We’re now well into January, and you may or may not know, Veganuary – the month-long challenge that sees people the world-round eating vegan for 31 days.
Veganuary presents an excellent opportunity to, not only learn more about the ethical lifestyle but refresh your diet and adopt more plant-based eating habits, which can be a fantastic boost to your health.
So, what exactly are some of the health benefits? Here are just a few of the ways a plant-based diet (when done right!) can help you lead a healthier life. (And if you don’t think you can eat plant-based foods all the time, why not try making a few swaps to your weekly meals?)
1. Eating plant-based can give you a glowing complexion
In general, when consuming a vegan diet, people eat more fruit and vegetables – giving the body access to more of the good stuff it needs (like vitamins and antioxidants) to produce healthy, glowing skin.
On top of this, a plant-based diet avoids dairy, thought to be one of the biggest culprits to acne breakouts (sorry, cheese lovers!). Experts think that the reason for this is the androgen hormones found in milk – long associated with acne breakouts.
Testosterone, in particular, is one of the androgens in milk thought to be responsible. According to researchers, the hormone creates dihydrotestosterone (DHT) during a chain reaction in the body. DHT stimulates the body’s sebaceous glands, leading to oilier skin that is more prone to pore blockages and thus, spots!¹
By forgoing dairy, you’re bringing less testosterone into the body, meaning that the chain reaction leading to oilier skin doesn’t happen as frequently.
To ensure you achieve that glowing complexion, dieticians recommend that you consume foods that are rich in protein, biotin, zinc, vitamin C and omega-3 fats. A well-balanced vegan diet should provide you with more than enough.²
2. Eating plant-based can boost your mood
‘Eat and be merry!’ the saying goes, but did you know that eating plant-based foods can actually make you merrier? Research has shown that our diets play a vital role in our mental health – with proper nutrient intake vital to good mental well-being. Plant-based whole foods are jam-packed with nutrients that have been proven to enhance brain health and boost mood – these include foods like edamame, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and leafy greens like spinach, which is rich in magnesium.
Recent studies take this further, finding that vegans may actually be happier than meat-eaters and less likely to have depression!³ In one study, 32% of participants diagnosed with depression were no longer considered depressed after 12 weeks consuming more plant foods.⁴
Other studies have found similar results, and it’s thought that this is because plant-based foods are rich in the nutrients needed for a healthy functioning brain. They also contain specific nutrients that often aren’t found in abundance in animal products.⁵ On top of this, plant-based diets tend to be higher in complex carbohydrates, which increase the presence of the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain.⁶
3. Eating plant-based may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases
Research has shown that plant-based diets support risk reduction of many chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers) by providing lower-calorie but nutrient-dense foods, as well as power-foods that actively ward against certain diseases. For example, eating legumes regularly may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 18%!⁷ Another example, is soya, which scientists have discovered may offer protection against breast cancer.⁸⁹
Plant-based diets also avoid most of the dietary culprits that scientists have found increase one’s chances of getting chronic diseases, like red, smoked and processed meat. Of note, is a remarkable, 11-year German study involving more than 800 vegetarian men, which found that their cancer rates were less than half of those of the general public!¹⁰
4. Eating plant-based can aid weight management
Typically, vegan foods are naturally lower in calories and saturated fats than animal-based ones, which makes it easier to achieve a healthy body weight without actively focussing on calorie counting or cutting. Plant-based foods are also naturally high in dietary fibre, which is very helpful for weight loss. This is because high-fibre foods aid with satiety, essentially helping us to feel fuller for longer. When we feel full, we’re less likely to overeat and snack in between meals!
Many studies have shown that people who eat plant-based tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who consume meat and dairy.¹¹ It is important to note, though, that eating lots of processed or high-fat vegan foods can lead to unhealthful weight gain.
Vegan junk food (like plant-based pizzas or ice-cream) is like any kind of junk food. Although a vegan pizza may be lower in calories than a meat- and dairy-pizza, it is still junk food and recommended only in moderation.
When we refer to the benefits of a vegan diet, we mean wholefood plant-based foods.
The information in this article is not intended to be used as medical recommendations. Please consult a medical professional or nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns relating to your diet.