There are many reasons why someone may choose to follow a vegan lifestyle, meaning they make a conscious choice to avoid consuming or purchasing any animal products, or their by-products.
Personally, I transitioned to veganism because of ethical reasons and it wasn’t until I had been vegan for at least a few months that I became more aware of the environmental and health benefits. You can read my reasons for going vegan here.
The health benefits of veganism became more apparent as I began to experience them first-hand. I always considered myself to be a relatively healthy person anyway, but I definitely saw some really impressive changes to my general well-being.
My skin improved, my digestive system began working more effectively and my mind was much more focused, meaning I could work and exercise effectively.
It was because of this that I decided to do more research into the health benefits of eating a vegan diet. I soon found I wasn’t the only one experiencing such positive effects. Since then, there have been loads of important studies organised by scientists that have helped to back up these experiences with hard evidence.
In this article, I am going to draw upon these studies to show some really common and incredible health benefits of eating a vegan diet. So, whether you want to transition to veganism or you simply want to incorporate more plant-based food into your diet, you can find out the awesome things it will do for your body!
Here are the health benefits of a vegan diet
Before we get into these amazing health benefits, I want to stress the importance of following a healthy and nutritious plant-based diet in order to experience these for yourself.
A diet primarily focused on whole foods with high-quality sources of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of fruit and vegetables is key to living a healthy lifestyle. Through this, you will likely see improvements in all of the following areas.
1. Increase in nutrient intake
The typical Western diet consists of a lot of meat and dairy, but very few legumes, vegetables, fruits and grains. A lot of the nutrients found in these diets actually come from supplements given to animals.
So, when people switch to a vegan diet they tend to increase their consumption of legumes, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. All of which are very nutrient-dense foods.
See also: what food is vegan?
It has been shown that healthy vegan diets consist of more fibre, antioxidants, potassium, folate, magnesium, and Vitamins A, C, and E (see scientific source).
That being said, there are certain nutrients that vegans may struggle to get naturally from their diet. These include B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine, which are predominantly found in animal-based sources. Therefore, vegans will still need to consider taking supplements in order to get everything they need nutritionally. It is worth noting, that even farmers supplement their animals with sources of B12.
Discover all of the supplements that vegans should take, including vegan omega-3 supplements and vegan multivitamins.
2. Lose weight more easily
Whilst this is no guarantee that you will shed quite a few pounds by turning vegan, the likelihood of being able to achieve this is definitely higher.
There are many reasons why this may be, including the fact that a vegan diet tends to be lower in fat and you are able to consume a lot more food without exceeding your calorie intake (see scientific study).
By focusing more on plant-based foods you can actually increase your plate size without increasing your calories. This means you will finish eating meals feeling full and satisfied, unlike eating a predominantly meat-based diet.
One study on weight loss in vegan diets showed that even those who loosely followed the diet were able to lose more weight than those who didn’t follow it at all (see scientific study).
That being said, if you follow a vegan junk food diet then you will definitely still struggle to keep off the pounds. This kind of diet is full of fat, normally because of the cooking methods used (like deep fat frying).
3. Lower risk of certain cancers
It is widely accepted that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Even the World Health Organization state that a lot of cancer can be prevented by diet.
Not all cancers are the same though, and findings can differ. But overall, vegans have been found to have a 15% lower risk of developing any kind of cancer (see scientific study).
In particular, there have been some really impressive findings in men eating vegan diets which decreases their likelihood of getting bowel cancer (see scientific study).
Moreover, the increased intake of soy products (which are eaten more in vegan diets) in women has been shown to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer (see scientific study).
4. Reduce and prevent diabetes
By following a healthy vegan diet, or by simply incorporating a lot more plant-based food into your diet, you can reduce the effects and risk of type 2 diabetes (see scientific study).
Vegan diets tend to lead to lower blood sugar levels and a higher insulin sensitivity, which can help to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Although this is heavily debated, there have been instances of people reversing their type 2 diabetes by following a healthy whole-food plant-based diet. This is even backed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
5. Prevent heart disease
Vegans in general are at a much lower risk of dying from heart-related issues (see scientific study). There are many reasons why this could be, including the fact that a vegan diet is primarily made up of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fibre, all of which are shown to promote a healthy heart.
On the flip side, many animal-based products are shown to increase a person’s risk of developing heart-related conditions (see scientific study).
In order to give your heart a healthy helping hand, make sure to consume plenty of plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You could also try out these vegan omega-3 supplements.
6. Improve gut microbiome health
A vegan diet is very beneficial when it comes to creating a healthy gut microbiome. This is because plant-based foods help to create more diverse microbial systems. On top of this, vegan diets tend to be much higher in fibre, which in turn increases the healthy bacteria inside our guts (see scientific study).
Moreover, vegan diets cause a lot less inflammation in our guts which can help with health concerns like IBS (see scientific study).
A healthy gut microbiome will lead to better digestive health. This means a plant-based diet can be used to help with digestive issues.
7. Decrease cholesterol levels
Having high cholesterol means you have too much of a fatty substance inside your blood which can lead to severe heart problems or a stroke.
High cholesterol is becoming very common, particularly in people who consume a lot of animal-based products. But those who don’t exercise or drink or smoke excessively are also at risk.
Vegan diets can significantly lower cholesterol levels and are much more effective than any other diet (see scientific study). Many people are able to come off statins after following a plant-based diet for some time.
8. Lower blood pressure
Vegans have been shown to have a lower blood pressure than non-vegans (see scientific study).
This is because diets that predominantly consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts are associated with lower blood pressure (see scientific study). Interestingly, this scientific study compared sedentary vegans to athletes consuming a Western diet (consisting of animal-based products) and the vegans had lower blood pressure than the athletes.
Whilst it is widely accepted that exercising helps to lower blood pressure, a vegan diet can do this more so.
Personally, I went from eating a very meaty diet to going fully vegan and I saw a really impressive and positive change in my blood pressure.
How to reap these benefits
Not all vegan diets are created equal. It is incredibly easy to slip into bad habits and to eat a junk food vegan diet. Considering that most vegan junk food is processed and cooked in A LOT of oil, this really isn’t that healthy. It may be plant-based, but consuming too much fatty food isn’t good for you. And that is the case if you were eating fatty non-vegan food or fatty vegan food.
In order to really reap the benefits of a vegan diet you should be following a healthy plant-based diet that focuses on whole foods that are packed full of fibre and nutrients. Make sure to get some vegan superfoods into your diet too!
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a vegan takeaway every now and then, but definitely don’t make it your sole intake of food.
To find out more about how to lead a nutritious vegan diet read my comprehensive guide to vegan nutrition.