Between 2014 and 2018, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled to 600,000.1 In 2019, of the 250,000 people that took part in Veganuary, which aims to inspire people to be vegan throughout January, 46 percent gave the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet as their motivating factor.2
Though going fully vegan or vegetarian may be a step too far for some, 21 per cent of Brits now claim to have adopted a casually vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’ diet, whereby they only occasionally eat meat,1 with health benefits being a driver for this change.
So, what are the health benefits of embracing a more plant-based diet?
Bringing down blood pressure
High blood pressure affects more than one in four adults in England, which amounts to around 12.5 million people and if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications.3
Research suggests that vegetarian diets can be effective at lowering blood pressure4 whilst another study found that eating pulses like beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are great foods for reducing it too.5
Lowering your cholesterol
Fatty meats, processed meats and dairy products are high in saturated fats, so cutting them out through a vegan diet, or reducing them with a flexitarian one could help lower cholesterol.6
Eating plenty of good fibre can also be beneficial for lowering cholesterol with oats, seeds, nuts, aubergine, vegetable oils, apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits all being good sources,7 all of which feature highly in a plant-based diet.
Reducing the risk of chronic disease
A study by the University of Oxford found that a well-balanced and predominantly plant-based diet can reduce premature deaths from chronic diseases by more than 20 per cent.8
In addition, a host of clinical trials found that a plant-based diet was consistently linked with better heart health – researchers concluded that following a plant-based diet could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 40 per cent.9
Reduce the risk of diabetes
In the UK, obesity affects around 1 in every 4 adults, and 1 in every 5 children.10 Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes,10 which is when the body doesn’t use the hormone insulin as well as it should.
A plant-based diet alone can’t prevent or reverse diabetes, but the weight loss benefits associated with the types of food included with such a diet combined with a generally healthy lifestyle could certainly help.11
Positive impact on mental wellbeing
Your mental health and wellbeing can benefit from a plant-based diet, too. One study asked nearly 300 young adults to complete daily food diaries for three weeks and to include mood ratings. Volunteers reported greater levels of energy, calmness and feelings of happiness on the days they ate fruits and vegetables, with those feelings of wellness often continuing into the following day.12
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