One question frequently pondered over by vegetarians, non-vegetarians, and everybody in between is- are vegans healthier than meat eaters? While there has been a long-standing consensus that eating a plant-based intake is healthier than those that rely heavily on meat, many are just waking up to its effectiveness.
When followed correctly, a vegan diet has the potential to minimize the chances of heart-related ailments, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and other chronic diseases—thus turning vegan healthier than eating meat.
However, if you are still apprehensive about making the switch, continue to read to know more about veganism, vegan diet, and why vegans are healthier than meat-eaters.
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What is veganism?
The Vegan Society defines veganism as a way of living that aims to prevent all types of exploitation and cruelty to animals for meat, clothing, or other purposes. Therefore, a person who chooses to turn vegan adopts a plant-based regimen and refrains from using products derived from animals like dairy, leather, wool, animal-tested cosmetics, etc.
Additionally, they do not patronize or visit places where animals are generally used for entertainment, abuse, or injury. Many people are usually attracted to this lifestyle due to personal, ethical, and planetary reasons.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet mainly consists of plant-based food like vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits. What sets it apart from a vegetarian diet is that a vegan diet also excludes dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, and even honey.
However, following a vegan diet does not entail eating raw food. Consuming processed food is also allowed as long as it does not contain animal-based products.
Contrary to popular beliefs, a vegan diet offers a wide range of options. Vegans can choose from Indian curries, Italian pasta, Tex-Mex burritos, Chinese stir-fries, and “meat” loaves prepared using beans or other textured vegetable protein.
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A diet plan of dedicated vegans typically includes a minimum of 3 servings of protein in a day. They choose from tofu, beans, tempeh, soy products, various nuts, and nut butter to meet their daily requirement.
To get the necessary fat, vegans include vegetable oils, avocados, seeds, and nut butter.
As vegans do not consume milk and other dairy products, they eat plant-based foods rich in calcium. Turnip greens, kale, fortified plant milk, and a few tofu varieties are some of the popular choices.
It is difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D, B12, and iodine from a plant-based diet. Therefore, vegans also include a few nutritional supplements in their diet.
Why are vegans healthier than meat eaters?
When people avoid meat and other products derived from animals, they automatically switch over to whole foods. Their snacking habits also change, and they opt for fruits, whole grains, and vegetables instead of the unhealthy processed sugary treats. Thus, eating vegan-friendly foods naturally reduces calorie intake and leads to a healthier lifestyle.
Here are 8 benefits of a vegan diet that show how eating vegan food is healthier than eating meat:
- Healthier heart
As meat contains many trans and saturated fats, it can increase one’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can clog the blood vessels and increase the chances of peripheral artery disease, stroke, and other heart ailments. On the other hand, plant-based diets such as a vegan diet, do not contain dietary cholesterol.
Such diets are rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetable oils, which lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, vegans tend to have a healthier heart.
- Lower risk of diabetes
Many studies prove that people who consume a vegan diet have higher insulin sensitivity, significantly lower blood sugar levels, and lower chances of contracting type 2 diabetes.
About 43% of people who participated in a clinical trial and followed a vegan diet reduced the dosage of their blood-sugar medication. Other studies indicate that substituting meat with plant-based proteins improves kidney function.
Thus, people who adopt a vegan lifestyle can keep declining kidney function and type 2 diabetes at bay.
- Protects against cancer
A study conducted by Oxford University suggests that eating 3 rashers of bacon daily can increase the chances of cancer by a whopping 20%.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that it is possible to avoid a third of all types of cancers by controlling certain factors such as your diet. It suggests including legumes in the diet as it reduces the chances of colorectal cancer by 9–18%. Eating a minimum of 7 portions of fresh vegetables and fruits every day can also lower cancer risk by 15%.
As vegans generally consume more legumes, vegetables, and fruits than non-vegans, they have a 15% less chance of developing or dying from the dreaded disease. Moreover, as vegans avoid all types of dairy products, it also reduces prostate cancer risk.
- Relieves arthritis
People who follow a vegan diet can manage the pain caused by various types of arthritis much better. This is mainly because of the probiotic-rich and raw food that is part of a vegan diet.
According to a controlled study, the people who consumed a vegan diet experienced reduced pain, morning stiffness, and joint swelling compared to those who ate an omnivorous diet.
Thus, vegans who have arthritis are better equipped to deal with the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Improves mental health
Based on the results of a study conducted by The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), it is widely believed that people who follow a plant-based eating habits are less prone to depression. They experience a more positive state of mind than people who consume meat.
Experts believe that this is primarily due to eliminating arachidonic acid and long-chain fatty acids that are predominantly found in meat.
As a vegan diet primarily consists of complex carbohydrates, it increases the serotonin level in the brain. This is beneficial as Serotonin is a feel-good hormone. Moreover, the intake of phytochemicals found abundantly in a vegan diet has many desirable effects on a person’s mind.
- Increases metabolism
The latest studies indicate that vegans have a more diverse microbiome than non-vegans. Microbiome refers to the group of useful bacteria present in the gut that help break down the food. It also helps to absorb essential minerals and vitamins along with antioxidants and phytochemicals.
As vegans generally have a healthy microbiome, their bodies are better equipped to absorb nutrients. It also protects them from viruses and disease-causing bacteria such as E-coli or listeria. Additionally, the plant-based diet supplies the body with indigestible fiber necessary for the survival of the good bacteria.
- Lower BMI
Body mass index (BMI) is a useful measure that indicates if you are underweight, healthy, or overweight. The two parameters used to calculate BMI are your present weight and your height.
Vegans have a lower BMI compared to meat-eaters. A possible reason for this trend is usually attributed to the fact that vegans do not eat meat, dairy products, and eggs. Vegans not only tend to lose more weight than non-vegans, but they also gain less weight in the long run.
Moreover, the problems related to obesity are uncommon in vegans, as following a plant-based regimen is an effective strategy to counter obesity.
- Improves your skin
Everyone longs for a glowing complexion. However, one of the biggest culprits of skin problems is dairy. Several studies suggest that dairy exacerbates acne in women as well as in men.
Apart from ditching dairy products, vegans also treat their bodies to a large variety of vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. As a result, their bodies receive all the good stuff required to maintain healthy skin.
How to turn vegan?
While a few people turn vegans overnight, others take a gradual approach. If you find it difficult to make the switch, try having a vegan meal once a day or once a week and then increase the frequency until you are completely vegan.
Below are 4 useful tips to help you make the transition:
- Begin by making simple substitutions like using organic margarine in place of butter and almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
- Explore vegan-friendly options by trying new foods. Some of the choices you will truly enjoy are vegan cheese, wheat meat, and veggie burgers.
- When dining out, look out for items marked as vegan on the menu. This will help you discover food that is not only cruelty- free but also healthy.
- Establishing a support group consisting of other vegans is extremely helpful. Therefore, go online and find local groups and other places to meet like-minded people and source vegan-friendly foods, products, and recipes.
There has been a 300% increase in the number of Americans turning vegan in the past 15 years. One of the factors that have majorly contributed to this phenomenal rise is the growing evidence supporting eating vegan healthier than eating meat. As vegan diets are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, it helps vegans keep their bodies disease-free. Thus, making them healthier than meat-eaters.
Therefore, don’t get left far behind. Going vegan not only helps you to stay healthy but also saves the environment. Give it some serious thought and be part of the change.