SCIENCE-BASED HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING VEGAN
Introduction to Veganism
Whether one should be habituated to a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet has been debated for centuries. As we all know, the non-vegetarians amongst us are crazy about their meats and meat-based dishes, and they see no harm in consuming them. But you would be surprised to know why a non–vegetarian diet is not as healthy as common belief.
Most registered dietitians and nutrition scientists have been propagating the advantages of having plant-based or vegan food and reducing meat intake for years. And people are slowly realizing it and are catching on.
A study mentions that plant-based diets have gone mainstream — partly because the advantages of veganism have been well-researched, and healthcare practitioners highly recommend this choice of diet, as many of them have seen incredible results from their patients.
Today, vegetarian food is also becoming more popular because it can reduce the impact on the environment by humans. Many celebrities, including Beyoncé and Tom Brady, have embraced this eating method. If you are an animal lover or an environmental advocate or want to live the best and healthiest life, going vegan/vegetarian is slowly becoming a compelling option for many of us.
When you switch to a plant-based diet, your approach should be about more than just a general approach to eating. You don't need to count calories or get stressed about meeting your daily macronutrient goals. Vegan meals are basically about eating more plant-based foods (and lesser animal-based ones while you're at it).
What are the variants of Vegan/Vegetarian diets?
A Vegan/Vegetarian Diet has several interpretations:
- Vegetarian Diet - People who follow a vegetarian diet usually consume cheese, eggs, and milk, but they do not eat meat in any form, like chicken, pork, and beef. Here, instead of meat, they depend on plant-based proteins.
- Vegan Diet - Vegans choose to exclude animal products from their food thoroughly. It includes preceding milk, cheese, and honey and exclusively consuming plants and plant-based food as part of the vegan lifestyle.
- Raw Vegan Diet - Individuals consume only raw, plant-based foods.
- Flexitarian Diet - Flexitarians cut down on their meat intake and eat a diet primarily filled with plants but sprinkled with a few animal products here and there.
Research about dietary habits suggests that for current meat eaters, eliminating animal-based foods across the board can lead to stressed-out mealtimes and make it much more challenging to source micronutrients that are hard to substitute in plant-based foods, such as B12 and iron.
Everyone can benefit from the health effects of increasing the proportion of plants (and simultaneously decreasing animal-based food) on their plates. Here's what the research has found:
Plant-based diets lower your blood pressure.
Hypertension or High blood pressure (High BP) can aggravate already existing health issues, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, it has been proven that the type of diet you follow can make a difference.
Several studies have concluded that sticking with a plant-based diet can reduce blood pressure, reducing your risk for those conditions. A survey gathered data from 39 different studies and concluded that people who followed a vegetarian diet had lower blood pressure on average than those who followed non-vegetarian diets. Another study found that vegetarians had a 34 percent lower risk of developing hypertension when compared to non-vegetarians.
Plant-based diets keep your heart healthy.
It is proven that meats contain saturated fat, a significant contributor to cardiovascular diseases when eaten frequently or in excess. Thus, you're doing your heart a huge favor by cutting back on meats and loading up on plant-based foods.
Studies published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by around 16 percent and dying because of this health condition by about 31 percent.
It's not just about reducing the intake of meat and meat-based food. To help prevent cardiovascular disease, you should consume anti-inflammatory foods, primarily plant-based foods. These include green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, whole grains, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, tomatoes, and fruits that contain an abundance of vegan protein. Why, you can even substitute processed cheese with its vegan variant, called vegan cheese!
Similarly, you should avoid pro-inflammatory foods, such as processed meats, processed foods, fried foods, and refined sugar.
Plant-Based diets can prevent Type 2 Diabetes.
By now, it's pretty well known that there's a direct link between your diet and your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Excess body weight (BMI) is a significant risk factor since more fatty tissue makes cells more resistant to insulin.
Now, guess which diet is best suited to prevent developing type 2 diabetes? Many medical studies suggest that a plant-based diet has arguably more significant benefits.
A study suggests that switching to a plant-based diet filled with high-quality plant foods reduces the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes by around 34 percent. It is most likely because plant-based foods are way lower in saturated fats than animal foods, which raise cholesterol levels and significantly increase your risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, as noted by the American Diabetes Association. Yet another study found that the prevalence of Type-2 diabetes was about 7.6% among non-vegetarians and just 2.9% for vegans!
Long-Term Plant-Based Diets May Help You Live Longer
All the potential benefits mentioned till now total up to the most critical one: living longer. A study published in The Journal of the American Heart Association found that switching to a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all significant lifestyle factors leading to high mortality by at least 25 percent!
Additionally, the protective levels increase substantially if you stick with healthy plant-based foods. Another study found that eating healthy plant foods instead of unhealthy ones extends that protection layer by another 5 percent. To conclude healthy plant foods, researchers assigned several non-meat products a score between 1 and 17. They found that the less-healthy foods — like soda, cake, and white bread — even though meat-free, still received a low score, whereas healthier plant foods— like whole grains, veggies, and fruit — received a consistently higher score.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is being vegan scientifically healthy?
Multiple studies have concluded that following a vegan diet can offer substantial health benefits, that includes better heart health, weight loss, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Research has also concluded that vegan diets are significantly better for the environment.
What does science say about the health benefits of plant-based diets?
Scientists and dieticians say that eating a primarily plant-based diet significantly improves the health of your gut, so you are better able to absorb the nutrients from the food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Plant-based fiber can also lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, and it's excellent for good bowel management.
Is a plant-based diet scientifically proven?
Yes, there is enough material to suggest that people who primarily eat plant-based diets have a lower risk of dying from heart disease when compared to non-vegetarians. Plant-based diets have also been proven to prevent (and even reverse!) heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, and significantly lower blood pressure.
What are the disadvantages of following a vegan diet?
The disadvantages of going vegan can include anemia, disruptions in hormone production, deficiency of vitamin B12, and in extreme cases, even depression from a lack of Omega-3 fatty acids. You must ensure plenty of vegan proteins, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, iodine, zinc, and omega-3s.
Are vegans healthier in the long term?
Compared to the standard day-to-day American diet of highly processed, low-fiber, high-calorie, sugary foods, shifting to a vegan diet has many health advantages. On the contrary, researchers have also found that eliminating all animal foods may lead to nutritional deficiencies in vitamin B12, omega-3, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and high-quality protein.
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