7 health benefits of a plant-based diet
More and more people are turning to a partial or full plant-based diet for a combination of health, ethical, environmental and animal welfare reasons. Only one in five DR.VEGAN® customers follow a full vegan diet, but increasing numbers are moving from an omnivore diet to flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian or plant-based, even if only for a few days a week. So what are the health benefits of a plant-based diet? Our expert nutritionists explain.
Health benefits of a plant-based diet
We all know the importance of eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, yet less than one in five people do so. While there are mistakes to avoid on a plant-based diet, there are many more benefits to your health of going plant-based, even if only for a few days a week.
1. High in Fibre
Plant-based diets are much richer in fibre than meat based diets, and fibre has many benefits for our body.
Fibre feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and these 'good bacteria' support better digestion, bowel movements, steady blood sugar levels, sustained energy, and a healthier immune system. Fibre rich diets also lead to lower cholesterol levels - high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
Learn more in How to look after your gut through your diet.
2. Better for skin health
The antioxidants in plant-based diets are very beneficial for better skin as they protect your DNA, which maintains a higher rate of natural collagen production. Premature collagen loss and ageing of the skin can be caused by insufficient antioxidants in your diet.
Plant-based diets contain more fibre than meat-based diets. Fibre is essential for clear skin as it supports regular bowel movements which transport toxins out of the body. If you don't have regular bowel movements, your body will reabsorb the toxins and push them out through the skin, causing inflamed skin, redness and acne. Your poo tells you a lot about your health - discover what the perfect poo looks like here.
In addition, plant-based diets are more likely to be low in saturated fats. Saturated fats are bad news for skin. The fats you consume are incorporated into the skin cell membrane. Saturated fats are hard fats generally found in butter, fatty meat cuts, sausages, bacon, cured meats and cheese, and these fats decrease the flexibility of the skin cells, contributing to flaking and cracking.
Mono-unsaturated fatty acids, found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and rapeseed oils, which are consumed in higher amounts on plant-based diets, are flexible and when they're incorporated into the skin cells, they allow them to be flexible and hydrated.
3. Excellent for gut health
The increased fibre intake of plant-based diets feeds the probiotics in your gut. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the body which keep in check bad bacteria, fungi and parasites that can otherwise cause disease.
Probiotics produce over 200 digestive enzymes which help breakdown foods and increase nutrient absorption. The greater fibre consumed in plant-based diets ensures healthy digestion of carbohydrates and prevents imbalanced gut bacteria, and ensures healthy bowel movements which eliminate foul-smelling gas and bloating.
An unhealthy gut can also lead to constipation, diarrhoea, poor concentration and insomnia - learn more in 6 signs of an unhealthy gut.
4. Rich in vitamins
- a healthy immune system
- healthy glowing skin
- our vision health
- healthy bones and blood vessels
- forming healthy blood cells in unborn babies
and many more! Diets based on fresh whole foods, fruits and vegetables will contain much higher levels of these nutrients than other types of diet.
You may be interested in 'Top 6 foods every vegan should eat and why'.
5. High in key minerals
Magnesium and potassium are consumed in higher levels on plant-based diets. Potassium is essential for healthy blood pressure, proper hydration of the body and energy production.
Magnesium is a 'Mineral Superhero', involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, and is essential for the production of many brain chemicals, for the onset of sleep and as an aid to relaxation. Magnesium is also vital for our bone health and is generally not found in adequate quantities in other diet types.
Learn more in our blog "How do I know I'm deficient in Magnesium?"
6. Good fatty acids
As we mention earlier, plant-based diets are lower in harmful saturated fatty acids which can build up in the arteries. Saturated fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol, which increases cellular stress, the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Good HDL cholesterol from foods such as avocados, oils, nuts and seeds has a positive effect on your body, absorbing cholesterol and taking it back to your liver where it is disposed of. As a result, higher levels of HDL cholesterol reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. While your diet can help, you can also raise HDL cholesterol through exercise, losing weight and reducing alcohol consumption.
Plant-based diets are higher in mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are also beneficial to the cardiovascular system and prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Learn more about healthy fats here.
7. Excellent antioxidants
Plant-based diets are high in antioxidants such as beta carotene (which is converted into Vitamin A), Vitamin C and Vitamin E and many other plant compounds with antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants fight 'free radicals' (molecules that can cause illness) and are essential for the immune system, healthy skin, helping your body fight disease such as heart disease and certain cancers, and protecting cells against DNA damage.
Looking for recipe inspiration? Discover our fabulous plant-based recipes.
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