The number of people switching to a plant-based or vegan diet is increasing every year. In fact, 6% of US consumers are now vegan. While some people transition to a vegan diet for environmental or animal welfare reasons, many are adopting a vegan diet for health reasons. However, not all vegan diets are healthy. As such, vegans must ensure they eat a carefully balanced diet to get all the nutrients they need. Below are several health benefits of going vegan, provided you get all those nutrients.
Studies show that a higher intake of plant-based leads to better heart health. Animal products, such as meat, cheese, and butter are the main sources of saturated fats in a traditional diet. However, as vegans avoid all animal products, their saturated fat intake dramatically drops, thus vegans often have lower cholesterol levels which can put less strain on the heart. An increase in fiber consumption also helps to decrease cholesterol levels. As vegans eat more plants and grains as the base of each meal, they often consume more fiber than those on a traditional diet.
Those on a vegan diet often find it easier to lose and maintain weight. As plant-based foods are often lower in calories and fat it can be easier to lose weight. However, this is only true for unprocessed plant-based foods. Many plant-based meat substitutes and dairy replacements contain high amounts of fat and sugar, thus are higher in calories. If you are looking to lose weight as a vegan, you should aim to primarily eat vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Meals containing these items as a base can keep you full for longer due to the high fiber content. Thus, helping to reduce snacking between meals and decreasing daily calorie intake.
As above, vegan diets are often lower in saturated fat, higher in fiber both of which are good for preventing type 2 diabetes. In fact, many components of a vegan diet are used to help prevent type 2 diabetes in those at risk. Some of these foods include nuts, legumes, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. As these foods are unprocessed, the human body can process them easier, and the fiber content helps to regulate blood sugar.
Now, these health benefits are based on a balanced vegan diet. This requires vegans to carefully plan their meals to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Below are the key nutrients that vegans must include in their diet.
This is a vitamin most commonly found in animal products and the most common nutrient deficiency in vegans. However, vegans can add B-12 to their diet through fortified cereal, plant milk, nutritional yeast, and yeast spreads.
This is a crucial vitamin for blood health, and also a common deficiency. Vegans can ensure they get enough iron through beans and leafy greens. Tofu can also be a great source of iron.
We all know that calcium is important for bone health, however many people think you can only get calcium from dairy products. Some great vegan sources of calcium are tofu, tahini, and leafy greens.
Ingesting Omega 3 fatty acids is key for heart, eye, and brain function. There are three types of Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA, DHA, and ALA. To ensure you get all three types of Omega 3, vegans should consider incorporating seaweed and algae for EPA and DHA, and nuts and seeds for ALA.
Zinc plays an important part in boosting the immune system. Luckily, beans, nuts, oats, and nutritional yeast are all high in zinc.
This may seem like an unusual nutrient to be concerned about, however, iodine is key for a healthy thyroid. Vegans can find iodine in fortified foods and naturally in seaweed.
There are various health benefits of going vegan, however, a balanced diet is key. For anyone thinking of transitioning to a vegan diet, you may want to consult your doctor, as you may need to take vitamins and supplements to stay healthy. Once you have a balanced vegan diet plan, often these supplements are required. To gain some of the health benefits mentioned above without vegan, simply decrease your animal product consumption and aim to eat more unprocessed foods.