More people are going vegan than ever before. Even just a few years ago, you probably didn’t know many people who ate a strictly plant-based diet, but there’s a chance you know someone in your life now who is vegan, and you’ve perhaps even eaten a vegan dish with them at some point. The first time I went vegan was in 2011, back when it was extremely difficult to find a decent meal at a restaurant that was free of animal products. I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from a plant-based diet, some of them expected and others pretty surprising.
One of the first questions people ask me when they hear I’m vegan is why I choose to eat this way. They wonder what kind of changes will happen in the body when you switch over to a plant-based diet. Here are the main benefits of going vegan.
Better Heart Health
The more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains you eat, the stronger your heart gets. Some studies have shown that vegans are much less likely to contract heart disease in their lifetimes and their overall cardiovascular health is better. That’s because the absence of animal products equals lower blood pressure, less cholesterol in the body, and less strain on the heart in general.
Less Risk of Developing Many Cancers
There are many different studies that show how you can lower your risk for many cancers by controlling your diet a certain way. For example, eating a diet rich in legumes and low in dairy can reduce your chance of developing colorectal cancer. Similarly, some believe that eating more soy can help prevent breast cancer. In fact, simply eating seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day lowers your risk of dying from any cancer.
If you’re choosing fresh, whole foods, you’re naturally going to consume more nutrition than a diet with a lot of animal products. One study showed that vegans naturally consume way more fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, and iron than meat eaters. When you’re getting all these nutrients into your system, you’re going to have more energy and it will be much harder for you to get sick. I used to have to take a multivitamin every day just to have enough juice in my system to get me through the day. Now I feel never feel like I need an extra boost of energy — I was even able to completely give up coffee!
This is my favorite benefit of being vegan. I used to have terrible acne, and no matter what I did to try to fix it, I would always break out in unwanted zits. Eating dairy regularly has been proven to result in acne for many people because it stimulates insulin secretion in the body. Shortly after giving up all animal products, my skin cleared up, and I’m happy to say that my glow has stayed with me ever since.
Better Fitness Performance
There are more athletes than ever before who are trying the vegan diet, like tennis champion Novak Djokovic, and they’re seeing really incredible results from it. The anti-inflammatory properties of a plant-based diet aid in the recovery process, so athletes don’t need to wait as long between training sessions and they have much more energy, even if they’ve just finished up a tough workout.
More Balanced Hormones
One of the biggest changes I noticed in my life after going vegan was how much easier my period was to live with. I went from debilitating cramps to hardly any cramps at all; my flow is much lighter and shorter, I experience much less bloating, and I no longer fight headaches and irritability.
It’s said that animal products increase the amount of estrogen in the body, and that can negatively affect the way your body handles hormone fluctuations. Furthermore, it’s believed that the anti-inflammatory qualities of vegan food can reduce the pain you might experience when you’re on your period.
Keep in mind that these benefits will only come to you if you’re eating a plant-based diet. Veganism may sound healthy from the outside, but just because you’re eating vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating healthy all the time. There are still a lot of packaged, processed goods that are made vegan. For example, you can still eat flour and sugar, which means it’s easy to throw back countless desserts and nutritionless snacks.
But if you mostly stick to a whole-foods, plant-based diet and stay away from the processed stuff, that’s when the real magic happens.
Image Source: OurStyle Photography / Cera Hensley