Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight. However, they also offer an array of additional health benefits. For starters, a vegan diet may help you maintain a healthy heart. What’s more, this diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Here are 6 science-based benefits of vegan diets.
1. A vegan diet is richer in certain nutrients
If you switch to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, you’ll eliminate meat and animal products.
This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a whole-foods vegan diet, replacements take the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients.
2. It can help you lose excess weight
An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in the hope of shedding excess weight.
Many observational studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-vegans.
In addition, several randomized controlled studies — the gold standard in scientific research — report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than the diets they are compared to.
3. It appears to lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
Going vegan may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Indeed, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 50–78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies even report that vegan diets lower blood sugar levels in diabetics more than the diets from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), American Heart Association (AHA) and National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).
In one study, 43% of participants following a vegan diet were able to reduce their dosage of blood-sugar-lowering medication, compared to only 26% in the group that followed an ADA-recommended diet.
Other studies report that diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein may reduce their risk of poor kidney function.
What’s more, several studies report that a vegan diet may be able to provide complete relief of systemic distal polyneuropathy symptoms — a condition in diabetics that causes sharp, burning pain.
4. A vegan diet may protect against certain cancers
According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within your control, including diet.
For instance, eating legumes regularly may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by about 9–18%.
Research also suggests that eating at least seven portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day may lower your risk of dying from cancer by up to 15% .
Vegans generally eat considerably more legumes, fruit and vegetables than non-vegans. This may explain why a recent review of 96 studies found that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer.
What’s more, vegan diets generally contain more soy products, which may offer some protection against breast cancer.
Avoiding certain animal products may also help reduce the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers.
That may be because vegan diets are devoid of smoked or processed meats and meats cooked at high temperatures, which are thought to promote certain types of cancers. Vegans also avoid dairy products, which some studies show may slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer.
On the other hand, there is also evidence that dairy may help reduce the risk of other cancers, such as colorectal cancer. Therefore, it’s likely that avoiding dairy is not the factor that lowers vegans’ overall risk of cancer.
It’s important to note that these studies are observational in nature. They make it impossible to pinpoint the exact reason why vegans have a lower risk of cancer.