Science-Based Health Benefits of Vegan and Plant-based Diets
Have you ever tried eating 2000 calories of vegetables?
I have and its hard work. In fact, unless you fry them or eat them all day long, it’s virtually impossible. That’s why the plant-based version of the vegan diet helps people to reduce lifestyle disease, improve their health and lose weight.
A vegan diet offers multiple health benefits such as the protection against type 2 diabetes and numerous cancers. Scientists have known for decades, going right back to the early 1900s that a plant-based diet is the best diet for human health.
Traditionally, we ate very little meat and dairy but with the explosion of factory farming and cheap processed food products we eat much more than our bodies are capable of dealing with. This can lead to lifestyle related illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The Diet Industry
The diet industry has a lot to answer for in terms of creating an environment where people no longer eat sensibly, eat balanced diets or food but food products. Believe it or not, people were much healthier during the World War 2 when food was rationed. This is mainly to do with back to basics food, plenty of vegetables and food in moderation.
The modern fad diet epidemic started in the 1930s and has included everything from cabbage soup diets to low fat, starve yourself diets and low carb diets. These are all quick fix solutions where you initially lose weight then gain the weight back once you go back to your normal eating patterns. These diets constitute to an unhealthy approach to living. Low fat diets starve your brain and nervous system of the fats they need to run effectively. Low carb diets starve your body of the much-needed fuel to run on and the starve yourself diets, well, they put your body into famine mode. Yes, you lose weight to start with but then it comes back ten-fold once you go back to eating normally.
How to reduce the risks associated with fad Western diets
So what can you do to become healthier and reduce the effects of poor eating habits, fad diets and lifestyle diseases?
Switch to a plant-based diet!
It need not be forever, even a temporary switch can put you back on the right track. Let’s look at what a plant-based diet can offer you in terms of health benefits?
A whole-food vegan diet is the optimal diet to go for. Not only is it a balanced diet but has everything that your body needs apart from Omega 3 and vitamin B12 which you can get from any health food shop or amazon in the form of tablets, capsules or sprays.
Several scientific studies have been carried out in recent years which have reported that vegan and plant-based diets tend to provide more fibre, antioxidants and much needed plant compounds than the typical western diet. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is rich in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.
However, not all vegan diets are created equal. The Oreo and Chip diet isn’t a diet at all, it’s more of a death sentence even though it tastes nice. But then again, so does arsenic covered in Kentucky Fried Spices. This isn’t news, this is common sense, but it seems to be a huge problem for many people to comprehend.
For instance, a poorly planned vegan diet will not provide sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine or zinc, neither will the typical western diet. (I discuss this in a previous article). So, whether you are vegan, plant-based or have a typical Western diet there is an important need to supplement a poor in nutrient diet.
The lack of nutrients is the main reason why it’s important not to consume too much nutrient-poor, fast-food vegan options. Fast food diets make you fat and unhealthy and are very addictive because they contain just the right amount of fat, sugar and salt to hook you in and starve you of the necessary nutrients to keep you healthy. I know vegetables are hard for most people to enjoy eating, maybe, because people aren’t sure how to make them taste good. See my vegan recipes page for interesting ideas.
Instead of consuming junk or beige food as I call it, try to base your diet around nutrient-rich whole plants, soya, and protein-based substitutes and supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals.
As 2020 enters we see a move towards an increasing number of people turning to plant-based diets in the hope of shedding the excess weight and this is for a very good reason too. Many studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes than non-vegans.
In addition, several randomized controlled studies report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than the traditional Western diet they have been compared to in scientific studies.
The GEICO study revealed that a vegan diet helped participants lose 9.3 lbs more than the control diet over an 18-week study period.
A further study showed that in a randomised clinical trial a low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes with up to a 50–78% lower risk of the individuals developing type 2 diabetes. Vegans also, on the whole have lower blood sugar levels.
A study published in the Journal of American Heart Association showed that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all‐cause mortality in a general population of middle‐aged adults. Further studies have shown that it’s never too late to reverse some of the damage caused by a poor diet, and switching to a plant-based diet can aid the reversal of cardiovascular disease.
A study published by the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology concluded that “a plant-based diet should be considered a viable option for patients who are interested in losing weight and improving dietary quality consistent with chronic disease prevention and treatment.”
According to the World Health Organization, one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within our control, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise come top of the list.
Vegan substitutes for sausages, burgers and fake meats are primarily made from soya which offer protection against breast cancer. Alongside Breast cancer the avoidance of animal products and the increase of soy products can also reduce the risk of prostate and colon cancer.
Additional research suggests that eating at least seven portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day and not the UK recommended five portions per day could lower your risk of dying from cancer by up to 15%. As most vegans, especially plant-based vegans consume more legumes, fruit and vegetables than non-vegans research has shown that they have a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer.
Weight loss is one of the main factors that spurs people to lose weight and as discussed above fad diets are not a healthy way to lose weight. Even if you are a vegan or follow a plant-based diet and you are not following your diet perfectly (who does?) you can still lose more weight than those on a standard Western diet. This is because Vegan diets have a natural reduced calorie intake. Have you ever tried eating 2000 calories of salad, or kale or broccoli? Impossible! A plant-based diet will without uncertainty aid weight loss.
A plant-based diet maybe one step too far for some people to achieve so if this sounds like you, then why not start with reducing the amount of animal products in your diet and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. You may be interested in taking a look at the recent USA myplate guide which was developed by researchers at Harvard University.
Led By DR Bernard, a vegan who advocates a plant-based diet the team designed a guide which the majority of people are able to follow. This is by far the best myplate guide out there and beats the UK myplate hands down. The Vegan Society have designed their own myplate guide as have the Vegetarian Society. Why not check them out and start building your own myplate choices.
Going back to basics in the cooking department rather than taking the fast food route will help to reduce lifestyle diseases. In cooking your own food which comprises mainly of nutrient rich fruit and vegetables you will see significant health benefits in a very short time compared to the standard Western diet. If you have a lifestyle disease such as Type 2 diabetes or obesity you could potentially reverse the effects by consuming more plants and less animal products.
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