May 21, 2024

Healthcare Supreme

Technology In Healthcare

Exploring the Benefits of a Vegan Diet

A plant-powered diet emphasizes whole, minimally processed plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts. Choosing this dietary approach supports healthy eating, the environment and ethical living.

A vegan lifestyle also focuses on avoiding all products from animal agriculture, which is linked to exploitative and mistreated animals and environmentally damaging practices. A plant-based diet offers many benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases

A vegan diet is rich in anti-inflammatory whole foods, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and may lead to improved symptoms of autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Plant-based diets also are high in protective nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids (from flax seeds and walnuts), vitamin D, calcium, and zinc.

The low-fat, protein-rich foods in a vegan diet can boost bone and muscle health, and decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. They can also help improve symptoms of heart disease and diabetes.

But a vegan diet needs to include a variety of foods to ensure that people are getting all the nutrition they need. For example, a study linking vegetarian diets with a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke found that the culprit was a deficiency in B12. If you’re not getting enough from fortified cereals or nutritional yeast, taking a supplement could be helpful. Also, if you’re active, you might need more iron.

Reduced Risk of Cancer

Eating a plant-based diet cuts out processed meats, which contain preservatives that can increase cancer risk. Plus, the meat industry takes up a lot of land and water resources, according to a 2018 study. Lastly, eating plant-based foods can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that harm the environment.

Research has found that those who eat low amounts of meat and fish and are fully vegan have lower rates of cancer than others. For example, researchers at the Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit looked at 475,000 adults in the UK Biobank who were free from cancer at baseline and classified them as regular meat eaters; low meat-eaters (about five times a week or less); fish eaters; and vegetarians.

They then followed these people for 11.4 years, looking at how many cancers they had and their overall death rate. They found that the risk of dying from cancer was lower for low meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegetarians than for those who ate a traditional Western diet.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

A vegan diet is naturally low in unhealthy fats, sodium (salt), and added sugars. It’s also rich in whole grains, fiber, healthy fats from olive oil and avocados, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts.

Eating a plant-based diet also reduces your environmental impact. A 2018 analysis found that raising animals for food requires massive amounts of water, land, and energy—and produces climate-altering greenhouse gases. Growing crops to feed humans rather than livestock eliminates this wasteful step.

For many people, removing all foods containing meat and animal products is a challenging change to make. However, Roach says that even if you aren’t able to go completely vegan right away, “you can gradually increase the number of plant-based meals on your plate each week.” Moreover, she emphasizes that eating a balanced combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds ensures you get all of your nutrients. For example, she says to always include protein-rich foods like quinoa, black beans and chia seeds.

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

A plant-based diet is associated with lower diabetes risk and improved glucose control. Several large-scale 2019 studies have linked a higher intake of healthful plant foods to lower levels of blood sugar (HbA1c) and artery-clogging cholesterol, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease.

The studies analyzed dietary patterns of participants and found that those with greater adherence to the plant-based diet had a 34% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with less adherence. This was independent of other diabetes risk factors and body weight.

A healthful plant-based diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts. It also replaces animal products with healthy alternatives such as non-dairy milks, soy meats and cheeses. The meals also incorporate more fiber, which many doctors and dietitians link to better blood sugar control. In a randomized trial, diabetic patients following a vegan diet experienced improved beta cell function and insulin sensitivity while decreasing their diabetes medications.