If you have been toying with the idea of going completely vegan, you may be concerned as to whether it is the right choice to make in terms of maintaining your health and wellbeing. You might be asking yourself “how do I even start?” Yes, it is often daunting to think about it, but you know what? Considering the benefits you’ll gain, It’s much more difficult to think about it than just doing it!
With the amount of fluctuating information online about which diet is healthy and which isn’t, it can be difficult to know what to believe. You may have heard rumors about the health benefits of the vegan diet – and perhaps even some of the concerns. So, how do you go about creating lifestyle health plans without any concrete evidence?
Don’t fret – in this guide, we’ll clear up all the information you need to know about the health benefits and concerns of veganism.
In this article, we’re going to take a balanced view of the vegan health benefits according to specialists and the cons to be aware of.
Vegan Health Benefits
I cannot stress enough how much I love being vegan. Veganism has helped turn my life upside down. I was one of those people who enjoyed junk food, steak, sushi, and the occasional veal.I thought that I was happy that I could afford all this food and enjoy every waking moment knowing that I can eat them again the next day! Oh… that was the life I thought was the best. Until I discovered being vegan. You know what? It has only become better since. Here are some of the health benefits of being vegan backed with studies and solid science:
1. More nutrients
Upon becoming vegan, you’ll be eliminating meats and other animal by-products from your diet, meaning you’ll need to gain nutrients from elsewhere. A plant-based diet means you’ll be eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds which are packed with nutrients in every bite. Studies have proven that vegan diets tend to contain more of the following over a standard Western animal-based diet:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
All of these nutrients play their part in determining why being a vegan is healthy for humans.
Protein found in meat will no longer be a part of your consumption, but you still need to consume the adequate substitute to achieve a balanced diet. Protein is made up of amino acids, which help to keep your bones, muscles and internal organs in good health. As a vegan, you can certainly obtain all the same nutrients from seeds, grains, and nut butters.
But there’s more!
These plant-based foods can also offer oodles of protein for a vegan lifestyle:
- Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
2. Improved mood
It has been suggested by healthcare professionals that those who switch to the vegan diet are found to be far happier in themselves than those on meat-based diets. Fewer suffered from anxiety and depression, which is one of the main vegan health benefits. In reference to the study, switching to a vegan diet would be ideal for those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or have the symptoms and are looking for ways to gain a positive frame of mind.
It’s likely that the vegan diet helps stimulate the mind as it is plant-based, therefore everything consumed is completely fresh and typically doesn’t contain additives or preservatives in comparison to most other foods within the typical animal-based diet.
Our bodies coincide both physically and mentally, which is all down to the nutritional regime you follow.
Plant-based foods have been proven to significantly improve mood due to their ability to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, which goes on to improve the function of our neurotransmitters.
Plant-based foods are filled with nutrients that both boost brain health and improve our mental wellbeing. These nutrients include:
Magnesium: This nutrient relieves inflammation in the body, which is beneficial as high levels of inflammation can lead to increased anxiety and depression.
By choosing to consume foods with high levels of magnesium, you’ll notice a drastic improvement in your mood due to the release of the chemical, serotonin in the brain.
Complex carbohydrates: Don’t get these confused with standard carbohydrates – complex carbs are only found in the likes of fruit, vegetables, and grains.
These carbs are essential for brain health as they distribute glucose into our body to help keep our mood steady.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: This nutrient is thought to improve brain function and improve nerve transition. The main type of Omega 3 fatty acid is known as DHA which promotes brain health and positively affects the cerebral cortex – the area of the brain that controls our neurotransmitters to boost our mood.
3. Fewer migraines
If you suffer from migraines, you’ll be pleased to know that one of the immediate benefits of a vegan diet is that it could dramatically improve the symptoms, or even eliminate migraines completely. Migraines are usually caused by the type of foods we eat, but due to the freshness of a vegan diet, there’s a far less chance of having regular flare-ups. This is certainly one of the best vegan health benefits especially for migraine sufferers, who struggle to find solutions on combating symptoms.
Cheese and chocolate are two of the worst foods you can eat if you’re a migraine sufferer due to the ingredients they contain, but you won’t be able to eat them anyway if you choose to become a vegan.
4. Weight loss
If you’re looking to shed some pounds, you may have considered trying the vegan diet. While cutting out foods from some of your main food groups may seem unhealthy, it’s perfectly okay if you follow some nutritional rules.
If you’re always researching the best weight-loss regimes, then you should definitely consider becoming vegan. One of the main health reasons to go vegan is that the diet has been proven to combat obesity, which is likely due to eating plenty of fiber and a limited amount of protein.
Generally, women need 2000 calories per day in order to maintain their regular weight, while men need 2500. To start losing weight, you’ll need to drop around 500 calories.
You guessed it – the vegan diet cuts down your calorie count. As an alternative, you’ll switch to foods that are rich in fiber and keep you fuller for longer. The good news is – that you won’t be gaining any extra weight. That’s a bonus since losing the extra pounds can also give a boost of confidence!
As a basis, the vegan diet depends on foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts – all of which are very low in fat. Plants are also brilliant for healthy digestion, so you’ll also experience less bloating.
5. Reduced risk of cancer
It’s estimated that is the current time, just 2% of the US population follows a vegan diet, however, from those who recently took part in a survey proved they had developed a reduced risk of cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research uncovered that eating a plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, fruits, grains, products, beans, and nuts) contains cancer-preventative nutrients such as vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
Other research discovered that consuming too much animal fat could lead to extremely high estrogen levels, which is one of the leading factors contributing to breast cancer. However, as vegans don’t consume any animal products at all, this prospect is significantly reduced and is certainly a vegan health benefit that cannot be ignored.
Research has also found that eating up to seven portions of fruit and vegetables each day could reduce your risk of dying from cancer by 13%. There has been no cure for cancer or explanation as to why people develop the disease. Research carried out is solely observational from past cases rather than concrete evidence.
6. Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels
The non-vegan diet isn’t the best for our blood sugar levels, and most of the people who suffer Type II Diabetes are non-vegans. You see, your diet is everything! The vegan lifestyle can indeed help with this problem.
Studies have shown that people who transitioned to a vegan diet was able to reduce their medication, dramatically more compared to non-vegans. This means that their diet somehow reversed the effects of their disease.
Vegans who were suffering from diabetes became more sensitive to insulin, which meant that they didn’t need to produce more insulin when their glucose levels dropped.
In addition, studies have shown that vegans have have at least 50% lower chance of getting Type II Diabetes in the future. The reason behind might be because of the food that they eat. Incorporating more whole grains and fiber-filled foods that break down slowly can keep the sugar levels low.
7. Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease
Cholesterol is in animal products, be it meat, eggs, milk or any other by-product. In a plant-based diet, you don’t get to consume cholesterol. Naturally, if you reduce or totally eliminate your consumption of animal products, you won’t have the side effects of having bad levels of cholesterol. Bad cholesterol levels can lead to blocked arteries, which in turn can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.
Heart disease is a silent killer where your diet plays a big part in this. Meat is full of saturated fats that can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels which puts more strain on your heart. People on a vegan diet are less likely to develop heart disease since they skip these foods altogether.
8. Reduces Risk of Kidney Failure
It is said that meat can only be found in meat that is why it is so hard for some people to eliminate meat in their diets. But, there are a lot of plant-based protein foods that can help build muscle. Meat isn’t the best to consume because it can increase the risk of kidney disease that can lead to kidney failure.
Some studies show that people with kidney disease that turned vegans have reduced their chances of kidney failure, they even suggest that a vegan diet can help encourage the proper functioning of our kidneys and livers. However, further studies need to solidify this claim but there is no harm in switching your diet to a healthier one, especially if it can at least not worsen your case.
9. Healthier Skin
Good news! The diet of a vegan benefits the skin. Suffering from acne? Studies have shown that dairy is the culprit to your acne and ditching dairy from your diet can dramatically reduce your acne.
Since fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, having a vegan diet means that it can also clear your complexion and lessen the bloating in your face. And some vegans that have been doing it for quite some time says that vegans age gracefully. They look more youthful and their skin is much more supple, giving them the appearance of looking younger than non-vegans who are their age.
Vegan Health Concerns
While there are many vegan diet health benefits, it isn’t for everyone, and there are a few perceived vegan health concerns that come alongside going completely meat and animal-product free. Here are just a few to bear in mind:
1. Iron deficiency
The body needs iron to produce essential red blood cells. If there is a lack of iron in the body, it can have a negative effect on our health. The most typical symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling overwhelmingly tired and drained, as well as a lack of concentration and memory loss. Meat contains iron, which is why it’s an uncommon occurrence for meat-eaters to experience these symptoms. But news flash: you do not need to eat meat to get your iron!
It is recommended that females between the ages of 19-50 should be getting at least 18 milligrams of iron each day, while men only need 8 milligrams in order to maintain good iron levels. Some vegans may need to incorporate some form of iron supplement into their diet.
Iron can be found in a whole slew of plant-based foods such as:
- Tofu and Soybeans
- Red kidney beans
- Spinach, Kale and Swiss chard
- Potatoes (with the skin on!)
- Oyster mushrooms
- Palm hearts
- Prune juice
When eating iron-rich foods, try to combine it with a food that is rich in Vitamin C, to help increase your body’s absorption of iron. Some of these foods are:
- Brussel sprouts
- Bell peppers
2. Potential interference with existing health complaints
Switching diets isn’t an easy task for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for those who are suffering from a pre-existing health condition. For those with the likes of diabetes or osteoporosis, it is always basic to work with your medical professional to determine the right plant-based diet and meal plan for your condition.
If your healthcare provider does not recommend a vegan diet, then do the research to find one that does. It can be the difference between living a long healthy life, or suffering from your ailment until it becomes critical. What you consume is fundamental to your day-to-day health and wellbeing.
3. Lack of calcium
It can be difficult for new vegans to get their recommended dosage of calcium, as it is most typically found in milk, cheese, and butter. Cutting down on calcium has been proven to reduce cholesterol for improved heart health. This could be considered a vegan health benefit, however, calcium is still very much needed to maintain the health and strength of your bones and teeth. There have been claims that joint pain after going vegan is a common occurrence.
Not to worry, you do not need dairy for calcium! Vegans can include the recommended dose of calcium in their diet by consuming these foods:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp milk
- All kinds of beans
4. Vitamin B12
One of the biggest concerns for vegans is that they aren’t able to get enough B12 in the diet, as it’s not found in plant-based products. B12 is an essential vitamin to help with digestion, boost energy levels and improve heart health to name just a few. As it cannot be consumed through most of the foods they eat, vegans are recommended to take supplements in tablet or liquid form to ensure the body isn’t lacking in this vital vitamin. But before taking any supplement, please talk to your healthcare provider before taking any new supplements.
You may also consume vitamin B12 fortified foods, such as fortified soy and rice beverages, some breakfast cereals and meat analogs, and nutritional yeast.
5. Omega 3 fatty acids
Fatty acids are usually found in fish and are essential for preventing serious heart conditions, as well as improving the function of the brain and eyes. Rapeseed and soy oils are what vegans choose as an alternative and If you’ve ever wondered ‘is canola oil vegan?’ – you’d be right, and it’s another oil type containing omega 3 fatty acids. You can also try regularly consuming Omega 3 rich foods like ground flaxseed, walnuts, soy products, and hemp seed-based beverages.
Despite this, there has been no concrete evidence to prove that they are as effective as the omega 3 fatty acids contained within fish. Otherwise, supplements in tablet or liquid form can be taken to be on the safe side.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for your body to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. But studies suggest that vegans have the lowest mean intake of Vitamin D.
This nutrient is actually available through sun exposure and intake of Vitamin D fortified foods. The problem is that some places don’t enjoy sunlight all throughout the year, and some don’t have Vitamin D fortified foods available. The great news is that Vitamin D2 supplements are readily available over the counter. It is suggested that you intake at least 5-10 IU of Vitamin D daily.
When winter comes and the sun is shy, you can ensure that you take adequate Vitamin D by consuming Vitamin D fortified foods such as soy milk, rice milk, orange juice, breakfast cereals, and margarine.
Zinc is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of your metabolism, immune system, and the repair of your cells. However, Vegans are often regarded as having higher risks of a zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency can often lead to developmental problems, hair loss, diarrhea and delayed wound healing. To increase your zinc intake, it is best that you eat a variety of zinc-rich foods throughout the day. Some of these foods are:
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Sprouted beans
You could also soak nuts, seeds, and legumes, or eat enough protein and consume fermented foods to boost your body’s ability to absorb zinc. Also, vegans concerned with their zinc intake can add zinc supplements to their diet.
If you think carefully about how you can incorporate plants into your diet sensibly, you’ll understand the true impact of vegan health benefits. However, not doing the relevant research could mean you’re lacking in essential nutrients which may potentially increase your chances of developing an array of health conditions.
We hope this guide has given you some aspects to think about in terms of the health benefits of the vegan diet – and the drawbacks.
If you have recently stocked up on your vegan food supply, we’d love to hear your experiences. Have you noticed any differences in your health and wellbeing since switching to veganism? What are your thoughts on vegan health benefits vs. concerns?
Share with us in the comments below!