Veganism has been around for almost 80 years!
Or has it?
According to Time Magazine, even though the term was coined in the 1940s, evidence of vegan groups date all the way back to ancient Indian and Eastern Mediterranean societies.
But enough about history.
Let’s talk about you.
And the health benefits of eating vegan today.
What Is a Vegan Diet?
First, let’s dive into the deets of what exactly a vegan diet is:
The exclusion of any and all foods that come from animal-derived products.
It’s basically a step further from vegetarian, avoiding foods like honey, eggs, and dairy.
Different types of veganism:
- Traditional Vegan: Abstains from animal products.
- Raw Vegan: Eats vegan foods that have not been cooked over 115°F.
Although veganism can stretch as far as avoiding clothing, accessories, and skincare products, I want to talk solely about vegan foods and their health benefits.
Common Vegan Foods
Vegans mainly eat foods that come from plants:
- Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, pineapple, peaches
- Veggies: leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, potatoes
- Nuts and nut butters: almonds, walnuts, peanuts
- Seeds: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds
- Protein sources: tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast
- Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas
- Whole grains: quinoa, oats, brown rice
- Fats: avocadoes, unrefined vegetable oils, olive oil, coconut oil
- Plant-based milks: almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk
What You Can’t Eat
Vegans don’t eat any foods that come from animals:
- Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey, goose
- Meat: beef, pork, bison, lamb
- Seafood: tuna, mackerel, salmon, anchovies
- Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, cream, etc.
- Bee products: honey, bee pollen
- Animal-Based Ingredients: gelatin, lard, casein, carmine
To learn more about how to start a vegan diet, check out our detailed guide on how to transition to a plant-based lifestyle!
11 Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
It’s time to reveal the truth:
The 11 health benefits of eating vegan. Plus, one extra!
Table of Contents:
- May Shield Cancer
- Excess Weight Be Gone!
- Happier Heart Health
- All Good Guts
- Buffers Blood Sugar
- Fights Arthritis
- Splitting Head Probs?
- Boosts Your Brain
- Stress? Not Here
- Drives Up Nutrients
- You’re Glowing!
- Extra Benefit: World Sustainability
1. May Shield Cancer
The World Health Organization says that 30% of all cancers are linked to dietary choices, and the number goes up to 70% when it comes to gastrointestinal cancers.
Extensive processed red meat intake can also increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.
So, let’s put the pieces together.
The vegan diet is the perfect representation of the foods mentioned above:
high in legumes, fruits, and veggies with no processed meat whatsoever.
It’s no wonder a recent review of 96 studies show that vegans have a 15% lower risk of cancer overall.
2. Excess Weight Be Gone!
Plant-based foods are generally lower in calories and full of fiber, which is the ideal concoction for weight loss.
Calorie deficits allow the body to burn fat, and fiber helps you to feel full, strengthening the effects.
In fact, when compared to the Western Diet, both vegans and vegetarians had better weight loss results even when not strictly followed.
3. Happier Heart Health
You have a good heart.
And not just because you’re a nice person.
Let’s not stop there, though.
It’s been shown vegans, in general, have a 42% less risk of dying of heart disease and also tend to consume a lot of whole grains and nuts, which again:
Promote heart health.
4. All Good Guts
After following a simple, short-term vegan diet, a 2019 review saw improvement in the participants’ overall gut health.
As mentioned earlier, a vegan diet is usually rich in fiber.
Well, fiber is incredibly helpful in improving gut health because it’s a prebiotic, a crucial nutrient that plays a role in maintaining good bacteria.
On top of its fiber content, the vegan diet can also be anti-inflammatory, which could be directly correlated to bettering the digestive system.
You have a good heart and guts!
5. Buffers Blood Sugar
If you’re a Type 2 diabetic, a vegan diet could potentially aid in leveling out your blood sugar levels.
Diets high in red meat can contribute to inflammation and trigger negative, diabetic effects in the pancreas because of the toxin heme iron.
Thankfully, you won’t find red meat on the vegan plate!
Overall, vegans have lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity.
One study showed that 43% of participants following a low-fat, vegan diet were able to lower their diabetes medication doses.
As the real kicker, vegans have a 50-78% lower chance of developing diabetes later in life!
Take note however, that the vegan diet does include foods with a high glycemic index, such as fruits and starches.
So although eating vegan can possibly reduce diabetic symptoms with the exclusion of red meat, it’s not a definite cure-all.
6. Fights Arthritis
Vegan diets have shown to improve all of the above symptoms in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study invited 40 people with arthritis to either continue meat-eating or switch to a whole-food, plant-based, vegan diet. Those who switched saw an awesome increase in energy and overall functioning compared to those still following an omnivorous diet.
So not only can it help symptoms, but it can help to prevent arthritis all-together, as again, red meat’s inflammatory properties are connected to a higher risk of inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
7. Splitting Head Probs?
In my humble opinion, headaches should be banned from the universe.
And don’t even get me started on migraines.
But thankfully, vegan diets have been shown to prevail!
There seems to be a connection between eating plant-based and the reduction of headache pain and frequency.
It’s thought that the vegan diet excludes certain migraine-trigger foods, helps to regulate women’s hormones (that can cause headache effects), and includes lots of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Goodbye, stupid head pain!
8. Boosts Your Brain
Speaking of the head:
Let’s talk about the big ole’ brain.
Eating vegan can improve cognition and mental health. Fancy nutrients called phytochemicals are associated with positive effects on mental health, and the vegan diet seems to be higher in them.
Specifically, blueberries and strawberries contain polyphenols that protect nerve cells by inhibiting plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients.
But, there’s more:
Plant-based diets are even recommended by some Alzheimer’s prevention recommendations because it includes more antioxidants and less harmful saturated fats usually found in animal products.
For instance, Harvard University led a women’s health study and realized greater saturated fat consumption, particularly from dairy, meat, and processed products was connected to poor memory and general cognitive decline.
The women with the highest saturated fat intake had a 60-70% higher chance of mental deterioration in their life.
Pass the berries, please.
9. Stress? Not Here
This day and age, stress is all the rage.
But what if I told you that a vegan diet might help?
A review performed in a corporate setting found that plant-based dietary intervention can aid mood, anxiety, and work productivity.
I’ll break it down:
Arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found in chicken and eggs is associated with higher depression rates.
And obviously, a vegan diet has lower levels of this fatty acid.
Makes perfect sense.
10. Drives Up Certain Nutrients
Sometimes vegan diets get a bad wrap for not being nutritious enough.
But when done right, a whole-food, vegan diet can actually be richer in fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins, A, C, and E, in contrast to Western diets.
Your overall nutrient intake goes up because you’re eating more nourishing foods.
But, how’s it done right?
Unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds to start.
Take note of possible deficiencies over time like vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
As long as your diet is fortified and nutrient-dense (and you consult your doctor of course), a few supplements here and there go a long way.
Overall, a vegan diet can greatly increase those much-needed macro and micronutrients that contribute to a healthy body.
11. You’re Glowing!
Who doesn’t want gorgeous, glowing skin?
In the past few years, there’s been developing evidence that dairy can negatively affect acne.
And since vegan diets exclude all dairy products, improved skin can come naturally as you wean yourself onto the vegan lifestyle.
It’s a fabulous side effect if you ask me.
The Extra Health Benefit: Earth
So not only does eating vegan contribute to great health benefits, but it also contributes to the Earth’s health.
Climate change is a growing concern.
And keeping our planet healthy seems more important now than ever.
Unfortunately, cattle grazing and other mass livestock processes create a huge amount of carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases that do a number on the planet.
Thankfully, since a vegan diet excludes animal products, cattle farms and products will be less in demand, giving Earth a nice “breather.”
When our environment is healthy, you and I are all the more likely to stay healthy, as fewer toxins invade the air.
How Do I Make the Vegan Transition?
It’s easy peasy!
Instead of thinking of all the foods you can’t eat, focus on all the foods you can.
Load up on fruits, veggies, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. (See the Common Vegan Foods list above)
Explore new, vegan products– vegan subscription boxes are a great place to start!
In the first few weeks, you might be bloated and making extra bathroom visits.
This is common and nothing to worry about as your body adjusts to the new lifestyle with more fiber than usual.
If you’re concerned about cost:
I’ve got you covered there, too. The vegan diet can be extremely budget-friendly.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cheap Vegan Food. It has everything you need to know!
For even more info on how to eat vegan, read How to Transition to a Plant-Based Lifestyle [For Beginners.]
Be Aware of Your Dietary Needs
When you switch to any new lifestyle, it’s always important to consult your doctor.
For instance, calcium can be a concern, in which case after talking to your doctor, you can read up on Vegan Calcium Sources: All You Need to Know.
The above vegan health benefits are amazing, but if you have an underlying condition where a vegan lifestyle just simply wouldn’t benefit you, that’s okay!
Vegan Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner (And Dessert!)
It’s cookin’ time!
Now that you know all the health benefits and how to make the vegan switch, you get to eat all of the delicious food veganism offers. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Top 5 Nutrient-Rich, Vegan Foods
All this talk about vegan eating makes you wonder:
What are the best vegan foods to eat, aside from the typical fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds?
Vegans need an iron-rich, plant-based protein alternative to meat.
And legumes are it!
Beans, lentils, and peas are super high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
And they can be extremely cheap when bought in bulk.
2. Chia Seeds
These low-cal, nutrient-dense, superfood seeds can even be used as an egg substitute when soaked in water.
They also have an enormous amount of antioxidants, fiber, and protein and contain Omega-3s, an important nutrient vegans tend to struggle getting enough of.
You can find it in the health food aisle of your local grocery store.
Tofu and tempeh are popular meat alternatives made from soybeans. They’re full of protein, iron, and calcium.
For vegans, it can be important to choose minimally-processed meat substitutes such as tofu, to avoid excess consumption of chemical preservatives.
4. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast usually comes in yellow powder or flakes at health food or grocery stores.
It’s very high in protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals, like B12, another nutrient vegans need to make sure they’re consuming enough of.
If you’re worried about the taste:
When cooked right, it makes the perfect cheese substitute.
Have you hopped on the kombucha train yet?
If not, I highly recommend it.
Kombucha is a yummy, fermented drink that can do wonders for your digestive health.
Fermented foods can add lots of helpful probiotics to your gut microbiome, but if you don’t like kombucha, that’s okay!
Try sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, pickles, or kimchi.
Hey There, Healthy Vegan!
There are so many benefits of eating vegan– not to mention the last one being for our planet, too.
And with the above tips and recipes, you’ll be cruising the vegan drive in no time at all.
Cheers to staying happy and healthy!
Want to learn how vegan food strengthens your immune system? Check out our article 16 Vegan Snacks to Strengthen Your Immune System!