If you’re looking for a new lifestyle change, why not reap the benefits of a vegan diet? There are a plethora of advantages that come with going plant-based, all of which we have laid out in this article. More specifically, we have covered:
- What is a Vegan Diet & How Can I Follow One?
- 11 Benefits of a Vegan Diet
- The Risks of a Vegan Diet
You can rest assured that with our help, you will be able to confidently make the switch to becoming a healthier, better version of yourself. Before we begin however, if you are passionate about nutrition and how this impacts your wellbeing, why not inflict your wisdom by becoming a certified nutritionist with our level 4 course in advanced sports nutrition?
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What is a Vegan Diet & How Can I Follow One?
A vegan diet is simply the intake of plant-based foods while avoiding any kind of animal produce. Many people who decide to take on the change of becoming vegan either do so for moral or health purposes.
It is pretty straightforward to get the health benefits of a vegan diet in the current day and age as the diet has become increasingly popular, leading to more and more vegan food options being readily available in supermarkets and restaurants.
The more that is revealed to the public about the handling of animals and where the meat on their plate has come from, the less people want to consume. Many people choose to have variations of the plant-based diet, including vegetarianism, pescetarianism and of course veganism.
The vegetarian diet is one which many of us are familiar with. Those who follow this diet simply don’t eat meat but they still consume dairy products and eggs. The pescaterian diet is similar to that of the vegetarian diet, however this includes the consumption of fish. Finally, veganism is the total boycott of anything that is a product of an animal - whether that be dairy, eggs, meat or fish.
So now you know exactly what veganism consists of, how do you get onto the correct path to start making the change? To communicate all of the benefits of a vegan diet to varied audiences, campaigns such as Veganuary were created - and they have actually been quite successful.
The message of Veganuary reached out to many people, in fact over 500,000 people signed up in 2021, which made a huge difference in how people view veganism. Dietary changes such as going vegan are often new year's resolutions, and so Veganuary is a perfectly timed opportunity to get stuck into the lifestyle.
Everybody has habits, particularly when it comes to eating, so the aim of Veganuary is to get people to make a commitment to being vegan for the full month of January. There is a known conversation that suggests 21-days is a minimum of what it takes to build a habit. So, a month could be a great starting point to make a trial period sustainable.
Another way of getting started with following a vegan diet is to slowly decrease the amount of meat and animal products that you consume. This of course can be easier or harder depending on the amount of meat you eat to begin with.
For example if you eat meat every day, you could cut down to 4 days a week, then 3, and subtly make the changes over time so that you gradually form a habit of not eating meat. Changing your diet too quickly could be a potential shock to the system for both mind and body, so it is a good idea to change gradually as you are likely to stick to your new dieting habits more.
Whichever way you choose to transition to a vegan diet, the health benefits are undeniable, so let's discuss those further!
11 Benefits of a Vegan Diet
You may now be well aware of what a vegan diet consists of, and how to commit to one, but what are the benefits of a vegan diet? Below we have listed the top 11 benefits so that you can make an informed decision on making the swap from carnivorous to veganism!
#1 It Can Help You Lose Weight
Did you know that you can ditch the fad diets and help the environment all at the same time with the benefits of a vegan diet? A plant-based shopping list could help you to shed the weight and keep it off too, but how?
Plant-based diets, particularly those referred to as raw vegan diets, include plenty of vegetables, fruit and nuts. Raw vegan diets consist of food that are intended to be eaten completely raw or heated at temperatures below 40-48ºC.
Though this kind of veganism can pose some risks, it can of course induce weight loss due to the lack of processed foods and the plentiful greens, nuts and grains. Another way that you can lose weight with the help of veganism is due to the lack of calories that there are in many popular vegan foods.
This can help you introduce volume eating into your diet, which is a popular method people use when trying to lose weight. Volume eating means that you can still enjoy plenty of food by mainly eating foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients, more specifically volume eating foods are typically determined by their macronutrient count.
Foods that are perfect for this method of weight loss include; lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower alongside many more to fill your plate with goodness! Vegan diets can not only help you lose weight but keep it off too. If you want to find out more tips on how to maintain weight loss click here.
#2 Lowers Blood Pressure
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a problem across the country. However, it might be easier to control than you think, as your diet can have huge impacts on whether you see a negative or positive indication on your blood pressure results.
So, what are the health benefits of a vegan diet on blood pressure? To begin, there are of course many different lifestyle habits that can induce hypertension, such as smoking or lack of exercise, but people often overlook the fact that the food that we eat is also a key player.
The foods that can be a catalyst for hypertension are those high in salt, which is often processed foods. Processed foods are convenient for consumers, profitable from a business perspective, and they’re actually pretty addictive. Foods like this are addictive due to the high calorie content which causes an imbalance in blood sugar, this imbalance thus leads to cravings.
In comparison to a high calorie and salty diet, a meal plan fueled with green goodness could be what you need to control your blood pressure. By eating healthily on a plant-based diet and avoiding processed foods and meats, you should in turn reduce your intake of salt.
This reduction in salt intake will prevent the salt from directly impacting your blood vessels, a process that can occur in as little as 30 minutes of eating said processed foods. Blood pressure can also be impacted by these foods as your blood is forced to hold onto water in the bloodstream.
There is even evidence perpetuated by key figures in vegan research and promotion that suggests that in comparison to the diet of dairy and meat eaters, a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of hypertension by anywhere between 33% and 75%. Among all of the other benefits on our list, lowering your blood pressure is a vital way to lead an all round healthier lifestyle.
#3 It Can Improve Your Mental Health
If you thought that the above health benefits were enough to convince you to go vegan, there’s more, as taking up veganism can even improve your mental health, too.
Studies have shown that there is a difference in alleviating stress and interestingly, guilt. Guilt is certainly a factor among many who have a relationship with animals that makes it seem relatively inhumane to eat them.
Not eating animals can certainly bring a sense of gratification to the vegan individual. This could come from a sense of innocence, due to the fact that they are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint and help the environment.
There are plenty of studies and evidence to support the fact that vegans may live a happier life in terms of reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. One study investigated the mood variation amongst subjects. This was measured using a mechanism called the DASS-21, standing for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21.
This research found that female vegans had a significantly lower average stress-related score when compared to non-vegans. Not only that, but male vegans reported a lower anxiety average score, too.
So, you can be sure that the mental benefits of a vegan diet are backed up from science and are regarded by many different researchers. If you are plant-based, why not check out our list of the best high protein vegan snacks here.
#4 Helps To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
The health benefits of a vegan diet don't stop there either, as it is suggested that by going vegan you can even help to prevent, and in some cases possibly reverse, type 2 diabetes. One doctor added that there is growing evidence that food is medicine, so a healthy plant-based diet can go a long way to avoid diabetes.
Controlling risk of diabetes is dependent on the control of blood glucose. So, a vegan diet that is healthy, low in cholesterol, and more importantly low in saturated fats, is a great direction to head in. It should also be remembered that along with all of the veggies you can eat, you should aim to include a sufficient amount of fibre and protein.
These elements that make up a typical vegan diet can have a significant positive impact on your blood sugar and actually make a diabetes diet a little easier to follow. This is because with many non-vegan diets, there is calorie counting involved and a lot of restriction. However, on a vegan diet, you may be able to ditch the calorie counting and try out volume eating instead.
Ultimately, weight loss is the key way to controlling type 2 diabetes, and so, the benefits of a vegan diet for weight loss can help you get on your way to a healthier BMI (body mass index). Going for foods that are low on the glycemic index scale are the best ways to determine if you should, or should not include them into your diet as a diabetic.
The glycemic index measures the glucose that is in a food. Therefore, those foods that have lower glycemic scores, for example grapefruit, can be put into your diet plan. But how does this relate to the nutritional benefits of a vegan diet? Well, many foods that you would typically eat on a vegan diet, particularly a raw one, are low on the glycemic index.
So, if you’re looking for a new way to tackle your type 2 diabetes, it would be a good idea to take a shot at a vegan diet and see if the lifestyle change brings positive change. For those looking to lose weight, many opt for meal replacements - and you can find the best meal replacement shakes here.
#5 Improves Skin
Yes! One of the most profound benefits of a plant-based vegan diet is that you could be able to avoid the risk of acne.
There has been a lot of discussion around whether dairy products cause acne, and it is still being researched by scientists currently. However, in the time frame of research being conducted, there were many speculative theories made in order to try to understand how dairy could be related to acne.
These include one idea that explains how dairy cows are fueled with artificial hormones and therefore, pass said hormones into the milk we see on our shelves. As a result, consuming this milk could have the potential to throw off the human hormone level when the cows milk is consumed.
Not only that, but there is a growth hormone that is in cows milk which is also believed to aggravate the skin in the same way. But, one final theory is that it isn’t just the dairy alone, but a combination of processed foods and sugars which are so widely populated that are the problem.
This kind of diet could disrupt the insulin levels of the consumer, ultimately, making the skin more prone to acne.
Overall, though there are other factors that can affect the skin, there are connections between dairy and acne. So, by taking out the suspected cause, this being dairy and processed foods, you are ultimately left with the foods that shouldn’t be a driving cause of acne - most of which are plant-based.
#6 It Is Rich In Vital Nutrients
One of the benefits of a vegan diet is that, contrary to popular belief, vegan foods and meals are actually really nutritious.
Many believe that a vegan diet equates to a deficiency one way or another, however, vegan diets are actually rich in vital nutrients. While there are some nutrients that can be difficult to get into your diet as a vegan, there are many that you can consume in volume without even trying!
The nutrients that you can get from eating a vegan balanced diet, include magnesium, fibre, antioxidants, folate, potassium, and vitamins A, C and E. These come from a diet that is rich in wholefoods, including plenty of fruit and vegetables and popular protein sources such as pulses, grains, seeds and nuts.
Having a diet rich in magnesium can offer up great advantages, and therefore being deficient in this nutrient can have great disadvantages on the body.
From fighting depression to improving exercise performance (one of the perfect benefits of a vegan diet for athletes!) magnesium is believed to have life impacting advantages, and a vegan diet can ensure you make the most out of them all.
Antioxidants are something that you might have heard about, but most people don’t quite know what they do for the body. In a nutshell, antioxidants slow down and even prevent the damage done to cells by free radicals. So, they are of course a vital element to have in your diet - head over to our list of the best antioxidant foods here to find your favourite.
Fibre is another nutrient that will help your health in more ways than one. With it being a nutrient that is in all plant-based foods, you can count on a healthy gut and more comfortable digestion if you stick to fibre-rich foods for the majority of your meals.
The nutrients listed above are some of the most recognisable and arguably among the most important for a well functioning internal system. Along with nutrients like folate, potassium and vitamins A, C and E, you can be sure that you can feel the best version of yourself.
#7 Improves Heart Health
The benefits of a vegan diet don’t end there either, as thanks to the aforementioned boost in key nutrients, your heart can feel the benefits too.
There are many aspects of a vegan diet that can assist in a healthy heart, including the intake of fibre. It’s thought that a diet sufficient in fibre can help to prevent the likes of heart disease.
Studies have been conducted into how diet can impact heart disease. One discovery saw vegetarians among subjects who had lower rates of ischaemic heart disease than that of meat eaters.
However, it isn’t just the benefits of a vegan diet that improves heart health, but it is also the exclusion of particular foods outside of a vegan diet that can prevent any potential damage. This includes foods such as red meat, which can potentially alter the gut microbiome.
This essentially means that this alteration can lead to higher levels of metabolites in the blood. This has unfortunately been linked to a greater risk in heart disease and so, not only does going plant-based allow you to reap the benefits of vegan food itself, but it also enables you to avoid other foods that have the potential to negatively affect your heart.
For some benefits of vegan favourites and eating for the mind, read our articles below:
- 9 Benefits of Persimmon Fruit
- 13 Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
- 13 Benefits of Healthy Eating for The Body & Mind
Develop Advanced Sports Nutrition Expertise
#8 Improves Cholesterol Levels
Wondering what are the benefits of a vegan diet for your cholesterol? Allow us to explain.
Cholesterol comes in two forms, a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - which you may know as the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and a high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which you also may know as the ‘good’ cholesterol.
Now that you know the main kinds of cholesterol, it should be pretty clear from the nickname given that a healthy balance is to have a lower LDL and a higher HDL.
So what is so bad about LDL? Well, too much of this can, in short, clog your arteries - making it more difficult for oxygen rich blood to get to your organs.
Luckily, a vegan diet can certainly help you to lower this without even trying. The culprit in this instance is saturated fats, which are predominantly found in non-vegan foods. The main concerns are foods such as: fatty cuts of meat in general, pork, lamb, beef, oils and dairy products.
Of course the list could go on, but these have a huge impact on the body and eliminating them could certainly reduce the risk of LDL clinging onto your arteries.
That said, we do still need fats in our diet, so it is important that you incorporate them in one way or another with care. If you need help including the right fats in to your diet, read our article on the best healthy high fat foods here.
#9 It Can Boost The Gut Microbiome
You might be wondering what gut microbiome is, so allow us to explain. The gut microbiome are the microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. These microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, and archaea.
So what has that got to do with the benefits of a vegan diet? Well, the best way to improve your gut microbiome is by eating foods that are high in fibre - predominantly fruit and vegetables.
The most popular vegetables in the case of boosting microbiome are artichokes, leeks, onions and garlic. This is due to the compound found in these foods specifically named inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that not only is beneficial to the gut, but also has the power to control diabetes and weight loss.
How long does it take to feel the benefits of a vegan diet and the impact it has on your microbiome? It's said that it can take up to 6 months to improve your gut health, of course depending on the level of the microbiome itself.
So waste no time! Get working on your gut health with the help of a vegan diet.
#10 Can Reduce the Risk of Certain Cancers
Though shocking to some, there are a fraction of cancers that are believed to be preventable by good diet and nutrition. Specifically, past research has suggested that focusing on a plant-based diet can help prevent the onset of cancer. So, this means that you should be eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Not only this, but it is also specified that your diet should consist of little to no meat at all. This goes for animal products in general too, which sounds pretty similar to a vegan diet if you ask us!
One study asked almost 70,000 people about their dietary habits and tracked their diets over a period of time. The results showed that lower cancer rates were apparent in those who avoided meat completely and followed a vegan diet. The same study showed that after this group, a vegetarian diet was the next best diet for reducing their risk of cancer.
However, although these findings are interesting and arguably clear, there are plenty of other factors that can impact the likelihood of cancer diagnosis. Many people who have cancer won’t just have meat to blame, but other lifestyle factors such as high BMI and smoking are certainly additional culprits.
It could be argued that since high BMI is often the result of eating junk food and fatty meats, avoiding these whilst taking advantage of the weight loss benefits of a vegan diet could explain why vegans in the study had a lower risk of cancer.
Combining a healthy diet with a healthy physical lifestyle is a combination for success, so check out our article on vegan weight training here.
#11 It Helps the Environment
Finally, one of the most obvious benefits of a vegan diet is the positive impact it has on the environment. This is one of the main reasons people decide to take up a plant-based way of living, so allow us to talk you through a couple of ways in which going vegan can help the planet.
One of the most commonly known benefits of a vegan diet is the reduction of contribution to greenhouse gasses. Overall, food production is responsible for 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and animal products are the reason behind three-quarters of this alone.
Greenhouse gasses could be reduced immensely by making simple swaps once or twice a week and gradually getting into the habit of being environmentally conscious about what goes in your cupboards.
Whatsmore, water is hugely important to the agricultural use in meat production. Producing 1lb of beef uses 1,800 gallons of water. This is a huge amount for such little return and so by cutting out meat alone, you can directly improve the quality of the world we live in.
Reducing animal production requires that we eat less animal produce, but the good news is that even a slow decline could make all the difference for the future of the planet. So, why not give it a shot? Choose your pick from the best vegan cookbooks here in our article.
The Risks of a Vegan Diet
Like anything, there are always risks in everything we do and especially when it comes to what we eat. So now we have covered all of the benefits of a vegan diet, it's only right we share some of the risks that could come along with it too.
#1 Hormone Disruption
The main risk of a vegan diet on hormones is down to estrogen, and this is in relation to soybean, a popular plant-based alternative for milk and other foods. Soy is a great source of protein for vegans and so it is often in many foods that are meat alternatives.
Within soy, there is a compound called phytoestrogens, which can increase the levels of estrogen in the body and cause side effects for both males and females. Ultimately, this causes a hormone imbalance which affects women especially.
These higher levels of estrogen can cause symptoms such as:
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
These symptoms can cause health issues and discomfort, so if you think you may be suffering from high estrogen or hormone destruction, it's best to contact your GP. If you experience these symptoms and follow a vegan diet, avoiding over consumption of soy and keeping an eye on your intake could help!
#2 Lack Of Hemoglobin
Hemoglobin plays a vital role in your bodily function, it is a protein in your red blood cells that carries the oxygen to your organs and tissues. Not only that, but it also takes carbon dioxide from your organs back to your lungs to be breathed out.
You’re probably familiar with the term anemia, which is the result of a low hemoglobin count. This can induce symptoms such as, but not limited to, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain and headaches.
To avoid this, eat iron rich vegan foods and start taking iron supplements if you think it's necessary. If you have any long term health conditions or are concerned about changing your diet drastically, contact your GP for advice.
#3 Leaky Gut Syndrome
A common conversation surrounding vegan diets is the leaky gut syndrome, however, it should be noted that this isn’t a recognised medical diagnosis.
There is limited information on this syndrome and though it is sometimes referred to as ‘increased intestinal permeability’ by scientists, more research is needed to find out if leaky gut syndrome can have effects on long term health.
However, the available information suggests that leaky gut is the product of the increased consumption of legumes that is typical of a vegan diet. Legumes are a major plant-based protein source, but within these there is an anti-nutrient present.
This means that legumes have the potential to inhibit the absorption of some macronutrients and vitamins. In a nutshell, leaky gut makes the undigested particles, alongside some bacteria, leak through the intestine - leading to the bloodstream.
A good solution to leaky gut is to simply watch your intake of legumes. Although legumes are a popular choice of food and protein for both vegans and meat eaters, varying your protein sources and avoiding overeating legumes is key to minimising this risk - especially if you follow a plant-based diet.
Can My Child Be Vegan?
Yes, in fact there are many benefits of children following vegan diet. With the correct planning and knowledge, it can be more than safe.
One of the biggest problems with a vegan diet for children is deficiency. The most common deficiencies are vitamin D, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and possibly vitamin B12.
You should do your research thoroughly before putting your child on a vegan diet and even talk to your family doctor before risking any deficiencies. One thing to note however, is that soya and oat milks are not recommended for babies under the age of 1. These milks lack the correct balance of carbs, protein, and fat.
This, alongside rice milk, should also be avoided for any child under 5, which also lacks in particular macros such as protein and fat, and contains arsenic.
Though there are some risk factors, it is certainly not something you have to avoid and can be done safely as long as you research how to fuel your child with all of the correct nutrients for growth and development.
Can I Eat Chocolate?
Chocolate, believe it or not, comes under both the health benefits and risks of a vegan diet. How is that so? Well you can reap all of the health benefits of cutting out chocolate, yet still risk the sheer cravings you might get after making the switch. But fear not! There is a solution after all.
Vegan chocolate is now becoming widely available, and there are many chocolates out there that most people don’t even realise are vegan, such as Cadbury’s Bournville.
Here is a list of some popular vegan chocolates so you can still indulge and stick to a plant-based diet:
- Nomo creamy chocolate bar
- Hotel Chocolat. Dark batons
- Vegan KitKat
- Galaxy Vegan range
These are just a handful of our favourites, there are actually plenty of others meaning you can still enjoy your favourite brands while getting all of the benefits of a vegan diet!
Can I Still Eat Out At a Restaurant?
Yes! Many restaurants now offer a range of meals that are vegan, or at least can be made vegan. There are even vegan restaurants that specifically cater to those on a plant-based diet.
You may struggle when it comes to smaller pubs and bars, as these usually have a minimal menu and don’t usually specialise in plant-based foods. However, many chain restaurants have a whole specialised menu tailored to vegans offering you just as many choices as the omnivore sat next to you.
Before You Go!
Hopefully by now you know the ins and outs of what it's like to be vegan and what it takes to make the transition. We hope that our article has helped you to see that it isn’t as scary as it seems, and that the benefits of a vegan diet for your health, morals, and the environment are well worth it.
Whatever your motivation is, why not try and take the first step into a new way of living and let us know how you get on!
One more thing before you leave us - if you’re passionate about food, why not make it your career by studying our level 4 course in advanced sports nutrition? If fitness is more your thing, you can browse our range of fitness courses here in our prospectus.
Used by Fitness Professionals
Download your FREE Food Diary
Used by Fitness Professionals
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Medicalnewstoday.com. 2018. Going vegan could prevent type 2 diabetes. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320909#Food-really-is-medicine>.
Mayo Clinic. n.d. How plant-based food helps fight cancer. [online] Available at: <https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-plant-based-food-helps-fight-cancer/art-20457590>.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 2020. 5 Ways a Vegan Diet Helps the Planet. [online] Available at: <https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/5-ways-vegan-diet-helps-planet>.