Veganism And Your Health: What You Need To Know
Vegan and vegetarian diets have long created polarizing views for people.
Some see a plant-based diet as the secret to health and longevity, while others believe that nothing less than steak every day will keep the doctor away.
Looking at the actual research can be confusing, as nutritional advice can seem to conflict itself when not looked at carefully.
How are you supposed to know what diet is best for you? What is the connection between veganism and health?
This article will pull back the layers on the recent research in order to give you a better idea of what this lifestyle change can do for you.
Keep reading to better understand what going vegan means for your health, and why you should consider trying to adapt this lifestyle as soon as possible.
What’s So Healthy About A Vegan Diet?
Recently, research is showing more ways than ever how a vegan and vegetarian diet is one of the healthiest ways you can eat for your body.
Vegan diets are associated with a wealth of health benefits, including higher fiber content, lots of vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and many other benefits.
Even compared to a vegetarian diet, vegans are filled with fiber, absorb less saturated fat, have lower blood pressure, serum cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease.
In fact, most vegans have no trouble maintaining a healthy weight and have fewer weight-based health problems in the long run.
While a plant-based diet is often misunderstood as a fringe way of eating that leads to malnutrition, the scientific evidence points to the contrary.
In truth, vegans that manage to eat a healthy, whole food-filled diet experience a wide variety of health benefits that surpass just about any other eating style.
So long as they get in their vitamin B-12, calcium and other nutrients, vegans are following a diet that does great things for their bodies.
Physical Benefits Of A Vegan Diet
Though they represent just 1.4% of the United States population, vegans make a major impact. In fact, vegan diets are growing in popularity, especially among teenagers and young adults.
While the average age for most vegans today is 42, according to some research, younger populations are increasing adopting the diet for themselves.
The reason for going vegan can vary considerably from animal welfare to environmental reasons, but almost all vegans understand that this dietary change will have a lasting impact on their health as well.
The changes to your body after just a few weeks of following a vegan diet are profound, and they lead to long lasting improvements for your general health and wellness.
Veganism’s Impact On BMI
Obesity is a major problem in the United States today, affecting over a third of the population with rates only expecting to increase in future decades.
To combat the creep of extra pounds, more people than ever are turning to plant based diets to keep the weight off, and science is proving that the strategy is a success.
Observational studies have repeatedly shown that vegans tend to weigh less and have lower body mass indexes than non-vegans.
In fact, one study found that vegans lost an average of 9.3 pounds more than a control diet over a four-month trial period.
Vegans even seem to lose more weight than participants following a calorie-restricted diet, even when the vegans are allowed to eat as much as they want.
Another study recently compared five major diet trends (including vegan and vegetarian) and found that the vegan diet resulted in the greatest amount of weight loss and health benefits, and that the participants were able to maintain their results for the longest amount of time.
The evidence is clear. Vegan diets will naturally cause you to reduce the amount of calories you eat each day, making it easier to promote weight loss and achieve a healthier BMI, all without feeling like you are depriving yourself.
When people follow a smart vegan diet, it’s almost impossible to not start losing weight. The reason for this is that plant-based foods tend to be bulky and full of fiber and starch without excessive amounts of calories.
This means you can eat enough to fill your stomach without going over your calorie needs for the day, which results in a healthier overall weight in the long run.
No matter your age, a vegan diets has been shown to help you lose weight. Studies conducted on people following different diets found that vegans are the least likely to be prone to obesity, even when compared to vegetarians.
Scientists attribute this trend to the high amount of fiber and low amount of processed ingredients that naturally exists in their diets.
Unlike conventional diet strategies that cause you to starve yourself to eat fewer calories, simply switching over to plant-based calories instead can help you eat as much as you want while still losing the weight you crave.
You might think that you’d go through your days feeling completely fatigued without meat, but the truth is that following a vegan diet actually causes people to have more energy than before.
The evidence shows that following a healthy vegan diet will give you higher energy because your body cells won’t be bogged down with heavy animal products that weigh you down.
Switching from a standard western diet to veganism instead will cause you to fill your diet with healthy, whole foods like fruits, nuts and seeds instead of heavy, artery-clogging processed foods.
These natural foods are nutritional powerhouses for your body, meaning that they will give you a healthy amount of fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds like potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C and E, and folate.
This revs up your metabolism and keeps you feeling light and filled with energy, even without reaching for that afternoon cup of coffee.
However, it is essential that vegans take the time to ensure that the diet they follow is fully balanced and filled with adequate amounts of vitamin D and B12.
This might require occasional dietary supplements to keep their levels on these hard-to-source nutrients high. Without a nutritionally balanced diet, vegans might start experiencing negative health effects like lower energy levels.
Eating a diet filled with nuts and seeds does wonders for your skin complexion, and the followers of a vegan diet know this truth first hand.
Rich amounts of vitamins A and E can contribute to a healthy skin tone, and many people that switch to a vegan diet notice that their blemishes become diminished in a matter of days.
The simple truth is that we become what we feed our bodies.
Diets filled with foods formulated with toxic trans fats will cause your cells to get clogged with grime, even in your skin.
By eating a plant-based diet instead, your cells will be renewed and not be weighed down by unpleasant excess.
Eating a diet filled with fresh foods and lots of colors will cause your complexion to clear up, as the outside of your body starts to match the inside.
Strange but true, cutting out dairy products, eggs and any other animal-product sources of protein can do wonders for chronic bad breath. Going vegan keeps sweet dairy products out of your mouth, which often lead to tooth decay in the long run.
The oral health benefits of vegan foods is one more indicator that the diet is designed to give your body what it needs for peak health.
Cutting dairy products and red meat from your diet can make a difference in a most unusual way - your body odor.
According to research, the biggest contributor to bad-smelling body odor is a diet filled with animal products, so eliminating meat, eggs and diary from your daily dinner plate will make a dramatic change for your overall scent.
In a recent study that looked into the role of meat in body odor, men were divided into two groups, one that ate meat and one that avoided it for the entire two-week study.
For the first twenty-four hours, the men wore odor-collecting pads under their arms to gauge their scent. Women were commissioned to come smell the pads and rate them based on how attractive they smelled.
According to the study results, women rated the smell of the men on vegetarian diets as far more attractive, and lost their attraction to their smells once they went back to a meat-filled diet.
In fact, going vegan might be enough to let you leave your deodorant behind. Decreased body odor is one of the first things vegans notice about their new diet, and they also start to become more sensitive to the body odor of others.
Getting rid of greasy build up in your cells can lead to less animal product-saturated sweat coming from your pores, which may lead to a better scent in the long run.
Not only will a vegan diet make you look and feel better, it also does wonders for your internal organs.
Following a vegan diet is a proven way to stave off disease, and going completely plant-based can add years to your lifespan.
Below are some of the biggest ways that filling your body with nourishing foods can make a difference for your health, so keep reading to learn what the overall impacts of clean eating can be for you.
Cancer might be the scourge of modern existence, but controlling your diet can make an incredible impact on your risk of developing cancer in the long run.
Data from the Adventist Health Study found that vegetarians have a far lower risk of multiple kinds of cancer, including colorectal and prostate cancer.
Vegetarian and vegan diets are high in antioxidants, polyphenols and other powerful cancer fighting properties that keep your body in top shape to withstand the intrusion.
The foods that vegans eat makes a big difference for natural cancer prevention.
Studies have shown that diets high in legumes, fruits and vegetables lead to a lower overall BMI, which dramatically reduces your risk of most cancers.
In the same way, fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids and other phytochemicals can actively protect your body against cancer, especially they are gotten from whole foods instead of supplements.
Another factor for reducing the risk factor of cancer in vegans is their avoidance of red meat in their diets.
All processed meats are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, and they can also raise the rate of liver, lung and even esophageal cancers.
By eating diet based on legumes rather than meat, vegetarians and vegans protect their vital organs and stave off the risk of developing cancer.
There’s no challenging the data. Compared with people who eat a western diet, vegans and vegetarians tend to have a lower BMI, have lower amounts of LDL cholesterol, and have lower blood pressure.
In some studies, the LDL cholesterol levels for vegans were up to 40% lower than among omnivores, which dramatically reduces their risk of suffering from chronic disease like heart disease.
Eating diets based on nuts, whole grains and fruits and vegetables is linked with improving cardiovascular health and lowering the risks of stroke, heart disease and heart attacks.
Following a vegan diet also relieves much of the pressure from your heart. Studies have shown that vegans tend to experience up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure than the regular population and have a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Randomized controlled studies have also shown that vegan diets are naturally effective for reducing blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and other forms of cholesterol, especially when compared to regular diets.
Hypertension causes more than 300,000 deaths in the United States every year, but transitioning to a plant based diet can make a big difference for your health.
Studies have shown that maintaining a vegan diet makes a major difference for your cholesterol and blood pressure, which can help them in the long run against the problems of blood pressure.
Various studies have shown that meat eaters have the highest overall risk of hypertension, while vegan eaters experience only a fraction of the frequency of the disease.
Cholesterol is one of those compounds that the medical world just loves to hate. Cholesterol is alcohol located in the cell membranes of all tissues.
A smaller part of cholesterol is found in the blood and if this cholesterol starts to accumulate on the walls of blood vessels, then we have a problem.
There are two types of cholesterol in every body, HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Too much LDL cholesterol tends to be an indicator of poor health because it collects in your artery walls and can block blood flow in the long run.
Cholesterol is critical for the healthy functioning of your body, but too much of it can pose major problems for your health. Consuming any more than what is strictly necessary is an easy way to start suffering from chronic disease.
In fact, for every one percent increase of cholesterol in your blood, you increase your risk of a heart attack by two percent.
Animal products are the only source of dietary cholesterol, so cutting them out of your diet is the first step for staying healthy.
However, plant based oils and trans fats can affect your body’s natural cholesterol production, so it’s important to take these oils only in moderation or not at all.
While genetics play a major role in how elevated your cholesterol levels are, your diet makes almost as big of an impact. Following a vegan diet filled with healthy, whole foods is a great way to keep your levels in check.
A whole foods vegan diet not only reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, but it can also lower your risk of other chronic diseases of affluence, like cancer and diabetes.
Now that is reason for a celebratory vegan bran muffin!
Type 2 diabetes, the type previously known as ‘adult-onset diabetes’, wrecks havoc in the modern world.
Caused by your body’s inability to properly process sugar, diabetes can lead to a wealth of negative symptoms, including pain in your extremities, frequent urination, blurred vision and can even lead to amputation.
A major cause of diabetes is eating simple starches and a sugar-filled diet, so filling up on vegan foods that are naturally filled with complex carbohydrates and low in fat can make a major difference in the amount of insulin you need to use and even reduce the symptoms of diabetes in your body.
According to recent research, vegan diets are even better for diabetics than the special diabetic diets that are usually prescribed for them.
In the same way, following a vegan diet helps diabetics lower their blood sugar levels, lose weight and increase the quality of their blood supply.
Following a vegan diet is also linked with major benefits for kidney function, insulin sensitivity and lowering overall blood sugar levels.
In one study, patients following a vegan diet reduced their blood sugar medication dosage by 43% just by eating plant based foods - meaning that food truly became their medicine.
Arthritis And Osteoporosis
Cutting plant-based food sources from your diet can make a major difference for your overall health, and it might even ease arthritic pain by helping your joints to function better.
A new study has found that cutting out dairy can alleviate arthritis symptoms and even combat osteoporosis, so the idea that you need to drink milk to build strong bones may be a lie.
Recently, a study assigned different diets to arthritic patients and monitored the progress of their symptoms.
Those that went on a vegan diet reported that they had higher energy levels and better overall functioning than those on a diet of highly processed foods, showing an improvement in their symptoms as well.
The patients on a vegan diet experienced less joint swelling, morning stiffness and general pain than the other participants.
Other Positive Health Benefits
The benefits of a plant-based diet certainly go beyond staving off illness. Veganism and health go together perfectly to help reduce your stress levels, let you feel lighter and even improve your general mood on a daily level.
Combined with eating less sugar, transitioning to a diet without animal products can make a major difference for your overall health and wellness.
Longer Life Expectancy
Studies have shown repeatedly that following a vegan diet won’t just make your life better, it actually makes it longer, too!
Very limited meat intake is linked to a significant decrease in death rates from most major chronic illnesses, and vegans and vegetarians have significantly longer life expectancy than most meat eaters.
By looking at over 130,000 people over thirty years, researches established that every three percent increase in calories from plant protein could reduce the risk of death over the course of the 30 year study by 10 percent, and 12 percent for dying specifically from heart disease.
In contrast, every ten percent increase of animal protein raised the risk of death by two percent, and an eight percent higher risk of dying from heart disease.
Veganism Side Effects
While a vegan diet can be a completely healthy way to eat, it’s important to keep up your consumption of a wide variety of foods so that you don’t experience deficiencies in essential nutrients.
Without vitamin B12, you can experience chronic fatigue, breathlessness and even memory loss, so make sure to pop a supplement if you don’t want to eat the processed vegan foods that contain it.
There are other, less critical changes that can occur when you transition to a vegan diet, and keeping them in mind will help you be prepared to deal with them.
Most of these concerns tend to be temporary, meaning that your body will adjust to your new diet in time and they will go away.
Starting to eat a plant-based diet is a brilliant way to enhance the working of your digestive system, but it can take your body a while to adjust to all that fiber.
This means that your first few weeks of veganism might be filled with unpleasant digestive difficulties as your stomach adjusts to so much plant matter.
A diet filled with beans can be especially troubling for some, so take care to eat them in moderation until you know how you respond.
To make it through this period, it’s important to experiment with what works best for your body. Some foods might trigger more discomfort than others, so try out different combinations until your body fully adjusts.
Cooking raw vegetables for their essential compounds to break down so that they are more easily digested can also help your body, as can choosing raw nuts over roasted for your nut butters and taking digestive enzymes to ease the process through your system.
Pulling It All Together
What you eat each day makes all the difference for your body, and veganism and health go together like peas in a pod.
By turning towards a diet filled with plant-based nutrition, you can stave off chronic disease while keeping your digestive system happy and your weight within the healthy range.
It might take some experimentation to learn what foods your body best responds to, but once you fully transition to a vegan diet you will feel less tempted to go back to animal products again.
Now, we want to hear from you. Did you start going vegan for health reasons? What difference did it make for your daily life? Do you have any tips for making the transition process easier?
We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!
- The Times Of India
- National Institute Of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Disease
- The State
- Havlicek J., Lenochova P. "The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness". Chem Senses. 2006 Oct
- Dr. Michael J. Orlich, MD, Dr. Pramil N Singh, DrPH, Dr. Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Dr. Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, DrPH, Ms. Jing Fan, MS, Dr. Synnove Knutsen, MD, PhD, Dr. W. Lawrence Beeson, DrPH, and Dr. Gary E. Fraser, MBchB, PhD "Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2". JAMA Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Oct 9. Published in final edited form as: JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 8
- Le LT, Sabaté J. "Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts". Nutrients. 2014 May 27
- Health Line
- Neal D Barnard, Joshua Cohen, David JA Jenkins, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Lise Gloede, Amber Green, and Hope Ferdowsian. "A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial". Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May
- Gluten Free Blog
- Chelsea M. Clinton, Shanley O'Brien, Junwen Law, Colleen M. Renier, and Mary R. Wendt. "Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet Alleviates the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis". Arthritis. 2015
- The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition