The increase in vegan diets is on continuous growth for several reasons including health benefits, for animals and for the environment. According to Statista between 2014-2019, the share of the British population that declared to be vegan increased from 0.25% to 1.16%. As of 2016 vegans accounted for 276 thousand individuals, in 2019 there were 600,000 individuals in Great Britain who were vegans. In this article, we discuss key facts about vegan diets including health benefits and tips.
A plant-based diet is any diet that consists predominantly of food derived from plant sources. This would include vegetables, grains, nuts and meat substitutes such as soy products. A vegan diet would be for an individual who does not consume meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods. In line with this, they do not use any honey, beeswax, gelatin or any other animal by-product.
The ever-changing market has recognised the need for more vegan and plant-based foods to satisfy those adopting vegan diets. Supermarkets and restaurants have shown a 185% increase in vegan products between 2012 and 2016 within the UK.
A vegan diet focuses on providing all the nutrients your body needs through whole foods including fruit, vegetables, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds. In turn, the amount of whole foods vegan diets include naturally increases the fibre, antioxidant carotenoids and a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, this provides enriched nutrients within the body that you wouldn’t necessarily gain from a standard diet.
2. Lowered Blood Pressure & Health Issues
Previous research has shown that vegans and vegetarians may benefit from up to 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure. It has been proved that maintaining and following this diet type has shown lower blood pressure on average than those who followed diets involving meat and plants.
As a result of this, having low blood pressure reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Meat-based diets include higher levels of saturated fats, which can be a contributing factor to heart issues, adopting a vegan diet naturally eliminates a percentage of saturated fats. Alternatively, there are still unhealthy plant-based foods that can include higher levels of saturated fats, so to benefit most in improving heart health with a vegan diet you should concentrate on whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
3. Losing Weight through a Vegan Diet
As previously discussed above a meat-heavy diet involves high levels of saturated fats, by adopting a plant-based diet you decrease the risk of obesity or weight gain. The effect of this is finding it easier to lose fat and cut fat. One of the main reasons this happens is due to foods such as whole grains and vegetables digesting slowly and prolong fullness, making each meal more substantial to run on.
This is not to say that outside a vegan diet you cannot lose weight, it can just be more challenging to reduce the saturated fats in your diet without exploring meat substitute options. Those who aim to lose weight on a meat-heavy diet will have to invest more time in researching lean eating techniques. The food types involved in a vegan diet tend to be lower in calories, making it easier to achieve a bodyweight goal.
If you are looking to learn more about Nutrition in relation to vegans diets you can find courses such as Vegan Nutrition Course, which covers everything you would need to know to optimize a vegan diet.
1. Start Small
Often people are keen to get started on a vegan diet, but this can be a large challenging change from a meat-based diet. Rather than looking at this diet and focusing on what you can no longer have, you should consider starting to make your meals more veggie-packed. Look at ways where you can switch out meat for high protein grains or vegetables, before going straight into a full vegan diet.
2. Understand Wholegrains
Explore swapping out your refined grains to alternative whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa instead of white pasta or bread. Grains like this provide you with the iron and vitamins you need to maintain a healthy vegan diet. These are also a great source of fibre meaning each meal you have will keep you full for longer.
3. Try some protein alternatives
The increasing demand for more plant-based food has meant that meat substitute products are growing. In order for this diet to work you need to explore what plant-based proteins you can add into your meals by cutting out animal sources of protein such as meat and cheese. There are many different vegan proteins which include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, jackfruit and tempeh. Some people believe it's difficult to hit a protein goal when eating a vegan diet, however, a lot of whole foods and grains include sources of plant-based protein which makes it easier than you think.
A vegan lifestyle can be hard to adopt and maintain at first, however, there are many health benefits that would encourage an individual to start eating a plant-based diet. When considering coming vegan yourself, do some research into vegan recipes and different vegan foods to help you determine a vegan meal plan to start from. Alternatively, you may not want to transition to a vegan diet, as a meat-eater it may be easier to start including some vegan days into your weekly meals. We have a useful article on mistakes to avoid on a Vegan diet which may give you some additional guidance and support.
It can be a more approachable way to discover the health benefits of a vegan diet without making a drastic change overnight. Start cutting out more processed foods and replacing them with nutrient-rich vegan foods. This will make it easier to adopt the vegan lifestyle gradually giving your body time to process the change whilst still benefiting from aspects of a vegan diet.