Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight.
However, they 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.
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.
Several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E (
However, not all vegan diets are created equal.
For instance, poorly planned vegan diets may not provide sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium, or zinc (
That’s why it’s essential to choose whole plant foods and fortified foods. You may need to consider supplements for nutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, zinc, and calcium, since these may be lacking in a vegan diet.
While whole-food vegan diets are generally higher in certain nutrients, poorly planned vegan diets may lead to deficiencies of several key nutrients.
An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in hopes of shedding excess weight. This may be for good reason.
Many observational studies suggest that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than nonvegans (
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 with (7, 8,
What’s more, a small study comparing the weight loss effects of five different diets concluded that vegetarian and vegan diets were just as well-accepted as semivegetarian and standard Western diets (
Even when they weren’t following their diets perfectly, the participants in the vegetarian and vegan groups still lost slightly more weight than those on a standard Western diet (
Vegan diets naturally tend to reduce your calorie intake. This makes them effective at promoting weight loss without the need to actively focus on cutting calories.
Going vegan may also provide benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Studies even report that vegan diets lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes more than the diets from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the National Cholesterol Education Program (
In one 2009 study, 43% of participants following a vegan diet were able to reduce their dosage of blood sugar-lowering medication, compared with only 26% of participants who followed an ADA-recommended diet (
Vegan diets may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. They are also particularly effective at reducing blood sugar levels and may help prevent further medical issues from developing.
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 9–18% (
Vegans generally eat considerably more legumes, fruits, and vegetables than nonvegans. This may explain why a review of 96 studies found that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer (
Avoiding certain animal products may also help reduce the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancers.
On the other hand, there is 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. They make it impossible to pinpoint the exact reason vegans have a lower risk of cancer.
However, until researchers know more, it seems wise to focus on increasing the amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes you eat each day while limiting your consumption of processed, smoked, and overcooked meats.
Certain aspects of the vegan diet may offer protection against prostate, breast, and colon cancers.
Well-planned vegan diets generally include all these foods in large amounts.
Observational studies comparing vegans with vegetarians and the general population report that vegans may benefit from up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure (
What’s more, several randomized controlled studies report that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels than the diets they are compared with (
This may be particularly beneficial to heart health, since reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 46% (
Vegan diets may benefit heart health by significantly reducing the risk factors that contribute to heart disease.
A few studies have reported that a vegan diet has positive effects in people with different types of arthritis.
One study randomly assigned 40 people with arthritis to either continue eating their omnivorous diet or switch to a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet for 6 weeks (
Those on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who didn’t change their diet (
Vegan diets based on probiotic-rich whole foods may significantly decrease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.