7 Health Perks of the Vegan Lifestyle

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Modern eating begets tons of trends and cults, by season.

Many of them come and go. But veganism will not be fleeting -- its advocates are devoted and numerous, and there are good reasons that vegans make the (pretty big) life change, and stick to it.

We spoke with Ginny Messina, “The Vegan R.D.” and co-author of books including Vegan for Life and Vegan for Her , both about the health perks of being a vegan.

Messina’s reasons for a vegan diet are many. She says, “A vegan diet is really the only way of eating that delivers such a variety of benefits."

If you're on the fence, or just considering veganism for the first time, consider these benefits to the vegan lifestyle.

Reduce Risk of Cancer

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Plant foods contain phytochemicals, which can reduce risk for cancer.

Lower Your Blood Cholesterol

Replacing animal fats with plant fats helps to lower blood cholesterol and reduces risk for heart disease.

A balanced vegan diet means a wide variety of plant foods: legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Plus, look for foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 (or a B12 supplement.) For more information, check out Ginny’s food guide for vegans, The Plant Plate.

Increase Fiber

Replacing animal proteins with plant proteins like beans increases fiber content of the diet and may improve intestinal health.

One way to keep the vegan diet balanced is to learn to love legumes. “This food group includes all types of beans and lentils, all of the soy products like tofu and veggie meats, and also peanuts and peanut butter. They are great sources of protein for vegans and can help you feel more satisfied as you transition to a new way of eating,” Messina says.

Reduce Risk of Diabetes

Vegans sometimes have lower body weights which can reduce risk for diabetes.

“When you change to a new way of eating, it's important to make sure you know the ropes,” Messina says. “This means knowing how to meet nutrient needs because it is different from the ways you are sources to getting these nutrients from. However, as long as you’re eating a balanced vegan diet and taking appropriate supplements, there is no risk associated with veganism,” she says.

Increase Vitamin C

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Eating more plants can improve intake of certain nutrients like folate, potassium, and vitamin C.

Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

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Vegans often eat foods with soy, which can reduce risk for breast cancer.

You're Doing Good For the World

Generosity certainly plays a part in health, and the vegan lifestyle impacts more than your own body. Plants take less of a toll on the environment, eating vegan frees up the world's grain supply to be used by developing countries, and a vegan diet requires lower quantities of water.

"[Veganism] can lower risk for chronic disease," Messina says, "has a smaller carbon footprint than diets that include animal foods, and is a kinder and more compassionate way of eating. There is no other dietary pattern that can boast such a range of impacts.”