This year has brought a lot of changes and the way we think about and consume food is one of them. Because of meat shortages, the consumption of meat has gone down and the increase in plant-based or plant-focused meals has gone up, which is a good thing! The American diet is way past due for an overhaul, one that includes more fruits, veggies, and nutrient-dense food in our lives!
We began last week talking about veganism, the keto diet, and the differences between the two. Both are healthier options to the standard American diet but they are opposite because a keto lifestyle focuses on fat intake mainly from high-fat fruit and animal sources as fuel, and the vegan diet focuses mainly on plant-based sources for its nutrient intake. One of the things I’d like to focus on today, however, is not comparing or contrasting the vegan lifestyle to the keto lifestyle, it is to share the effects that a vegan diet, as opposed to the American diet, can have on the body. As I mentioned last week, there are all kinds of rumors and assumptions that swirl around about living a vegan lifestyle and there’s so much information online to sift through. So today I thought I’d simplify it and break down three of the amazing benefits that have been found to come from consuming a plant-based diet.
Benefits of living a vegan lifestyle
- Consuming more nutrients – There is a rumor going around that cutting meat out of your diet can be dangerous because you need certain nutrients you can only get from animals and that’s just simply not true. By consuming more fruits and vegetables, you’ll be taking in more prebiotics, or fiber, which is very important for the proper function of your digestive system, along with more vitamins, minerals, and all-around nutrient-dense foods. With the increase in soluble fiber, you’ll also have the benefit of feeling more satiated, which will keep you from snacking and that’s always a plus!
- Protection against heart disease and cancer – Research has shown that increasing your consumption of foods like legumes, fruits, and veggies may reduce the risk of certain cancers like colon, breast, and prostate to name a few. Processed meats and meat that is cooked at high temperatures are believed to be contributors to certain types of cancer so avoiding them could lower your risk. As for heart disease, a vegan diet lowers your bad cholesterol levels especially, and your total cholesterol levels overall, which we know helps to lower your risk for heart disease.
- Reducing inflammation – According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study conducted in 2015 on 600 people who followed a vegan diet for 6 weeks showed a decrease in C—reactive protein, which is a marker for acute and chronic inflammation. If you’ve noticed, there’s been a lot of buzz about inflammation in the body over the past few years and that’s because people are waking up to the reality that inflammation and disease in the body go hand-in-hand.
As you can see, consuming a well-balanced vegan diet can have some important health benefits, but the keyword here is “balance.” I mentioned last week how some people will eat Oreo cookies because they’re technically “vegan,” but this is only beneficial to your taste buds and not your health. If you’re interested in switching to a plant-based diet, make sure you do your research. Talk to your doctor and get your nutrient levels checked to see what you may be lacking so that you can make sure you’re supplementing properly. And don’t be afraid to ease your way into it. Take your time and start with small substitutions like, almond milk instead of dairy, or cutting back on meat to two or three times a week. Be kind to yourself. Your digestive system and your appetite will thank you for it!