Want to lead an active and healthy life? Your choice of diet may play a big role. Being vegan is a choice that some people make to keep their body healthy and functioning at its top level. Chances are good that by now you’ve heard a lot about veganism, a seemingly younger relative of vegetarianism. If you’re new to this discussion you probably have many questions. Let’s start with defining the terms and a quick comparison.
While veganism has gained a lot of popularity lately, the term actually dates back to the 1940s. A vegan may tell you that the difference is an entire lifestyle, not just a diet. For now, let’s focus on the diet and health benefits.
The dietary difference is simple: vegetarians do not eat meat, while vegans do not consume meat, animal by-products or fish. While a vegetarian may indulge in dairy products or eggs, a vegan would avoid these foods. The sacrifice may be worth it!
A vegan diet boasts many potential positives. The advantages are believed to be stronger for men, but longer life spans can be expected in both sexes. Here’s why:
4 Reasons Why a Vegan Diet may be Good for You
1. Saturated Fat & Cholesterol - We all know that we should reduce saturated fats in our diet. Eliminating dairy and meats results in a reduction of saturated fats. Vegans are approximately 20% less likely to experience a coronary event. That’s a big benefit! Reducing fats from your diet may reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is a health benefit for any age.
2. Fiber - Dietary fiber does more than promote a healthy digestive track. Foods rich in fiber lower glucose levels, which is beneficial in lowering your risk of diabetes. Fiber also aids in weight management and, yes, heart health, too.
3. Phytochemicals - Certain fruits, vegetables and beans contain compounds called phytochemicals. Their health benefits have been explored for decades. The role phytochemicals play in reducing risk to cancers is widely accepted. A vegan diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be a natural way to boost your daily intake of phytochemicals.
4. Dairy Products - Arthritis pain and stiffness in joints can be related to certain dairy proteins being consumed. There are studies that show some people can have irritation in the tissue around their joints due to the type of protein in dairy. Switching to a vegan diet, including spinach, nut butters, beans, tofu and quinoa as a substitute for animal or dairy proteins may lessen or eliminate the pain, and result in more flexibility. For some this is a win-win!
While some people find a vegan diet a healthful way of living, it can be challenging to be sure your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. For this reason, you should monitor your intake to assure that you are getting the recommended amounts of proteins, carbohydrates,, vitamins and minerals. Remember if you want to change your eating habits, you should always consult a physician before starting a new diet.
Kendal at Oberlin’s executive chef and registered dietitian work together to create quality delicious menu options for vegan and vegetarian community members.