In the past few years, many people have made the decision to cut out all animal products, and go completely vegan. But what are the health benefits to this diet? Are there any potential dangers to health? Let’s find out!
The first benefit is that a vegan diet tends to be richer in some nutrients, such as vitamin A, C, and E, potassium, magnesium, and folate, as well as being higher in fiber and antioxidants.
This is because when meat and animal products are removed from the diet, other foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts are used to replace them, and these foods are higher in the above mentioned nutrients.
That being said, it would be all too easy to be lacking in certain nutrients when following a vegan diet. It’s important to base your diet around healthy whole foods, rather than filling up on ready meals and junk food.
Secondly, following a vegan diet may improve blood sugar levels, raise insulin sensitivity, and give you at least 50% less chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown that a vegan diet may lower blood sugar levels even more than the diets recommended by the American Diabetes Association, and in one study 43% of participants were able to lower their blood sugar medication when they followed a vegan diet.
In addition, substituting meat for plant protein may reduce the risk of developing poor kidney function.
Veganism is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Again, this due to an increased intake of fresh fruits, veggies, legumes, and fiber. Research suggests that vegans may actually have up to a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
This diet lowers blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol more than many other diets, so it greatly reduces the risk of developing heart disease.
A further benefit is that eating vegan could actually reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. According to WHO, around 30% of cancers can be prevented by factors such as diet.
Eating more legumes, fruits, and veggies could have an impact in preventing certain cancers – in fact, vegans may be up to 15% less likely to die from cancer. Smoked and processed meats are also thought to be carcinogens, so avoiding those may also help reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer.
A vegan diet could also reduce the pain from arthritis. Some studies have shown that those who followed a vegan diet reported an improvement in pain, swelling, and stiffness compared with an omnivorous diet.
However, another small study has suggested that a vegan diet may increase the chance of having a stroke by up to 20%, however this could be down to other issues and may not be linked to the vegan diet. Scientists have hypothesized that if this figure is true, it could be down to low vitamin B12 levels, but more research is needed to confirm.
So for the most part the vegan diet offers a wide range of health benefits, from protecting the heart and kidneys to improving arthritis symptoms. If you decide to take up this diet, make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need, especially vitamin B12, by eating whole foods and even taking supplements if needed.