Benefits of a Plant-Based Vegan Diet on Our Health
A plant-based vegan diet is one where an individual only consumes fruits and vegetables and abstains from consuming any animal-based product. A plant-based diet also includes nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. (1)
With the development and ever-evolving hands of Science, people are both living a longer life and suffering more dramatically with the choices they make keeping our habits in mind. In older times, people used to carry out extensive physical work, walking miles were a necessity to reach anywhere and hence eating any kind of food simply didn’t have that much negative impact on them as it happens to us today. Why? Because they didn’t eat as much junk, fatty or processed food as we do today. Because we unlike them love taking a bike, car, ola, uber, metro, bus, etc to even go a distance of a few miles because our 9 to 5 jobs do not entail as much physical activity as it did in the older times and because our food is much more contaminated with several antibiotics, chemicals, pesticides, etc which wasn’t a case in the older times.
For now, whether you are a vegan or a non-vegan, here are some benefits of a plant-based vegan diet that one should be aware of.
- A plant-based vegan diet supports our immune system
The essential nutrient that plants carry isn’t available in any other food. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals available in plants help in keeping the cells of our body healthy and maintaining a balance in our body so that the immune system functions at it’s best.
“Plants give your body everything it needs to help fight off infection,” says Andrea Murray, MD Anderson health education specialist. “A plant-based diet strengthens your immune system to protect you against germs and microorganisms.”
A healthy immune system also plays a critical role in reducing the risk of cancer as it recognizes and attacks the mutations our cells start performing hence limiting the progress of the disease. (2)
- A plant-based vegan diet improves our gut health
Eating a plant-based vegan diet improves our gut health helping our bodies to absorb nutrients from food efficiently hence supporting the immune system and reducing bowel inflammation. (2)
- A plant-based vegan diet is the only source of fiber
Plants are rich in fiber. Fibers (only available in unprocessed plants) make the entire structure of a plant and if you consume fiber-rich food, you access a whole lot of benefits. Fiber help lowering cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar. It is also great for better bowel management and essential for reducing the risk of cancer. especially true for colorectal cancer which is the third most common cancer. (2)
Fiber is also the key to good digestion and helps add bulk to the stool helping eliminate the excreta smoothly. (3)
- A plant-based vegan diet helps in reducing the risk of chronic diseases
By the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, chronic diseases are those diseases that last for a period of 3 months or more.
Meat contains saturated fat, which can contribute to heart issues. (4) Eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 16 percent and dying of this health condition by close to 31 percent as per a study published in August 2019 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. (5) Also, vegetarians tend to have a 34 percent lower risk of developing hypertension than non-vegetarians as per another study published in November 2016 in the Journal of Hypertension. (6)
Several studies have shown that following a plant-based vegan diet can reduce blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. (7) It is a known fact that there’s a link between diet and type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, weight becomes a critical issue since more fatty tissue makes the cells resistant to insulin. (8) Eating a plant-based vegan diet reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 34 percent according to a study published in June 2016 in PLoS Medicine. (9)
It is likely because plants contain lower saturated fats than animals killed/processed for food does. Meat raises cholesterol levels and the risk of developing type 3 diabetes as per the American Diabetes Association. (10) The prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 7.6 percent among non-vegetarians as compared to a mere 2.9 percent for vegans as per another study published in Diabetes Care. (11)
High cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits in the blood thereby restricting blood flow which leads to heart attack, stroke or other heart diseases. (12) Our risk of stroke increases if we have high blood pressure, are over-weight, have high cholesterol, have diabetes or heart diseases or smoke, drink, or use drugs. (13) One simple way to reduce the chances of these deadly diseases is to first increase the intake of fruits and vegetables in our diet finally transitioning to a plant-based vegan diet. (8) A healthy vegan diet can help keep cholesterol levels in check. Abstaining from meat and moving away from a diet filled with animal products lower LDL (‘’bad’’) cholesterol (14) by between 10 and 15 percent. Those who follow a strict vegan diet can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 25 percent according to a review of 27 studies that were published in The American Journal of Cardiology. (15)
- A plant-based vegan diet helps to reduce the risk of cancer
According to The American Institute for Cancer Research, the best way to source cancer-protective nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phyto-chemicals, is to consume/ follow a diet rich in vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Eating a vegan diet promotes a healthy weight and helps in lowering the risk of certain cancers by about 10 percent as per a review published in 2011 in Cancer Management and Research. (15) (16)
- A plant-based vegan diet reduces the risk of UTIs
The bacteria E Coli is the main culprit behind several infections in humans. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are the most common infection (17) which occurs because E Coli from the intestine reaches the urinary tract. What’s interesting is to note that UTIs can also be caused due to E Coli strains commonly found in farm animals such as chickens, goats, sheep, cows, turkeys, and pigs. (18) Vegetarians have a 16 percent lower risk of UTIs compared to non-vegetarians as per the analysis of several studies done recently. (18) This study also confirms previous data that suggested that meat-borne bacteria are the main contributor to the risk of UTIs and have displayed antibiotic resistance. (19)
- A plant-based vegan diet reduces arthritis pain
A plant-based vegan diet has positive effects on people suffering from various types of arthritis. A leading lifestyle daily carried a study where they assigned 40 participants with arthritis to either continue eating their usual diet or switch to a vegan diet for a period of six weeks. The findings of the results showed people who switched to a vegan diet had higher energy levels and better general functioning, they also had greater improvement with symptoms such as pain. (20)
Aging causes an inevitable degenerative joint disease called osteoarthritis which is a painful breakdown of cartilage in the joints. It is irreversible but is manageable usually with the help of medication and sometimes surgery. (21) A small study conducted looking at the impact of our diet showed a significant improvement in pain and functioning in people with osteoarthritis who consumed a plant-based diet. (22) One of the reasons for this as suggested in the study is possibly the anti-inflammatory properties of the micro-nutrients present in plant foods, as inflammation is the main cause of pain in arthritis. (23) (24) On the other hand, meat-based diets have the opposite effect and, it increased the level of inflammation in the body. (21)
- A plant-based vegan diet lowers period pain in women
A plant-based diet helps in reducing period pain in women according to some research. Women in this study swapped to a low-fat vegan diet for two menstrual cycles. Post two cycles, these women went back to their usual omnivorous diet for their next two cycles. The intensity and duration of pain and pre-menstrual symptoms were recorded along with the measurement of the levels of hormone affecting estrogen. Women on the low-fat vegan diet, reported less pain duration and intensity, shorter duration of pre-menstrual symptoms and lower level of estrogen. This study also showed how the lower level of estrogen can benefit women’s health in a number of ways. (23)
‘’A plant-based diet is also popular because it can reduce humans’ environmental impact and many celebrities, including Beyoncé and Tom Brady, have embraced this way of eating. “Whether you are an animal lover, an environmental advocate, or want to live your healthiest life, being plant-based is the one underlying thread that seems to be compelling so many of us,” says Maya Feller, RD, CDN, a dietitian based in Brooklyn, New York and the author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook. (8)
Esselstyn, the director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleaveland Clinic Wellness Institute suggests we should completely avoid all animal-based products as well as soybeans and nuts, particularly if severe coronary artery disease is present. (24) (25)
Research has shown that vegans and vegetarians had a 2-4 point lower body mass index compared to meat-eaters. (25)
Shifting towards a healthier, more sustainable behavior of consumption requires us to take into consideration our eating behaviors and patterns. (26)
There are several other benefits of being on a plant-based vegan diet like weight-loss, glowing skin, positive mental health, and mood, good sleep, etc. I will cover these as a 2.0 sometime soon.
I hope this article helps you in making the right food choice for your health and that you liked my research. For feedback, comments or queries you can either post a comment in the comment section or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the article is based on my research and reading from various sources I have listed as references below.