Based on my own vegan journey, and from talking to many newbie and long-time vegans, I’ve found there are many roads to a vegan lifestyle. The journey will differ from one person to the next, but we encounter many of the same questions, milestones and realizations along the path. Maybe you’re interested in vegan weight loss, while someone else first goes vegan for the animals.
When you decide to adopt a vegan diet, you may find one or two reasons that help to anchor your decision. Over time, however, you adopt more beliefs that help to deepen your commitment to a plant-based lifestyle. As you realize its benefits, a vegan diet empowers you in multiple dimensions of your life. You discover just how GOOD you can feel about yourself.
While I was always an animal lover, I first decided to go vegan for health reasons. In the process, I soon recognized how converting to a plant-based diet is better for the environment and more in line with my view of animals. This awareness added another dimension to my commitment.
A vegan diet affects your health, your lifestyle, and the greater good of the planet. In this 3-part series, I wanted to share with you some of the AMAZING benefits of a vegan diet. (There are so many, I can’t get them all into one post!) Some will resonate with you now, and others may become more important to you over time. ALL of them can serve as your foundation for the choices you make every day.
In Part 1 of the series, we’re discussing the benefits of a vegan diet that are specific to YOU and your health. Here’s what you experience when you eliminate animal products from your diet.
Widely available and inexpensive food sources
Foods considered “vegan” are as simple as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and seasonings which can be found in ALL grocery stores. Sure, there are fancier, more expensive ingredients and prepackaged vegan foods you can buy at specialty stores. However, they’re optional, and not always healthy.
In addition to being widely available, the core components of a vegan diet are affordable. In fact, meat and dairy typically cost FAR MORE than plant-based foods. For example, one pound of organic dry green lentils, which is considered to be 9 servings, costs about $3.50 USD. A pound of grass-fed, antibiotic free beef, depending on the cut, contains 4 servings, and can range from $7.50 to $20.00 or more. Even antibiotic-free chicken is still more than twice as expensive as the lentils. At my local store, one pound of chicken serves 4 people for $6.99.
Keep in mind, in the case of the lentils, I’m referencing a higher-end organic product. Should you decide to buy non-organic lentils, the price drops by half, amounting to about 19 cents per serving.
Balanced and nutrient-dense
Following a whole-foods, plant-based diet means your food sources are nutrient-rich, balanced and minimally processed. As with the standard American diet, many plant-based foods like nut milks and tofu are fortified, so you receive an additional boost of iron and vitamins.
A healthy vegan diet is high in fiber and protein, and full of helpful compounds like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, resveratrol, anthocyanidins and isoflavones. A mouthful to be sure, but the health benefits of these phytochemicals can potentially prevent and treat chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
Improves or reverses chronic health conditions
A vegan diet has enabled many people to transform their health without the use of drugs. There are countless stories of people who have switched to a vegan diet and had serious health conditions lessened, if not eliminated or reversed. These include asthma, IBS, allergies, arthritis, bloating, acne, acid reflux, migraines, sinus infections, eczema, rosacea, vision problems and thyroid conditions.
You should consult a doctor when managing these conditions, and a diet should not replace treatment. Interestingly, however, more and more doctors are recommending patients employ a low-fat vegan diet in order to combat diabetes, control glucose, and mitigate weight and heart disease risk. Check out Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. John McDougall to learn more about these medical doctors who study the effects of nutrition on disease.
Vegan weight loss! An effective way to lose weight
A vegan diet can be an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In clinical studies, vegans tend to be leaner than the omnivore population and have a considerably lower percentage of body fat. Studies have also indicated that the fewer animal products you consume, the less likely you are to be overweight. Vegan weight loss also means losing more weight than people who follow a low-fat diet while consuming animal products.
But what’s even more exciting about losing weight on a vegan diet is that it doesn’t FEEL like a diet. When you are eating plant-derived foods, you can eat MORE of them because plant-based foods tend to contain fewer calories. This leads to higher satisfaction and greater success in losing weight. A leaner, greener YOU!
Linked to greater vitality and youthfulness
Despite the inevitable wear-and-tear that happens to our bodies over time, age doesn’t have to be associated with illness. A vegan diet has been linked to a longer lifespan, higher quality sleep, more energy and a more youthful appearance.
Take Mimi Kirk, for example. She’s the 75-year old raw food, vegan chef, author, speaker, consultant and grandmother of seven. Voted Sexist Vegetarian Over 50 by PETA, her life and work help to show how food makes an enormous impact in the way we age. Seeing the vitality people like Kirk have experienced on a vegan diet is changing the way people think about getting older.
Contributes to athletic performance
Vegan high-performance athletes are no longer a rarity in sports. From Olympians like Carl Lewis, winner of ten Olympic medals in track and field, to five-time medal winning skier Bode Miller, world-class athletes in nearly all sports report massive improvements after going vegan.
Rich Roll was once overweight and struggling with drugs and alcohol. On the eve of his 40th birthday, he recognized that changes were necessary. Over the next two years, he adopted a plant-based diet, lost fifty pounds, began training and became the first vegan to complete the Ultraman competition, a grueling, 320-mile endurance race. He was named one of the 25 Fittest Guys in the World by Men’s Fitness.
Whether your passion is running, cycling, yoga, swimming or strength-training, a vegan diet can help you boost your performance.
Unlike other ‘diets’ that you undertake for a specified time frame or until a certain milestone is reached, a vegan diet is a lifestyle choice. The benefits, like vegan weight loss or lower cholesterol, continue for years to come. Rather than feeling deprived on a diet, adopting a vegan lifestyle offers endless food choices and opportunities for improving your personal wellness.
Remember, you’ll arrive at a vegan diet in your own time and by your own unique journey. Remain open to the possibilities, and you’ll discover even more benefits you hadn’t anticipated.
Which one of these benefits resonates the most with YOU, and why? Share in the comments below.