15 Remarkable Reasons to Eat a Vegan Diet
By Scott Burgett | 4.1.18
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People are turning towards a vegan diet each and everyday. Whether it be for health, the animals, or the environment, there is no wrong reason to make the transition to a vegan diet.
1. You may experience weight loss
One of the most prominent benefits of switching to a vegan diet is weight loss. This is also why many people decide to try a vegan diet and end up sticking to it because it feels good. A six-month study comparing a high protein vegan diet to a vegetarian diet showed an average of weight loss 15 lbs for participants on the vegan diet.
Many people who make the change to a vegan diet start seeing the weight loss immediately. Dr. John McDougall, author of The Starch Solution, published a study with over 1,000 participants who had an average weight loss of three pounds in just one week of following a low-fat, plant-based diet.
Another note for the study was that all these participants were eating as much as they wanted. This type of success without restrictions is promising for those who love to eat, but want to lose weight while doing so.
2. It can be highly nutritious
As with all diets, the quality of food matters. Vegan diets are healthy for a number of reasons, but particularity because of the high consumption of vegetables. If you the majority of your diet is similar, you’re bound to receive the positive benefits.
The highest amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are found in plant foods. Mom was right when she said “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In fact, Carrie Dennett, Seattle-based registered dietitian and nutritionist says “what you do eat matters as much as, if not more than, what you don’t eat.”
As you have heard before, the most nutritious food lies on the perimeter of the grocery store. However, a better way to state that is the most nutritious food is found in the produce section.
3. It may help lower your cholesterol
A vegan diet is well-known for its aid in weight loss and positive associations with blood markers. Since cholesterol can only be found in animal foods, vegan and vegetarian diets are associated with lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. With a 22-point median decrease in cholesterol in just seven days, a plant-based diet comes out as a clear winner to reduce your cholesterol levels.
To further the point, a remarkable study lead by Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, showed an average drop of 10.9 points for total cholesterol and 11.9 for LDL cholesterol. Not only that, 71% of the patients’ diet consisted of carbohydrates. So are carbs the villain they’re made out to be? You decide.
4. It may help lower your blood pressure
Comparative to meat eaters, vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure. Why? Because of the way saturated fats are processed within our body. What foods contains the highest amounts of saturated fat? Red meat, chicken, and poultry.
Rather than using expensive drug medications, this study involving over 4,000 participants found a clear relationship between plant-based diets and lower blood pressure. The opposite was true for meat eaters.
Another study specifically indicated that high intake of grains, vegetables, and fruits continue to keep blood pressure in normal ranges. Even when comparing vegetarians to meat eaters, vegetarians were half as likely to develop high blood pressure.
The answer is clear: remove animal products, lower your blood pressure.
5. It may lower your risk for heart disease
What does high cholesterol, an unhealthy diet, and hypertension (high blood pressure) all have in common? They are risk factors for heart disease.1 in 4 people will die of heart disease this year.
That is over 600,000 avoidable deaths per year. To put it in even greater context, that is the equivalent of two full-size jumbo jets crashing every single day of the year.
Red meat intake has a particularly strong association with heart disease. We have known this for decades, yet we continue to eat more and more each year.
But what about fish and chicken? Even after adjusting for smoking, eating greater than 20 grams of any meat per day increases your heart disease risk 3-fold. That’s a whopping 300%!
It’s not all bad news though. A 2017 study published in the journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science showed an inverse relationship between plant foods and heart disease. That is, the more plant foods consumed, the lower your risk level falls.
Not bad for beans and rice.
6. It may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
Another risk factor for heart disease is adult-onset diabetes, otherwise known as type 2 diabetes. Different than type I or insulin-dependent diabetes, adult-onset diabetes typically stems from poor lifestyle factors including poor diet and being physically inactive. The main difference between the two: type 2 diabetes is preventable.
Likewise, type 2 diabetes management is big business. The global industry is set to reach a jaw-dropping $58.7 billion by 2025. The average patient spends over $13,000 per year, which is 2-3 times the average of a non-diabetes patients. It’s no wonder that companies continue to seek out alternative solutions to this widespread issue, like a plant-based diet.
The use of plant-based diet for both prevention and management of type 2 diabetes has been well documented. A 2014 meta-analysis was able to find distinct evidence of drop in HbA1c levels from participants following a vegetarian diet. HbA1c is a measurement of the average amount of sugar in your blood over weeks and months.
What was so different about this data interpretation was that a clear benefit emerged from the diet as a whole, and not its individual parts. Scientists tend to focus on singular nutrients in food, versus the whole food itself. Dr. T. Colin Campbell discusses this problem in great detail in his book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.
7. You may experience more restful sleep
Americans currently sleep, on average a mere 6.8 hours per night. 34% of us barely manage to get 8 hours or more of rest per night. Yet we continue to wonder why it’s such a monumental task to stay awake at work, be physically active, and fight food cravings.
The Standard American Diet is known for three things: foods low in fiber, high in saturated fat, and high refined sugar. All three of those things relate to poor sleep quality. More specifically, waking up often and getting less deep, restorative sleep. Although, those who are catching their zzz’s, a plant-based diet might be the reason why.
Also, since vegans tend to have a lower BMI than meat eaters, and even their vegetarian counterparts, they sleep better. Along with a high fiber, vegan diet, low alcohol consumption and not smoking lead to better night’s sleep.
So then lends the question, can you really eat your way to a better night’s sleep? It seems you can.
8. You could experience pain relief
So far you’ve learned how a vegan diet can help you with disease, weight loss, and sleep, but what about pain relief? Chronic inflammation is unfortunately becoming the norm in today’s world. Long hours, family obligations, personal time, and practicing healthy habits compete everyday, for space and time.
Since we only have a limited amount of time awake during the day, one of those gets neglected. That usually is practicing healthy habits. Putting it off until tomorrow becomes the default and you ensue the downward spiral towards chronic pain and inflammation.
Luckily, eating can help pull you out of that spiral. Science has revealed the top five of six foods for fighting inflammation are plant foods. Not only that, the top 80% of foods that cause inflammation are staples of the Standard American Diet.
This should come to no surprise since vegetables have been long known as the most powerful foods on the planet. Still, most of us still continue to put it off until tomorrow.
Even the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most respected medical institutions in the world, suggests following these three principles for reducing chronic pain and inflammation:
- Eat the Rainbow
- Eat Complex Carbohydrates
- Avoid Red Meat
Eerily similar to the principles of a vegan eating, this inflammation-fighting diet has several benefits outside of pain relief like weight loss, insulin control, and improved blood bio markers. Several more slices of evidence of the positive effects of a vegan diet.
9. It may promote greater self-control
Just like any other mainstream diet, a vegan diet is restrictive. You cannot eat certain foods because of the principles behind it. However, that makes for a greater ability to control your habits, specifically your dietary habits.
Think about the last time you started a diet. Even though you had to restrict your normal eating patterns, you did it for a larger goal. Then, once you saw the results, it became much easier to follow it.
That is why it’s crucial to establish a goal or purpose upfront when starting a vegan diet. According to the American Psychological Association, willpower is a finite resource. We only have so much in the tank before our cravings override our decisions.
Connecting to your purpose will pay dividends when times get tough. Having that anchor point to fall back on will help overcome your empty tank of willpower. This fantastic life lesson of building self-control is another unexpected bonus of a vegan diet.
10. Our human anatomy supports it
We are not gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants or rhinos. Our digestion process is different and we don’t spend all day foraging for food.
However, chimps are humans closest relatives and we cannot help but ignore the similarity between our anatomy and theirs. More specifically, our guts contain similar microorganisms, or gut flora, to breakdown carbohydrates.
There are also a couple of striking comparisons to expand upon. Herbivores typically have a digestive tract that is 10-12 times the length of their body, like humans. They also have a jaw structure similar to humans that moves primarily side-to-side, to chew and grind food down to their chemical structure for ease of digestion.
In contrast, carnivores have extremely long canine teeth (or incisors) to rip and tear at the flesh of their prey. Their digestive tracts are small, typically 1.5-3 times the length of their body. Even true omnivores like bears and dogs only have digestive tracts that are 3-5 times the length of their body.
Again, the correlation is strikingly similar to that of herbivores, furthering the case why our anatomy supports a vegan diet.
11. It promotes healthy skin, hair, and aging
One of the most touted anecdotal benefits of a vegan diet is glowing skin. People notice within just a couple of weeks that their skin is clear and healthy.
This can partially be attributed to the influx of vegetables, especially dark green leafy plants. Dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu comments about how dark leafy greens like kale and spinach help fight free radicals, and protect the skin against inflammation.
High protein plant foods like beans legumes, and nuts promote healthy hair. Along with providing a healthy dose of protein, they provide biotin, a key nutrient for hair growth.
Additionally, dietary fats that are high in linolenic acid, supply the body with blemish reducing compounds that heal skin and clear up acne. Vegan diet staples of linolenic acid include flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, along with tofu and certain plant oils.
12. It conserves our most precious resource
Raising livestock, specifically beef cattle is an unsustainable industry. A pound of beef requires 1,847 gallons/lb of water to produce, whilst the vegan protein equivalent tofu takes a mere 302 gal/lb and lentils at 704 gallons/lb. Even though it currently stands as the largest way to produce food for the world’s population, it’s quickly consuming more than it’s producing.
38% of the total water footprint in agriculture is used to produce animal feed. That number is quickly growing as more and more underdeveloped nations are acquiring wealth, subsequently increasing their meat consumption.
What about crops? On average, vegetables produce 1 calorie for every 0.5 L water used. Meat, on the other hand only produces 1 calorie for every 2.5 L of water. In other words, meat requires on average 500% more water than does vegetables.
Eating a vegetarian diet alone would yield a 36% decline in the average consumer water footprint. A vegan diet, even less. Simply put, eating meat is no longer sustainable and seriously threatens our planet’s future.
13. It reduces the use of antibiotics
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the CDC testified before Congress in 2010 that there is a connection between the routine use of antibiotics for meat production and the declining effectiveness of antibiotics for people.
In 2009, a study revealed that animals receive 80% of antibiotics in the US. When we eat those animals, we ingest the same antibiotics. Another disturbing statistic:100,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistance.
As farming continues to cram animals in smaller confinements, antibiotic use subsequently increases and produces super bugs. Those same super bugs get ingested by us and the pattern continues, but now with our own species.
Eating a vegan diet directly impacts this cycle in two ways: less antibiotics used because of the decreased demand for animal products and less killers like MRSA, which originate in cows, being diagnosed in humans.
14. It’s environmentally sustainable
Livestock grazing contributes to soil degradation. Their daily movement compacts, erodes, and ultimately destroys the soil. That means year over year, more chemicals get used to enrich the soil with nutrients in order to grow the bare minimum, ultimately destroying the per calorie nutrition of our crops.
Some other alarming facts about livestock farming, commercial fishing, and its effect on the environment:
- Approximately 80% of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste
- Of all the agricultural available land in the US, cattle occupies 80% of it
- 25% of all fish caught by commercial fishing boats are discarded.
If there’s a demand, there will always be a supply. Eating a vegan diet up directly benefits our planet’s sustainable future.
15. It raises awareness of Veganism
There is an age old saying and it goes “there is no such thing as bad press.” This couldn’t be more true for Veganism and plant-based diets. If people are talking about it, they becomes less taboo and more cultural acceptable.
For every one press release about the dangers of a vegan diet, thousands of other take to social media to dispel it. In today’s 2018, social media-driven world, you can find millions of accounts with recipes, success stories, and benefits of a vegan diet. Even the longest living populations on earth have one thing in common, their diet centers around plant foods.
As plant based food companies continue to churn out products to meet the growing demand of vegan products, other industries will quickly follow. Actors, athletes, and musicians alike are discovering the truth and ditching meat and dairy. It’s the future of the planet, and that planet is a vegan planet.
Take action and start eating a vegan diet. Start simple with smoothies or easy side dishes to get the ball rolling. Then, once you become more comfortable, go from dipping your toe to jumping in. There are so many benefits for you to experience while eating vegan, why wait, start today!