Vegan Diet – Benefits & Risks

Vegan diet is primarily focused on plant-based foods and beverages while eliminating all sort of animal products. It can be done for a combination of reasons, including better health, weight loss, protection against chronic diseases, and ethical ones.

Numerous studies have shown that a vegan diet can indeed accelerate weight loss and weight management due to the substantial fiber content of plant-based foods. Additionally, a vegan diet can be effective in protecting against many chronic diseases, and also make your skin healthy and youthful.

Despite the scientific proven benefits, only 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. And approximately 0.5 percent of them, or 1 million, are vegans.

While, on the other side, the average meat consumption per person in the U.S. is higher than in almost any other country on the planet: we are talking about 270.7 pounds per person a year.

As a consequence, the American population constantly faces with an incredibly high incidence of cancer, cardiovascular problems & stroke, type 2 diabetes, infections, Alzheimer's, and diseases of the kidneys, respiratory tract, and liver.

Following a vegan diet is one way to avoid all the dangers of conventional meat and dairy.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits and risks of a vegan diet.

Because, while the vegan diet has immense health benefits, there are also risks associated with it.

Benefits of vegan diet

  • Weight Loss

According to recent studies, being vegan may even help you lose a significant amount of weight.

The fact is that vegans consume nutrient-dense foods instead of empty calories ones like sugar, refined carbs, dairy and low-quality meat.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds are base foods for vegans. Plants have fewer calories relative to their weight, this means better quality foods, better ability to burn and use them as fuel by the body and a lower BMI.

  • Perfect for Gut Health

We are what we eat, and that is true no matter how you interpret it. Our gut is intricately tied to our health, but scientists just started gaining insights into the intricacies of our gut and how it impacts our health.

It is essential, in this regard, to keep the micro-biome in our digestive system healthy at all times.

A plant-based diet improves gut health and supports growth of bacteria that are linked to good health, boosting of the immune system, reducing inflammation, and regulating the hunger hormone.

  • Cancer prevention

For a long time, food has been known to have medicinal value. Cancer is a major threat to our health today but diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce or increase the risk of cancer in general and even more so for some types of cancer. A recent study by Oxford University, looking at how diet affects cancer risk, revealed that vegans have a much lower risk of getting the disease (Key et al., 2014).

According to this study, a vegan lifestyle can be considered an effective way of preventing cancer as it supplies the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients, essential for your health. Antioxidants are plant-based compounds that fight against free radicals, well known dangerous compounds which can damage body cells leading to cancer.

A diet hight in fiber, as the vegan diet, also helps to reduce the risk of developing certain type of cancer. According to researchers, for example, the chances of developing a polyp in your colon is reduced by nine percent for every ten grams of dietary fiber you consume.

  • Prevents Diabetes

When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, the first line of defense against the disease is to make dietary changes. A diet high in plant-based foods such as whole foods (vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits) provide the body with health-enhancing nutrients that help keep the blood sugar levels stable. Studies have also shown that vegan diets can help increase insulin sensitivity and lower hemoglobin A1C levels.

  • Vegan is Heart Healthy

Vegan diet can help to lower blood pressure, enhance total cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Also, a vegan diet has less impact on the environment.

Risks associated with vegan diet

As mentioned earlier, there are some potential risks. These include inadequate protein intake and vitamins and minerals deficiencies. It could be difficult to obtain the right amount of protein from a plant-based diet since it contains no foods like meat, fish, poultry or low-fat dairy products.

Low protein intake results in a situation where the body uses up valuable protein stored in muscle tissue and this is where calories are burned on daily basis.

Muscles losses result in reduced strength and mobility. This happens mostly to the elderly, thereby making sufficient protein intake on a daily basis a necessity.

Also, there are some vital vitamins present in fish, meat, poultry or low-fat dairy which are not easily find in other foods. These vitamins are necessary for the body to function effectively. Deficiencies of these vitamins may lead to health problems.

For instance, deficiency of vitamin B12, naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, leads to anemia, fatigue, memory problems and more.

As you can see, a vegan diet is quite rewarding as there are many benefits, but you’ve also seen the risk associated with it. It’s important to study and inform yourself before making the decision of a diet change. Also, during the diet, is necessary to pay attention to how these changes affect your mind and your body.

Moreover, to be on the safe side, If you are not sure to get enough vitamin or mineral from a vegan diet, it is advisable to get supplements that contain these vital resources that your body needs to function effectively.