A vegan diet offers a lot of fantastic health benefits. It is rich in health-promoting nutrients, and at the same time, it is free of (or contains only small quantities) of potentially harmful substances like cholesterol.
To gain a better understanding of the powerful positive impact this way of eating has, we'll first discuss the benefits of a vegan diet.
Then, we'll explore how it can help lower the risk of chronic diseases. Lastly, we'll take an in-depth look at what makes a vegan diet so healthy.
Health benefits of a vegan diet:
- Rich in nutrients like fiber, complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate. (Find out how these are beneficial to health here).
- Low in or free of the following potentially harmful substances: cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, hormones, antibiotics, and purines (Find out how these might negatively impact health here).
- Correlates with an overall healthier lifestyle. Vegans tend to exercise regularly and get some activity in throughout their day. They are less prone to smoking and often drink less / no alcohol.
- Decreased susceptibility to food poisoning. Naturally, a certain risk always remains. Still, you can minimize the likeliness by buying regional, organic, and from small farmers.
- Stronger immune system. A vegan diet is rich in nutrients that boost the immune system, which is one of the reasons why vegans tend to get sick less often.
- Good acid-base balance. A whole-foods vegan diet helps you achieve a balanced acid-base ratio, which can help prevent chronic diseases. It also protects the kidneys.
- Prevention of chronic diseases. A healthy vegan diet can help prevent diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes Typ 2, and some cancers. (Read more about how a vegan diet can help prevent these diseases here.)
- Low in fat: A low-fat diet can support a healthy weight and play a role in the prevention of chronic diseases.
- Free of animal protein: Increased protein intake from animal sources can promote constipation, arthritis, liver and kidney disorders, osteoporosis, and cancer. High intake from plant sources, on the other hand, does not negatively affect health.
Summary: Health benefits of a vegan diet include that it is rich in nutrients, low in, or free of nutrients that may be harmful to health and low in fat. Moreover, it is free of animal protein and can help prevent chronic diseases as well as boost the immune system. Further, it promotes a proper acid-base balance and correlates with an overall healthier lifestyle.
What chronic diseases can a healthy vegan diet help prevent?
Vegans tend to have a healthier weight and a lower BMI. Obesity can promote other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death. Vegans have an up to 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and an up to 42% lower risk of heart disease.
Partly, this is because they don't consume cholesterol and because their diet is low in saturated fatty acids.
Additionally, a whole-foods vegan lifestyle is abundant in antioxidants, phytochemicals, potassium, magnesium, and other health-promoting nutrients that have a preventive effect on chronic diseases.
Also, vegans usually have a healthier weight, which further supports prevention.
Diabetes type 2
Vegans have a 50-78% lower risk of developing type II diabetes. A vegan diet can help prevent diabetes, among others, because it promotes a healthy weight.
It is also high in fiber and lipotropics, which helps remove fat from the liver. Thus, the occurrence of insulin resistance decreases.
Hormones (especially IGF-1), dairy products, processed meat, animal protein, vegetable oil, and refined sugar can promote the development of cancer.
Since these are barely / not at all consumed on a whole-foods plant-based diet, vegans have a lower cancer risk.
Also, the high intake of fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory components supports prevention.
A vegan and whole-foods diet may reduce, among others, the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
Summary: A healthy vegan diet reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes Typ 2, and some cancers.
We discussed the health benefits of a vegan diet and got a basic idea of what chronic diseases a vegan diet can help prevent.
Now, we'll take a look at how the nutrients that are abundantly available in vegan foods benefit health.
Fiber promotes healthy digestion, increases satiety, and can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Further, it can help you achieve/maintain a healthy weight, supports the regulation of blood sugar, and may lower cholesterol levels.
A high-fiber diet can also reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Learn more about fiber here.
Unlike simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates are very nutritious and have several beneficial properties.
They help stabilize blood sugar, increase satiety, and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Also, they can lower LDL cholesterol, act anti-inflammatory, and have a positive effect on digestion.
Phytochemicals are plant components that are not essential but can play a significant role in disease prevention. Among others, they may reduce the risk of heart disease, eye problems, and cancer.
Further, they strengthen the immune system and help prevent atherosclerosis. Many phytochemicals are also antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants can trap free radicals and thus, slow down the aging process as well as reduce cell damage.
Also, they can support the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and vision problems, among others.
Potassium helps relax the blood vessels, which can reduce blood pressure. It also helps maintain muscle mass and has a positive effect on bone density.
Further, potassium can reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, it can help prevent kidney stones.
Magnesium is essential for bone formation and bone density. It also plays a role in the prevention of headaches, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure.
Further, magnesium can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
Folate plays a vital role in the production of DNA and RNA, as well as the formation of white and red blood cells. It is, therefore, crucial that pregnant women make sure they get enough of this nutrient.
Furthermore, folic acid can reduce DNA mutations, which supports cancer prevention. Also, the vitamin can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Vitamin A is particularly important for cell growth, eye health, and fetal development. It is also an excellent antioxidant, which can help prevent some cancers.
Further, it strengthens the immune system.
Vitamin C is essential for cell growth, development, and repair.
It is especially valuable for vegans because the vitamin promotes iron absorption. Also, it is a potent antioxidant.
Vitamin C also supports healthy blood pressure, has a positive effect on cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Further, it improves memory, wound healing and strengthens the immune system.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory properties, and strengthens the immune system.
It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and vision problems. The vitamin also positively impacts blood pressure.
Learn more about vitamin E here.
Inflammation can promote chronic diseases. Often, it is also associated with joint pain.
Since a whole-foods vegan diet is rich in anti-inflammatory components, it also has a health-promoting effect in this regard.
Summary: Nutrients that are abundantly available in vegan foods that are particularly beneficial to health are fiber, complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate.
Nutrients that a vegan diet is low in or free off
A healthy vegan diet also has disease-preventing potential because the following nutrients are only consumed in small quantities are not at all.
A considerable advantage of a whole-foods vegan diet is that no cholesterol is consumed.
High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for many chronic diseases such as arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, and chest pain (angina).
Vegans tend to have lower cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of developing these diseases.
Saturated fatty acids and purines
These substances are present only in small quantities in plant foods. Saturated fatty acids can promote the development of chronic diseases.
Purines may increase uric acid levels and, thus, contribute to the development of gout.
Hormones and antibiotics
On factory farms, animals receive hormones, so they get bigger and fatter faster than usual.
Also, antibiotics are administered so that the animals do not get sick under the stressful and unhygienic circumstances they endure.
When humans consume these animals or their products, they also ingest the hormones and antibiotics the animals received, which can negatively impact health.
Moreover, it may promote antibiotics resistance, causing more and more antibiotics to be ineffective.
Summary: A whole-foods vegan diet is free off or low in the following substances that may be harmful to health: cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, hormones, antibiotics, and purines