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  • Writer's pictureMina Phillips

8 research-backed benefits of a plant based diet

Article by Mina Phillips

There has never been a better time to go vegan. Whether through a desire to help the planet, animals and/or their own health, an estimated 88 million people around the world are currently vegan - meaning there’s a big market out there designed to make vegan living easy. There’s also more research available than ever before offering up some pretty major benefits to going vegan - and showing there really aren’t many perks to consuming meat and dairy. Curious about the research-backed benefits of a vegan diet? From glowing skin and longevity through to improved athletic performance and heart health, here are 8 major reasons to stick to a vegan diet.

1 - Consumers rank plant-based burger patties over meat patties

Let’s start with one of the biggest barriers many people face when it comes to giving up meat: taste. A recent study found that consumers prefer plant-based patties that mimic animal meat over the real thing! Researchers interviewed 175 participants using open-ended questions and ranking systems to find out what burger patties they liked the most, and why. Option one was a pea protein patty, option two was an animal-like plant-based protein patty, option three was a mushroom and meat patty, and option 4 was a 100% beef patty. 

In both blind taste tests (consumers didn’t know which patty they were eating) and informed taste tests (they knew what patty they were eating) participants ranked the animal-like plant-based protein patty as their favorite, over the 100% beef patty, the mushroom-meat patty, and the pea protein patty. 

2 - Plant-based proteins could help you live longer

In 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that investigated whether there was a link between the type of proteins we consume and our risk of, well - death. The investigation explored how plant-based proteins impacted people’s health in comparison to animal-based proteins. 131,342 study participants were assessed from 1980 until 2012 and had their plant and animal intake monitored throughout this time. 

What researchers found was that plant proteins supported the longevity of participants who had existing unhealthy lifestyle factors (such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and physical inactivity) while animal protein consumption was linked to cardiovascular-related deaths.

3 - Plant-based diets can prevent skin aging

It turns out the fountain of youth can be found at your local farmers market - or, at least, the fountain of slightly better skin as you get older. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology published a literature review (aka, a deep dive into existing research) in 2020 that explored whether a whole-food, plant-based diet could prevent and/or reverse skin aging. The review looked at existing research findings on the relationship between whole-food plant-based diets and cellular damage. After carrying out a comprehensive review, they concluded, “Evidence obtained within this literature review supports a WFPB (whole-food plant-based) diet for preventing skin aging.”

The researchers were primarily interested in whether a whole-food plant-based diet was linked to telomere length (DNA structures that, when long, are associated with healthy cells and, when short, are associated with aging and disease). What they found in the review was that the high level of antioxidants contained within a whole-food plant-based diet worked to support cellular health and, consequently, telomere length - providing an anti-aging effect on skin.        

4 - Plant-based diets are better for heart health

“ can be concluded that a PBD (plant-based diet) had a more favorable nutrient composition for cardiovascular health than the omnivorous dietary pattern” was the conclusion of a study published in 2022. The study involved two groups of people who all had cardiovascular risk factors. One group was randomly assigned to eat a whole-food plant-based diet for eight weeks, while the other was randomly assigned to follow an omnivorous diet for eight weeks. Each participant's food intake was recorded, analyzed for its nutrient profile and compared against 1) before eight weeks and 2) compared against the other group’s nutrient profile. Laboratory data and individual blood pressure recordings were also analyzed across the groups and timeframes. 

The researchers found that, in comparison to an omnivore diet, a plant-based diet provided fewer calories, less cholesterol, less saturated fat, less salt, and more fibre. The study also found that the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals were generally met within the plant-based group, except for B12 - which experts recommend vegans supplement with. Iodine and vitamin D intake was found to be low in both groups.   

5 - Plant-based diets help with weight loss

From low-carb to intermittent fasting, there are many weight-loss fads out there - and not all of them are necessarily backed by research. Plant-based eating, however, is - when it’s done right. In a two-year study that compared vegan diets to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) diet (a program that promotes eating low-fat, high-carb), researchers investigated what would happen when sixty-four overweight women followed either a vegan diet or the NCEP diet. 

While support groups played an important role in weight loss for both groups, they found that women following a vegan diet lost almost twice as much weight as those following the NCEP diet.  

6 - Plant-based diets are encouraged for endurance athletes

While meat and dairy have historically been associated with better athletic performance, emerging research suggests the opposite might be true. Studies have shown that plant-based eating is a good choice for athletes because it supports cardiovascular health, blood pressure, a healthy body weight, blood glucose control and has been shown to reverse atherosclerosis - a cardiovascular condition that athletes are prone to

Researchers also believe that plant-based diets might also be able to contribute to athletic performance and recovery due to the diet being high in antioxidants and having a positive effect across inflammation, blood flow, body composition and more - factors that scientists say “provide a scientific foundation for the increased use of plant-based diets by endurance athletes.”  

7 - Plant-based diets make life easier for postmenopausal women

If you’re a vegan woman approaching postmenopause, you’ll be thrilled to know that you’re less likely to experience hot flashes - according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. The study looked at what would happen when 38 postmenopausal women who experienced at least two hot flashes per day switched to either a low-fat vegan diet that included ½ cup of soybeans per day, or continued with their existing diet.

12 weeks of following a low-fat vegan diet was shown to eliminate moderate-to-severe hot flashes, resulted in fewer hot flashes in general, and improved the quality of life of women in relation to “psychosocial, physical, and sexual domains”.

8 - Plant-based diets may support mental and emotional health

Finally, if you’re looking for an easy way to look after your mental health, a 2008 pilot study has promising news for you. The study looked at how staying at a raw vegan institute for 1-3 weeks impacts quality of life and mental wellbeing. Before and after their stay, the study’s participants completed surveys about their overall quality of life, perceived stress and anxiety.

Participants found that a stay at the raw vegan institute improved their mental and emotional quality of life. Specifically, the researchers found that quality of life improved by 11.5%, anxiety decreased by 18.6% and perceived stress decreased by 16.4%. Yes, more research is needed to dive deeper into these findings - but it certainly offers supporting evidence for anyone considering registering for a vegan retreat!

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