5 Health Benefits of Vegan and Plant-Based Diets
You may have noticed two newer My Neat Health products – chocolate and vanilla PLANT-BASED VEGAN meal replacements, and you've also probably read the terms "plant-based" and "vegan" plenty of times. But perhaps you're wondering 1) is there a difference between a "plant-based" and "vegan" diet and 2) if one of these diets is suitable for you.
To help you answer those questions, let's start with a bit of a history lesson.
Vegan vs. Plant-Based
Donald Watson – an animal rights advocate - coined the term "vegan" in 1944. The Vegan Society – founded by Watson - states, "Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
When it comes to diet, vegans exclude meat, fish, poultry, dairy, honey, eggs, and any other animal-derived foods from their diets. However, veganism goes beyond diet and has become more of a movement concerned about ethics, animal welfare, the environment, and health concerns. Approximately 2-6% (about 79 million) of the U.S. population is vegan.
It wasn't until the 1980s that Dr. T. Colin Campbell introduced the term "plant-based" diet, which focuses on low-fat, high-fiber, vegetable-based foods to improve health. Some people implementing a plant-based diet only consume plant-based foods - including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and plant-based oils; however, others consume some animal-derived products. From 2018 to 2019, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods increased 11%.
The two – veganism and plant-based diets – are not meant to be exclusive of each other.
Veganism and plant-based diets have many similarities, including several health benefits.
Five Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Lower Blood Pressure – Diets that consist primarily of plant-based rather than animal-based diets can help lower blood pressure. New research has found that a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure "even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too."
Improve Health Heart – Meat contains saturated fat, and consuming too much saturated fat can contribute to heart disease. A 2019 study by the Journal of American Heart Association reported that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 16% and death from cardiovascular disease by about 31%. The researchers concluded, "Diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population."
Prevent Type 2 Diabetes – The U.S. National Library of Medicine concluded, "plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with substantially lower risk of developing T2D [Type 2 Diabetes]."
Weight Loss – Vegetables and whole grains are relatively low on the glycemic index, which means they are digested more slowly, and fruits contain fiber, which can help you feel full longer. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a plant-based diet may help you lose weight. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM):
- People who follow a plant-based diet tend to have a lower BMI.
- People who follow a plant-based diet tend to gain less weight over time.
- Women who follow a plant-based diet have a 50% lower likelihood of being overweight or obese.
Decrease Risk of Cancer – Medical News Today states that "no foods can protect people against cancer completely." However, some foods may lower the risk of developing cancer, and most of them are plant-based, such as apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables, carrots, legumes, and walnuts.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before starting any diet, speak to your primary care physician, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions, to determine what is best for you.
How to Get Started on a Vegan or Plant-Based Diet
Check out My Neat Health's PLANT-BASED VEGAN meal replacements. We understand first-hand how challenging it can be to lose weight and keep up a healthy lifestyle, so we developed products that are low in calories, high in protein, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, made with the finest quality ingredients in the U.S., and taste great.