Health Benefits of Eating Vegan
Trends come and go, but one thing’s for sure: being vegan isn’t simply a fad. Across the world, people have turned to veganism for a number of reasons. Animal welfare, religious beliefs, environmental impact, economics, or to simply opt for a healthier, cleaner diet, free from processed or heavily salted foods.
Regardless of the reason, it’s commendable any time someone shows the discipline and strength to commit to such a strict diet and lifestyle. I, for one, would be a wreck without my daily dose of eggs and avocado toast.
Wondering if the vegan life is for you? Read on for a list of the many health benefits of eating vegan, plus a few common mistakes people make as they adopt the lifestyle. But first, let’s get one thing out of the way:
Vegan vs. Vegetarian—What’s the Difference?
Someone unfamiliar with either practice might think veganism and vegetarianism are more or less the same thing—nope. In ways, they are similar. Generally, neither diet allows meat, poultry, or seafood, but many vegetarians will still eat foods that come from animals, such as honey, cheese, and eggs. These would be “lacto-ovo” vegetarians. “Lacto” vegetarians drop the eggs. “Ovo” vegetarians, if you hadn’t guessed, keep eggs in their diet but omit all dairy products. Pescatarians are semi-vegetarian, consuming fish and avoiding meat and poultry.
While there are a lot of different ways to go vegetarian, veganism is stricter, avoiding any and all meat, poultry, seafood, and other animal-produced foods. Many vegans take it a step beyond diet and make a lifestyle commitment to avoid as many animal byproducts as possible. There’s the obvious stuff like leather, fur, silk, and wool, but there are a lot of surprising products which use animal-derived ingredients—some soaps and cosmetics, margarines, foods with red dye, even certain winemaking methods include animal-derived products.
All right, on to the benefits!
4 Health Benefits of Eating Vegan
You Can Still Savor Flavor
Whatever your reason, going vegan doesn’t mean missing out on savory or sweet dishes—bask in the amazing pops of color coming off this Insta-worthy vegan cauliflower pizza, for example. The included vegan “parmesan cheese” is actually a clever blend of cashews, garlic, and sea salt—and just as delicious.
Staple vegan ingredients include tofu, brown rice, quinoa and other grains, vegetable stock, beans, tempeh, flax seeds, coconut oil—the list goes on. You can make a lot of delicious, vegan-friendly dishes for any occasion.
Go Green for Glowing Skin
Going vegan can be great for your skin, since you’re removing foods which commonly cause skin stress and replacing them with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. For example, dairy products are a vegan no-go and early studies point to increased acne with dairy consumption. And adopting a vegan lifestyle often leads to a rethink of other well-being practices, like exercising and proper skincare, which could affect your complexion.
Glowing skin starts from the inside out, and there are vegan options for all the essential vitamins for skin health.
Shed Some Unwanted Pounds
Vegan diets promote glucagon activity, which can lead to the loss of unwanted pounds in combination with other healthy lifestyle choices. Fruits and vegetables make great pre-workout snacks, filled with fiber and healthy carbs to power you through any circuit. Better yet, you won’t have any heavy meats weighing you down.
It’s not just about shedding excess fat: less processed foods and a well-planned, balanced diet means more diversity in the bacteria of the colon and digestive system. And a diverse microbiome is a flourishing one. After all, your gut is at the core of good health.
Upgrade Your Taste Buds
As with any dietary change, over time your taste buds become adjusted to your new routine. The thought of raw broccoli might sound off-putting right now, but if you ease into the change, you’ll be crunching on the green stuff before you know it.
Your omnivorous friends might initially groan when it’s your turn to host a party, but you can surprise and delight them—and, more importantly, prove them wrong—with a delicious vegan grazing board to snack on.
3 Common Vegan Mistakes—And What to Do Differently
Assuming All Vegan Options Are Healthier
Read, read, and re-read labels. Many packaged vegan foods make up for the lack of animal products with excess processed sugars, pure salt, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and processed oils. Yuck. The biggest culprits are often coconut yogurt, lacking in protein and chock-full of saturated fats; seasoned veggie chips, overly salted and fried; and vegan deli “meats,” which are often full of saturated fat and, surprisingly, processed sugar.
As with any diet, opting for wholesome ingredients and home-cooked meals, when possible, is the best option to maintain your healthy lifestyle.
Less-Desirable Digestive Effects
Wait, didn’t we just talk about vegan diets lending to a healthy digestive system and balanced belly? Well, even with all the fiber and nutrients in the world, any person’s diet is at risk of becoming homogenized as we settle into our eating habits. This is especially true for vegans or anyone with a more restricted palate. Incorporate in-season produce whenever possible, not only for the best ripeness and most fitting flavors to match the month, but also to add variety for your microbiome.
Filling in the Gaps
Going without meats and seafood could leave your body low on a few vital nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin K, iron—or simply not getting enough calories in a day. Make up the difference in your diet with an optimized nutritional. Think you’re going to be a little low on nutrients for your next gym session? Fear not, we’ve got a few ways to pack in the protein to maintain your #FitFam goals.
Make Your (Vegan) Mark
It can be exhausting to do all the research to make sure you’re buying vegan ingredients and other items. The good folks at Ask the Scientists have compiled a list of USANA products with a breakdown of which ones include animal byproducts and which are vegan-friendly. (And don’t you worry, the new USANA® WholeBio™ Bar is, in fact, vegan.)
Opting for veganism is quite the commitment, but as you can see, it’s totally doable—and delicious. What vegan-friendly go-to recipes do you have to share? Sound off in the comments.