gain, which is a major risk factor of the condition. The more fatty tissue that exists in the body, the more cells are resistant to insulin. According to several studies, a plant-based diet is rich in quality nutrients that may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One study even found that a vegan diet reduced type 2 diabetes risk by 34%. Plant-based foods contain fewer saturated fats than animal foods, which increase cholesterol levels and diabetes risk.
Vegan Diet May Promote Weight Loss
Many studies and reviews found that people who follow a vegan diet tend to have a lower body mass index than those who follow other diets. Animal-based foods are higher in calories and saturated fats. A diet rich in those foods makes it easier to accumulate waste and weight in the body. A 2015 study found that vegan diets are more effective for weight management than pescatarian, omnivorous, and semi-vegetarian diets. Vegan diets offer beneficial macronutrients that can help people manage weight.
Vegan Diet May Improve Brain Function
It’s common for people to eat for their gut, heart, or liver, but rarely to people eat for their brain. A vegan diet benefits the entire body! According to various studies, eating more plant-based foods helps slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2017 review found that eating an extra 100 grams of fruits and vegetables per day reduced the risk of cognitive decline by 13%. The polyphenols and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables benefit the brain and enhance cognition.
Vegan Diet May Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the primary contributing factors to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The diet you keep can make a difference, though. Several studies found that eliminating animal foods and focusing on plant-based foods contributed to lower blood pressure levels. A 2014 meta-analysis found that a people who followed a vegan diet experienced lower blood pressure levels than people on omnivorous diets. Another study found that vegans had a 34% lower risk of developing hypertension.
Vegans May Live Longer
According to researchers, plant-based foods offer beneficial antioxidants that may promote longevity. In fact, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study about the plant-based diet lowering the risk of all causes of mortality by 25%. Additionally, the plant compounds offer protective benefits to the body’s major organs and systems. This protection extends longevity by another 5%.