The vegan diet is becoming more and more popular around the globe. Artfully arranged plates of fresh fruits and vegetables are looking more appealing with each passing day to those looking for a nutrition boost and health-conscious eating practices.
Whether the motive is to ensure better health, end animal cruelty, or sustain our planet, one thing is for sure – a vegan diet can transform your life.
Together with Tina Manahai-Mahai of Healthy Supplies, an independent online health food retailer, we take a look at some of the reasons leading us to make this lifestyle change.
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 is 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% of respondents stating that they were looking to increase their fruits and vegetable intake, while 44% wanted to improve their digestion and reduce bloating.
The results of the survey were fascinating and aligned with the participants’ motives. 56% of the respondents experienced better digestion and 55% 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 fibre 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. It can prevent chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, by improving lipid control. It can also improve gut hormonal-driven appetite regulation, meaning that vegans tend to lose more weight.
In order to tackle the day, we might need to have more energy. Eating a big meal, such as pasta carbonara, at lunchtime, can make us feel sluggish and slow down brain activity.
A vegan diet, on the other hand, can equip you with more energy to fully enjoy your day. 41% of the respondents in the survey wanted to increase their energy levels, and 53% 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 vegan diet. Tina Manahai-Mahai of Healthy Supplies commented: “A plant-based diet promotes a reconnection with the natural world and the goods that Mother Earth has bestowed us with. It’s fascinating what an abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts we have. All of these foods are naturally designed to support our best health.
“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 butters, 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.”
Higher energy levels will also improve your stamina and workout routine. In the survey by The Vegan Society, 52% of the respondents reported higher fitness levels and the ability to walk and/or run better and/or further.
A vegan diet can also increase the frequency of workouts, as 34% of the respondents indicated that they had a shorter recovery time between exercise sessions. Better performance is also on the cards, with 31% being able to lift heavier weights.
98% of the participants said they were engaging in physical activity at least once a week. Some of their favourite forms of exercise amongst them were walking (69%), jogging or running (62%), swimming (53%), and cycling (52).
Lisa Gawthorne, duathlon athlete and vegan, who represents Team GB in the Olympics, commented: “I know that going vegan helped me run further, cycle faster, and recover quicker too. I want people to realise 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.”
The connection between the mind, body, and soul is at the heart of a vegan diet. 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%), watched a documentary (36%), or received information from an animal advocacy group (21%) all achieved better results in reducing their animal consumption six months later.
Practising compassion and making mindful food choices naturally improve our mood. Living with the environment in mind and honouring 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.