For The Greater Goods (sm)

10 Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Plant based diets are getting a lot of attention these days.  What is it about the benefits of a vegan diet that are getting people to make the switch?

Not sure know what the term ‘vegan’ means?  The basis of the vegan diet is choosing not to consume any animal products whatsoever.  benefits of a vegan dietSome vegans also choose not to wear clothing or use personal care products with animal ingredients.  It may seem daunting but once you know the reasons and how easy it can really be, there’s no reason not to try.  So what exactly are those benefits of a vegan diet?

1 – Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Studies have shown that replacing  meat and dairy with nuts and whole grains improves cardiovascular health. Vegan diets reduce the risk of heart disease and can also prevent heart attack & stroke.  When eating a vegan diet, there is zero intake of dietary cholesterol.  Your arteries remain clear and unclogged.   Eating a vegan diet also helps reduce blood pressure which improves the blood circulation in the body.

2 – Lower Risk of Diabetes
The complex carbohydrates and fiber found in plant foods are very beneficial to maintaining stable blood sugar levels.  Insulin is easily managed on a vegan diet.  Studies have shown that diets high in meat and animal fats cause the body to be more resistant to insulin.  Clinical studies have shown that adopting a low-fat, vegan diet improves insulin sensitivity, helps with weight loss, and reduces blood sugar.

3 – Lower Risk of Cancer
Plant foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients which play a vital role in lowering the risk of cancer in the body. In contrast, non-vegetarian food, particularly meats with fat, are at a significantly higher risk towards the disease.  High fiber diet are said to reduce numerous types of cancer.  A study funded by the National Cancer Institute reported that vegans have lower rates of cancer than both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Vegan women had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. This was compared to a group of healthy omnivores who ate substantially less meat than the general population.  The study also controlled for non-dietary factors such as smoking, alcohol, and a family history of cancer.

4 – Its easier on your wallet
Most of the staples of a vegan diet are very inexpensive, especially if you eat simply and avoid processed meat analogues and dairy substitutes.  A diet of whole grains, beans & legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is far less expensive than a diet that is heavy in animal products.  Learn to buy produce in season and your staples from bulk bins and it gets even cheaper.  If you’re already conscious of eating organic, you know that organic meats and dairy can be quite expensive.  Compare the cost of a 6oz organic steak to 6oz of organic beans and rice.  Make your vegan diet even less expensive by growing some veggies and herbs of your own!

Benefits of a vegan diet

5 – Its better for the planet
The benefits of a vegan diet go beyond just your own personal health.  Eating plants, rather than feeding plants to animals and then eating those animals, makes much more efficient use of land and water.  It also produces much less pollution.  It takes 22 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of poultry and only 1 calorie of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of vegetables. On average, producing 1 pound of beef requires 15 times the water as producing one pound of fruits and vegetables.

6 – Its kind to animals
Why is it that as a culture we don’t find it acceptable to eat horses or dogs as food, but pigs and cows are just fine to eat?  All animals have the capacity to connect with us, to feel pain, to experience suffering.  On a daily basis, millions of animals are killed or are kept in a state of suffering to feeding humans.  A vegan diet supplies all of the nutrients necessary for the body.  Since we don’t need to be eating animals for our nutrition, why not choose to be kind to other creatures?

7 – Avoidance of harmful toxins
As you move upwards in the food chain, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be ingesting toxins.  As compared to plants, animal foods are closer to the top of the food chain. The toxins that have accumulated in whatever animal you consume will end up in your system.  Think of mercury in fish, antibiotics and growth hormones in meats, as well as chemicals used in food processing.  Studies show that when an animal experiences fear, it releases steroids and other stress hormones into the bloodstream because of the adrenaline rush.  Those chemicals are then ingested when we eat the meat from those animals.  All of those toxins build up on your body; after a certain period of time, this accumulation can cause a whole host of diseases. By eating simple foods lower on the food chain, you’ll be avoiding those chemicals.

8 – Weight Loss
Many people find it easy to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight on a vegan diet.  Because the volume of food that it takes to reach your caloric needs to maintain weight is so high on a vegan diet, many people do lose weight when converting.  Now that doesn’t mean that you can live on potato chips and doughnuts, which are technically vegan.  Make sure to eat a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and avoid processed foods and it will be easier to lose and maintain your weight.

9 – Fewer colds and illnesses
Another one of the benefits of a vegan diet is that it will give your immune system a healthy boost.  By contrast, animal foods contain much higher levels of bacteria, and unless you’re eating organic, you’ll also be consuming the antibiotics, increasing your resistance to them if you ever really need them.

10 – Look and feel younger
The more raw fruits and vegetables you eat, the more radiant your skin will be and the shinier your hair.  All of those antioxidants and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables fill your cells with vitality and it shows.  You’ll have more energy when your diet is cleaner, and studies have even shown a link between a vegan diet and decreased incidence of dementia.

Benefits of a vegan diet

By Scott Bauer, USDA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Now that you know the benefits of a vegan diet, it’s easier than you think to make the switch. Instead of eggs for breakfast, try oatmeal or a smoothie.  For lunches try grain-based salads using quinoa, barley, farro or millet – chop up some veggies to throw in and add a little salad dressing – a  quick toss and you’ve got a healthy and filling lunch.  For dinners, try veggie stews, soups or vegan chiliswith a great big salad – add some crusty bread and dinner is served!

Remember, it’s not about making extreme dietary changes overnight;  it’s just about doing better every day.  Add in more plant foods and you’ll naturally be eating less animal products and you’ll be experiencing the benefits of a vegan diet yourself!

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I'm a firm believer that you are what you eat and I want to be fresh, local, organic and healthy! I've spent a lifetime experimenting with natural foods, different diets and ways of eating, and have settled on the food philosophy that Michael Pollan expresses so well: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I'm passionate about organic foods, natural living, cooking healthy meals, and improving my health on a daily basis.

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