Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Learn more about the many health benefits of a plant-based diet, from reduced inflammation to lowered risk of diabetes and more. Here are 7 science-backed reasons to go vegan today!
Maybe you’re reading this article for yourself because you’re on the fence about whether a plant-based diet is right for you. Or maybe you’re here because you’re looking for information to send to a friend, family member, or partner to convince them to make the change. While there are a lot of reasons to go vegan, ranging from environmentalism to animal welfare, for many people, one of the most important reasons for switching to a plant-based diet is its health benefits.
There was a time when veganism was a fringe lifestyle, but now we have modern science to back up the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
What Does it Mean to Be Vegan?
A vegan diet is one that eliminates all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey. This means no meat, fish, poultry, or any other ingredients from animals. Instead, vegans eat a variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds—both whole foods and processed foods derived from these ingredients.
Some people go vegan for ethical reasons, while others do it for health reasons. While all vegans eat a plant-based diet, some people feel more comfortable using the term “plant-based” instead of vegan if they’re not an ethical vegan or choose to continue using animal products in their homes, for clothing, etc.
How to Eat a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
Simply giving up meat, dairy, and eggs doesn’t mean you’re going to experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet. It’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods on a vegan diet in order to get the most out of every meal. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables will ensure you’re getting all the essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health.
With so many plant-based substitutes available on the market these days, it’s easy to fill your cart with processed foods—but just because those cupcakes are vegan doesn’t mean they’re a healthy option! Don’t eat a diet full of sugar and carbs; instead, fill up on protein, healthy fats, fresh produce, and whole grains.
One of the biggest mistakes new vegans make is simply eliminating meat and cheese from their diets without replacing it with another protein. Proteins are the building blocks of life, so make sure you’re replacing those animal proteins with plant-based proteins, or you’re likely to feel lethargic and suffer brain fog. Eating a wide variety of vegan proteins like tofu, tempeh, beans, and lentils is key for any plant-based eater.
What is the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian?
Vegans don’t consume any animal products at all, including dairy and eggs.
There are different types of vegetarians—pescatarians, for example, only eat fish but no other meats. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy; lacto-vegetarians eat dairy, but not eggs. The majority of vegetarians are lacto-ovo vegetarians, which means they eat eggs and dairy, but not meat. The term “vegetarian” is usually understood to mean dairy and eggs are allowable.
Science-Backed Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Here are 7 health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle:
It’s Good for Your Heart
A plant-based diet has a number of benefits for heart health. Studies have shown that vegans have lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that plant-based diets may reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 31 percent, and reduce the risk of developing it in the first place by 16 percent.
Plant-Based Diets May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
By cutting out animal products, vegans tend to eat more fiber and fewer unhealthy fats than non-vegans. The diet is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes; a study found that 7.6 percent of non-vegetarians have type 2 diabetes, while only 2.9 percent of vegans develop the disease.
Related to this, a plant-based diet also has the benefit of helping with weight management. By following a plant-based diet, you’ll likely consume fewer calories than you would on an omnivorous diet, aiding in weight loss and maintenance.
There Is Evidence It May Reduce Cancer Risk
Studies have found that adopting a plant-based diet may lower the risk of certain types of cancers. Plant-based diets tend to be high in fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to get the full spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients your body needs. Different colours of produce have different nutrients, so a dish like my Rainbow Fruit Salad with Maple Lime Dressing helps cover all your bases!
It Supports Brain Health
Studies have shown a reduced risk of dementia among those who consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables—just 100 more grams of produce per day (that’s about half a cup!) led to a 13 percent decrease in cognitive impairment in one study.
Experts believe this is due to polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These nutrients may slow the progression of dementia and even reverse cognitive decline.
Plant Foods Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, so it’s important to keep your levels in check—especially considering how modern foods, pollution, and even stress can trigger inflammation in our bodies.
Plant-based diets are associated with reduced inflammation due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. These compounds can neutralize the inflammatory toxins from processed foods, pollution, and more.
It Boosts Your Immune System
The antioxidants found in plant foods can help boost your immune system and fight off germs and other microorganisms—in fact, some of the same antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight inflammation will also keep your immune system humming!
A vegan diet full of healthy whole foods will give your immune system everything it needs to fight infection from bacteria and viruses.
Vegan Diets Are Higher in Fiber
Plant-based diets are naturally high in fiber, which has all kinds of health benefits—nope, it’s not just about keeping your digestive system on track!
A diet high in fiber allows you to better absorb the nutrients in your food, so you can experience all of the benefits listed above. Studies show that fiber can lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Resources for Going Vegan
Now that you know the health benefits of a plant-based diets, you may be wondering where to start!