People adopt a vegan lifestyle for many reasons. Some are concerned about the environment/climate, while others are focused on the ethical treatment of animals and the desire to put a stop to factory farming and abuse.
Others, however, want to experience some of the mental and physical health benefits that often come with a vegan diet. That isn’t to say the other factors aren’t important. But, there are some health perks that can come from being a vegan.
There are also some misconceptions about a vegan diet and not getting the nutrition your body needs. Since we’re focusing on the benefits, we’ll simply note that it is possible (and easier than you might think!) to get enough protein and nutrients as a vegan. Some people take part in a vegan diet their entire lives and don’t lack the vitamins and minerals their body needs. It’s all about knowing which foods to eat and how to make them work for your mind and body.
So, how exactly does veganism impact your mental and physical health?
It Improves Gut Health
Studies have shown that plant-based diets are beneficial for the microbial system. First, vegan diets tend to be more diverse, which is helpful to your gut bacteria. Eating the same foods over and over again can create a harsher environment within your gut, while diversity keeps things healthier. Additionally, plant-based diets tend to be high in fiber and other nutrients that can improve your gut health and aid in digestion.
You can even combine a vegan lifestyle with other popular diets, including keto, and still receive the benefits of a healthy, balanced gut. Even a low-carbohydrate diet can be vegan and better for your gut. Consider including foods like:
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Coconut oil
Though you may not be dipping into fermented foods like yogurt or kefir, other options like kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha are all completely vegan and great for the bacteria in your gut.
It Can Make You More Active
While deciding to be a vegan won’t automatically pull you out of bed in the morning for a run, it can make you feel better. People on plant-based diets often have more energy and are more conscious of their health. As a result, vegans tend to lead more active lifestyles, knowing how important it is to take care of their bodies.
The nutrients vegans receive from a plant-based diet combined with the physical activity it encourages can:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve joint and bone health
- Reduce the risk of type-II diabetes
Daily exercise and eating right can also help with varicose veins since they get your blood pumping and reduces stress on the veins in your legs.
If you are focusing on your health with a vegan diet, having a well-rounded routine that combines what you eat and how active you are will make a big difference in how you feel. But, that overall wellness and focus on your health can extend far past the physical benefits.
Veganism and Your Mental Health
Many people are surprised when they discover the connection between diet and mental health. Simply put, what you eat can impact your mood, and it can even contribute to underlying mental health conditions (or improve them).
One of the concerns sometimes raised over veganism is how a potential lack of certain nutrients, including Vitamin B12. B12 promotes brain health and protects your nerves. It is recommended that those following a vegan diet either take a B12 supplement or eat more foods like fortified cereals, yeast spreads, and plant-based milks. Other nutrients associated with mental health that vegans may need to supplement with include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Amino acids
If you take care to get all of the nutrients your mind and body need, veganism can improve your mental health by giving you more energy and helping with other physical ailments. For example, conditions like IBS and digestive issues are sometimes linked to anxiety and depression. As we’ve already discussed, a vegan diet can greatly aid in your digestion, which can lower your risk of those mental health issues.
Being a vegan doesn’t make you invincible. There is no direct link between veganism and how long you’ll live. But, people on a vegan diet do tend to pay more attention to their overall health and the nutrients they’re putting in their bodies, which can keep them healthier longer.
If you’re considering a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to have specific reasons why. It isn’t for everyone, of course, but there are multiple benefits to a plant-based diet. If you have been on the fence over whether it’s the right move for you, consider some of these mental and physical health benefits, and you may be more tempted to make a change in your diet.