6 Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

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6 health benefits of a vegan diet

A noisy vegan diet offers many health benefits.

For people who want to lose weight, a vegan diet can help. It can also help maintain heart health. In addition, this diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

This article discusses the potential benefits of a vegan diet that have been proven by various studies.

1. A vegan diet is richer in certain nutrients

Switching to a vegan diet means eliminating meat and animal products.

This will make you rely more on other foods. Substitutes are as follows:

  • whole grains
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • beans
  • peas
  • nuts
  • seeds

Because these foods make up the bulk of the vegan diet, they can result in a higher daily intake of some beneficial nutrients.

Several studies report that a vegan diet usually provides more fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be rich in potassium, magnesium, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. (1) (2) (3)

Vegan diets seem to have even more iron. However, the form of iron provided by plants is not as biologically useful – which means that your body is not as capable of absorbing it – as the form found in animal products.

However, not all vegan diets are the same.

For example, a poorly planned vegan diet may not provide enough vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium, or zinc. (4)

Therefore, it is important to eat wholesome plant foods and fortified foods. You may need to take dietary supplements such as vitamins B12 and D, zinc and calcium as they may be deficient in a vegan diet.

2. A proper vegan diet can help you lose weight

More and more people are turning to a plant-based diet in hopes of getting rid of excess weight. While there is no guarantee that a vegan diet will lead to weight loss, there are some good reasons to try it.

Numerous studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have a lower body mass index (BMI). (5)

In addition, several randomized controlled trials – the gold standard in research – report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than other comparable diets. (6) (7) (8)

Findings include:

  • A small study found that people who ate a low-fat, high-fiber vegan diet lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet.
  • Participants who followed a vegan diet lost an average of 6 kg in 16 weeks, while those who followed a Mediterranean diet did not notice weight loss.
  • Vegans also lost more weight in one study than people who include meat or fish in their diet. Vegetarians lost just as much weight in this study as vegans.
  • Comparing a low-fat vegan diet, a complete diet with a standard omnivorous diet for 16 weeks, a vegan diet leads to an average of 6 kg of weight loss. People on a standard diet did not lose much weight.

In general, more research is needed to understand which aspects of a vegan diet make the biggest difference in weight loss. Whether the diet is vegan or not, a number of factors can affect how well a weight loss diet works, including:

  • fiber content
  • calorie levels
  • consumption of whole foods compared to processed foods

3. A vegan diet seems to lower blood sugar and improve kidney function

A vegan diet can also benefit from type 2 diabetes and impaired kidney function.

In fact, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar and higher insulin sensitivity and may be at lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (9) (10) (11)

Even if you don’t become completely vegan, increasing your intake of healthy plant foods and reducing your intake of meat and dairy foods can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes (12).

A 2006 study even reported that a vegan diet lowers blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. (13)

In a 2009 study, 43% of participants who followed a vegan diet managed to reduce their dose of blood sugar lowering drugs, compared with only 26% of participants who followed a diet recommended by the ADA. (14)

Lower risk of complications due to diabetes

It is generally accepted that a vegan diet reduces the risk of complications in people with type 2 diabetes (15).

People with diabetes who eat plant proteins instead of meat can reduce their risk of kidney failure, but more research is needed. (16) (17)

In addition, several studies have reported that a vegetarian diet can help relieve pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, a common condition in people with diabetes. (18)

But more evidence is needed before experts can confirm that this approach is effective.

4. A vegan diet can protect you from certain types of cancer

According to the World Health Organization, at least a third of all cancers can be prevented by factors under your control, including diet. (19)

The benefits of eating more plant foods

Vegans usually eat significantly more legumes, fruits and vegetables. This may explain why a 2017 study found that vegans have a 15% lower risk of developing cancer. (20)

For example, regular consumption of legumes can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 9-18%. (21)

Eating large amounts of plant foods reduces the risk of many cancers, including stomach, lung, mouth, and throat cancers. (22)

It can also reduce the risk of cancer of the colon, prostate and pancreas.

What’s more, a healthy vegan diet usually contains more soy products that can offer some protection against breast cancer. (23) (24)

The benefits of avoiding meat

Avoiding certain animal products can also help reduce the risk of prostate, breast, stomach, and colon and rectal cancer. Red meat, smoked meat or processed meat and meat cooked at high temperatures are said to help with some types of cancer. (25) (26) (27) (28) (29)

Because the vegan diet does not contain meat, vegans do not eat these foods. This can reduce their risk of cancer.

Effects of avoiding dairy products

Vegans also avoid dairy products, which some studies say may slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer. (30)

On the other hand, there is evidence that dairy products can help reduce the risk of other cancers, such as colon and rectal cancer. (31)

Thus, avoiding dairy products may not be a factor in reducing the overall risk of vegan cancer.

It is important to note that these studies are observational. They make it impossible to determine the exact reason why vegans have a lower risk of cancer.

Until researchers find out more, it seems wise to focus on increasing the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes you eat each day, while limiting your intake of processed, smoked, and roasted meats.

5. Vegan diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and fiber is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. (32) (33)

A well-planned vegan diet usually includes all of these foods in large quantities.

Observational studies comparing vegans and vegetarians with people who eat meat report that vegans can benefit from up to 75% less risk of developing high blood pressure. (34)

In addition, several randomized controlled trials report that a vegan diet is much more effective at lowering blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels than the diets it compares to. (35)

This can be especially beneficial for heart health, as lowering high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 46%. (36)

A well-balanced vegan diet includes lots of whole grains and nuts that are good for your heart. (37) (38)

6. A complete vegan diet can reduce arthritis pain

Several studies have reported that a vegan diet has positive effects in people with different types of arthritis.

A small study randomly divided people with arthritis into 6 weeks to continue eating an omnivorous diet or switch to a full vegan healthy diet. (39)

Those on a vegan diet report higher energy levels and better overall performance than those who have not changed their diet.

Several other studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can help improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including pain, swollen joints, and morning stiffness, but further research is needed. (40)

Higher levels of antioxidants, probiotics and fiber in the vegan diet, as well as a lack of certain trigger foods, may be responsible for these benefits. (41)

Vegan versus vegetarian

To understand why a vegan diet is unique, it is helpful to look at how vegan and vegetarian diets differ.

There are several different forms of vegetarianism:

  • Lacto vegetarians: he eats dairy products but avoids meat, fish and eggs
  • This vegetarian: eat eggs but avoid meat, fish and dairy products
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: eat dairy products and eggs, but avoid meat and fish
  • vegan: Avoid meat, fish, dairy products and eggs

Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism. All vegetarian diets exclude meat, but only vegans limit their diet to plant-based foods alone.

This means that vegans avoid all foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. They often avoid animal by-products such as gelatin. Many vegans also choose to avoid bee products such as honey.

While some people opt for a vegan diet because of its potential health benefits, other reasons may include ethics, religion, or environmental concerns.

Conclusion

A vegan diet can bring many health benefits.

For the most part, researchers still do not understand exactly what the reason for these benefits is.

Until further research is available, it may be helpful to just increase the amount of wholesome plant foods rich in nutrients in your diet.