In recent years, plant-based diets have become more and more popular. The decision to abandon animal products is often backed by many arguments, including concern for the welfare of animals and the environment. Despite this, there are still many misconceptions and myths about the vegan diet in society. In today’s article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of this diet – perhaps it’s worth changing your eating habits?
What exactly is veganism?
Veganism can be defined in two ways – for some it is only a way of eating, while for others it means a whole lifestyle, which consists in giving up animal products in all aspects of life. The vegan diet is a more restrictive extension of the vegetarian diet – its principles assume the complete elimination of meat (including fish and seafood!) from the daily diet, but also eggs, milk and dairy products. Vegans base their diets solely on plant-based foods. Could this diet have its advantages?
Positive sides of the vegan diet
For some time now, plant-based diets have been under the close scrutiny of scientists around the world. From time to time we receive new information that puts veganism in a better light. This lifestyle has long ceased to carry only ideological values – it has become a real phenomenon in the world of dietetics and medicine. The advantages of the plant-based diet have already convinced almost 3 million Poles! What can you gain from it?
Ethical aspects of a diet that excludes foods of animal origin
The first prerequisite for going vegan is often environmental concerns. Numerous scientific studies confirm that industrial animal husbandry contributes to the negative climate change. In the long run, switching to a plant-based diet is extremely beneficial, as plant cultivation is associated with less environmental exploitation and less pollution. A vegan diet contributes to reducing:
- the carbon footprint of food;
- greenhouse gas emissions;
- water consumption;
- soil erosion.
All this while increasing the area of farmland without the need for deforestation.
Vegans are also not indifferent to harm to animals. It is for this reason that many of them decide to introduce positive changes in all aspects of life, giving up leather clothing or cosmetics tested on animals.
A vegan diet has a positive effect on cardiovascular health
Numerous clinical trials confirm the beneficial effects of plant-based diets, including a vegan diet, on the cardiovascular system. The positive effect is largely related to the lower content of saturated fats, salt, sugar and cholesterol, with an increased supply of fiber and antioxidants.
Switching to a vegan diet can have health benefits such as:
- lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of high blood pressure;
- lowering the level of total cholesterol, LDL fraction and triglycerides in the blood;
- reduction of oxidative stress;
- regulation of blood viscosity and better supply of tissues with oxygen;
- reducing the degree of damage to the vascular endothelium, which prevents the development of atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease.
A plant-based diet restores the proper functioning of the intestines
The intestines are sometimes called the “second brain” of a person because their state affects all systems of the body. One of the advantages of a vegan diet is its beneficial effect on the digestive system. A large amount of plant-based food regulates the functioning of the intestines, stimulating their peristalsis and restoring the normal rhythm of bowel movements. A vegan diet is high in fiber, which not only reduces constipation, but also lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the long run.
The influence of this diet on the gut microbiota is also important. Studies have shown that giving up animal foods has a positive effect on the development of beneficial intestinal bacteria, significantly reducing the amount of harmful microorganisms. This translates into a better mental well-being (through the gut-brain axis), immunity and skin condition.
Vegans are less likely to face the problem of obesity
Overweight and obesity are a growing problem in the societies of developed countries. These conditions are directly associated with an increased risk of developing chronic disease as well as a higher overall mortality. Studies have shown that a vegan diet is conducive to maintaining a healthy body weight. Statistically, vegans have a much lower BMI than regular meat eaters. Interestingly, switching to a vegan diet is often associated with weight reduction. Scientific publications show that after 6 months of this diet, the average weight loss is 7.5%.
Does a vegan diet have to have disadvantages?
The answer to this question is simple – a vegan diet can have disadvantages if it is mishandled. In the case of a varied, well-composed menu, veganism can be the optimal way of eating for many years. What pitfalls should you pay special attention to so that the plant-based diet does not negatively affect your health and well-being?
A vegan diet can be a healthier alternative to the classic eating style, but the key condition is its proper balance. The vegan menu should be varied to cover the need for essential nutrients. Keep in mind that some deficiencies can develop long after switching to a vegan diet, so you should monitor your health regularly. Research indicates that vegans may be at risk of deficits:
- vitamin B12;
- vitamin D;
- omega-3 fatty acids;
Do you want to go vegan but need some help in dietary topics? The best option will be a consultation with a dietician who will help you safely implement a new style of eating and will develop your menu to cover the needs of all macro- and microelements.