You may feel a pep in your step
Processed fats and sugars deplete your energy, but when you start eating foods rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, your energy levels will get a boost—and your stress levels could go down. In a Nutritional Neuroscience study, researchers asked 620 people to take a survey about their diets, mental health, and lifestyle. The scientists then split the participants into vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore groups based on their diet responses and then analyzed the data. Vegans reported less anxiety and stress than omnivores, adding on even more reasons to the list of benefits of a vegan diet. One of the other benefits of a vegan diet is that it may also prevent blood sugar spikes, Sheth says. “[Vegans] are eating lighter foods,” she says. “Their bodies are not stuck with all this fat and extra sugar.”
On the other hand, you may also gain weight
Don’t let the word “vegan” on a snack or box of frozen “meat” fool you—weight loss isn’t always one of the benefits of a vegan diet. Vegan bars and processed proteins are loaded with additives, processed sugars, fat, sodium, and calories. For example, a small bowl of frozen vegan chili has 80 more calories and 30 more grams of carbohydrates than a small bowl of chili from Wendy’s. “Just because the word ‘vegan’ is on a product doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free,” Dr. Applegate says. “It is not a prescription for skinniness.” Processed foods are still processed foods, vegan or not. Here are 14 things to know if you’re going on a vegan weight-loss diet.
You may lower your risk of disease
One of the biggest benefits of a vegan diet is that it can reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, thanks to phytonutrients, a substance found in fruits and vegetables that provides various kinds of health boosts. “You’ve got that low calorie intake with that high nutritional quality,” Dwyer says. “That’s where you’re really optimizing your energy and digestion, and giving your body what it needs to be healthy.” Scientists conducted a literature review of 27 different studies that looked at people following plant-based diets and found that people who ate vegetarian or vegan diets combined with nuts, soy, and/or fiber lowered their cholesterol by up to 35 percent. Another literature review discovered that vegans reduced their total cancer risk by about 15 percent and vegetarians decreased their heart disease risk by 25 percent compared to meat eaters.