13 Jan Plant Power | Exploring the Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet involves eating only food products made from plants and avoiding animal products.
Animal products are important sources of protein, non-saturated fats, iron, vitamins, and minerals. A vegan diet will need to find alternative sources for these nutrients.
The reasons for following a vegan diet can include preventing cruelty to animals, environmental considerations, or simply looking to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.
According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK has doubled in the last nine years from 150,000 to around 300,000. The market research company Mintel reports the non-dairy milk market leapt from 36 million litres in 2011 to 92 million in 2013, making it worth over £150 million.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
1. Lowers Cancer Risk
Meat eaters are at a higher risk of colorectal and prostate cancers.
The vegan diet consists of far higher volumes of legumes, fruits, and vegetables, fibre, and vitamin C. These are believed to protect against a variety of cancers.
2. Supports Good Bone Health
A vegan diet has shown benefits for the generation of new bone tissue.
Calcium is important for bone and dental health. For the average British, milk and cheese are considered to be good sources of calcium.
For a vegan, figs, kale, spinach, black-eyed peas, cabbage, and turnip greens can be excellent sources of calcium.
Vegan milk alternatives are becoming more widely available, such as soy milk, almond milk, and even vegan cheese.
Bones also need vitamins D and K, potassium, and magnesium. Soy, fruit, and some vegetables contain appropriate amounts of these nutrients without the health risks of animal fats. Daily exposure to the sun also enables the body to make vitamin D.
Vegans have also shown more efficient absorption of calcium and bone metabolism, the process through which new bone tissue is formed.
3. Improve Your Heart Health
People on a vegan diet often take in fewer calories than a those on a standard Western diet. This can lead to a lower body mass index (BMI) and a reduced risk of obesity.
A lower BMI is linked to lower overall concentrations of LDL cholesterol and slightly lower blood pressure, even compared with vegetarians who continue to drink animal milk.
Lower levels of harmful cholesterol mean that vegans have a lower risk of mortality from stroke and heart disease than people who eat meat.
Multiple studies have shown that compared to omnivores, vegans typically have lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. It makes sense, since plant foods are high in fibre and have more heart-healthy fats (think avocado, nuts, olives) than animal products.
4. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Improves Kidney Function
Going vegan may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Indeed, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 50–78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies even report that vegan diets lower blood sugar levels in diabetics more than the diets In one study, 43% of participants following a vegan diet were able to reduce their dosage of blood-sugar-lowering medication, compared to only 26% in the group that followed an ADA-recommended diet. Other studies report that diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein may reduce their risk of poor kidney function.
What’s more, several studies report that a vegan diet may be able to provide complete relief of systemic distal polyneuropathy symptoms — a condition in diabetics that causes a sharp, burning pain.
5. Help You Lose Excess Weight
In a study of more than 1,100 dieters on a dozen different well-known weight-loss plans over 18 weeks,including Atkins and the American Diabetes Association’s, the vegan group came out on top for weight loss, losing, on average, more than 5 pounds more than meat-eaters and more than 2 pounds more than vegetarians who ate eggs and dairy products. More research is needed, but experts say a healthy vegan diet based on plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains does save on calories. Plus, it delivers soluble fibre, which makes you feel full longer, so you can skip those midnight trips to the fridge.
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Plant Power Considerations Before Going Vegan
A person considering a fully vegan diet is advised to stop eating animal produce gradually. Incorporate one meat alternative first, then progress to other non-animal produce, eventually excluding animal produce completely.
While, an entirely plant-based diet has low health risks, careful planning is needed to maintain a nutritional balance.
People following a vegan diet may need to supplement certain nutrients that are more available from animal products: Vitamin B12. Vitamin D, Long-Chain Omega-3s, Iodine, Iron, Calcium, and Zinc being the main ones.
Preparation is key to leading a successful vegan life – so fresh vegan produce can be prepared at home, and tupperware used to carry it into the workplace. These days, vegan options are available in many restaurants, and some specialized restaurants serve only vegan food.
And while you are on your shopping outings, food packaging should state that the contents are vegan-friendly, or prepared in a completely meat-free kitchen – happy hunting!
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Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149636.php
Vegan Society https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-benefits