The vegan diet is becoming more and more popular around the globe.
At the beginning of 2022, 629,000 people from more than 220 countries and territories took the Veganuary pledge to eat only plant-based foods for the month of January. (The figure is up by 129,000 from January 2021.)
Whether the motive is to ensure better health, end animal cruelty, or sustain our planet, one thing is for sure – a plant-based diet could transform your life. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons to consider this lifestyle change.
1. Improved digestion and sleep
A recent survey for The Vegan Society’s Vegan and Thriving campaign gathered a panel of 500 people from the UK who had gone vegan since the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics. The aim of the survey was to explore the relationship between a plant-based diet and the overall health and fitness of the participants.
Health is one of the main reasons for people choosing veganism, with 46 percent of respondents stating that they were looking to increase their fruits and vegetable intake, while 44 percent wanted to improve their digestion and reduce bloating.
The results of the survey aligned with the participants’ motives. Fifty-six percent of the respondents experienced better digestion and 55 percent reported having better sleep.
But why are vegans reaping the benefits of better digestion? According to a study by E. Medawar, S. Huhn, A. Villringer, and A. V. Witte, the high fiber intake from grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables can induce beneficial metabolic processes, such as upregulated carbohydrate fermentation and downregulated protein fermentation. This promotes the growth of an abundance of certain microbial species in the gut, such as Prevotella, which contribute to better overall health.
A plant-based diet has a host of other benefits too. Research suggests it can prevent chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, by improving lipid control. It’s also thought to improve gut hormonal-driven appetite regulation (meaning that vegans tend to lose more weight).
2. Improved energy levels
In order to tackle the day, we might need to have more energy. Eating a big meal at lunchtime can make us feel sluggish and slow down brain activity.
But a vegan diet can equip you with more energy to fully enjoy your day. Forty-one percent of the respondents in the survey wanted to increase their energy levels, and 53 percent reported feeling more energetic after swapping meat and dairy for fruit and veg.
It’s important to eat the right foods to keep your energy levels up, even when on a plant-based diet. Some of the most high-energy foods in the vegan diet include healthy nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and brazil nuts, as well as nut butter, and beans of all sorts, lentils, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, quinoa, barley, and brown rice. Fill up on those and enjoy a life full of energy and goodness.
3. Higher fitness levels
Higher energy levels will also improve your stamina and workout routine. In the survey by The Vegan Society, 52 percent of the respondents reported higher fitness levels and the ability to walk and/or run better and/or further.
A plant-based diet can also increase the frequency of workouts, as 34 percent of the respondents indicated that they had a shorter recovery time between exercise sessions. Better performance is also on the cards, with 31 percent being able to lift heavier weights.
Ninety-eight percent of the participants said they were engaging in physical activity at least once a week. Some of their favorite forms of exercise amongst them were walking (69 percent), jogging or running (62 percent), swimming (53 percent), and cycling (52 percent).
Lisa Gawthorne, a vegan athlete who represents Team GB in Duathlon, commented: “I know that going vegan helped me run further, cycle faster, and recover quicker too. I want people to realize how good it can make you feel: how you feel getting the right nutrients, but also knowing you haven’t caused animal pain and slaughter.
“It’s the best thing ever for your mind, body, and soul.”
4. Living with the environment in mind
The connection between the mind, body, and soul is at the heart of a vegan lifestyle. Eating plant-based foods not only enhances your health but also helps you re-evaluate your relationship with the natural world.
With around 1.2 billion land animals being slaughtered for human consumption every year in the UK and 10,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest being cleared a day to make way for animal agriculture, we’re becoming more conscious about our environment.
A Faunalytics’ longitudinal study of vegetarians and vegans explored the motivations and influences behind switching from meat to meatless. Intriguingly, people who were exposed to animal advocacy experiences had better success at giving up meat, regardless of whether animal welfare was their primary motivation or not.
People who had seen graphic media of farmed animals (42 percent), watched a documentary (36 percent) or received information from an animal advocacy group (21 percent) all achieved better results in reducing their animal consumption six months later.
Practicing compassion and making mindful food choices naturally improve our mood. Living with the environment in mind and honoring our ecosystem is a gateway to a guilt-free lifestyle.
Veganism is not just a diet but a lifestyle, if not a philosophy. It emerges from the heart and is designed to improve not only your health but the environment too, so you can enjoy a better mood and a kinder world.
This article was updated on June 13, 2022 to amend an error about Lisa Gawthorne’s sporting career.