The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) reports that about 15 million of the U.S. population is either vegetarian or vegan. Indeed movements such as those started by PETA have gained traction over the last few years, and celebrity endorsements have made it somewhat “cool” to be labeled vegan; but what are some of the health benefits (the main reasons) for going vegan?
A vegan diet has been credited with minimizing cholesterol levels in obese people with heart problems – in fact the president of the American College of Cardiology became a vegan in 2003 after having observed one of his patients go from being a high risk for heart disease to relatively normal just months after switching to a vegan diet.
From a biological perspective, plant-based food can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease; one of the biggest killers in the developed world. Here’s why people adopt veganism for health reasons:
· Plants contain little saturated fat
Saturated fats (fats saturated with hydrogen) are found in meat and animal products such as butter, cheese, beef, lamb, and high-fat dairy products. They can also be found in cocoa butter, coconut oil, and palm oil.
These fats are solid at room temperature and according to the American Heart Association, they increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, raising the risk of strokes and heart disease.
· Plants can help lower bad cholesterol
Our bodies require a decent amount of cholesterol in order to function properly but the majority of us make enough cholesterol on our own without having to supplement with fatty meats. So why is too much cholesterol such a bad thing? Bad cholesterol (LDL) is one of the products that make up atherosclerotic plaque inside the arteries, the other elements being waste products, calcium, and other forms of fat.
This impairs the flow of blood in the major blood vessels, endangering long-term health. However, by switching to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (typically found in nuts, olive oil, avocados, etc.) you can reverse high blood presser and its symptoms significantly.
· Plants add fiber to your diet
A colorful, plant-based diet should add a good amount of fiber to your diet. According to the American Dietetic Association, fruits and large, green leafy plants are a great source of fiber and a solution to bad cholesterol.
Fiber cleans out the fatty plaque from your digestive track, enhancing food absorption. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, and nuts.
· A plant-based diet lowers diabetes and obesity risks
Meat consumption or regular consumption of saturated fats is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In turn, acquiring diabetes is thought to make you twice as likely to experience heart disease and stroke.
Individuals who turn from eating meat to following a (mainly) plant based diet; even just small amounts of healthy protein sources, typically experience weight loss and a significant drop in unhealthy calories.
Part of this weight loss can be attributed to the reduction in saturated fat but in addition, fruits and vegetables contain large volumes of water, making you fill up before you fill out.
While debates rage on about whether more people should be avoid eating animals, multiple studies show that our bodies function better with more greens, nuts, and vegetables. Variety is good; eat the rainbow.
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Check out this video for more information on a vegan diet. See you next time.