While being vegan isn't for everyone (the cheese, what would I do without the cheese?) it's got some undeniable benefits. Not only for the sustainability of our food sources, it turns out, but also in terms of our health. And blogger Jen Miller is able to prove it, after she scoured the internet to discover all sorts of scientific research to demonstrate the broad number of ways a plant-based diet can improve a person's health.
So if you're teetering on the edge of veganism, maybe this will be enough to sway you?
1. Veganism can improve physical fitness levels
As Jen points out, "many athletes, from tennis players to body builders are now following a vegan diet to improve their performance." This is because a plant-based diet is thought to give people "more energy, fewer aches and better health". And author Julieanna Hever of the book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition agrees, saying that athletes who follow this kind of diet recover faster and are able to maximise their training to improve their performance.
2. Vegan diets promote weight loss
Weight loss can come as a direct result of vegetarianism or veganism because these kinds of diets "tend to be lower in total fat, and vegetarians tend to eat proportionally more polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat compared with non-vegetarians." Jen also notes in her blog post that "animal products are the major sources of dietary saturated fat". This claim about weight loss has also been evidenced in various scientific studies (like this one) which found a greater reduction in body mass in the vegan group when comparing their progress to that of participants with alternative diets.
3. Vegans have fewer migraines
Nobody likes a migraine, and they can often be directly triggered by a person's food intake. "Most migraine sufferers are advised to avoid certain triggers like chocolate, cheese and alcohol," explains Jen, adding: "But a group of researchers recently found that a low-fat, plant-based diet may be beneficial to sufferers.
"For the study, 42 randomly selected migraineurs ate either a vegan diet, or received a placebo supplement for 26 weeks. Followers of the vegan diet reported a significant decrease in pain, as well as changes in body weight and cholesterol levels."
4. Vegans can be happier and less stressed
Science has proven that a vegan diet can help with stress and anxiety. In her blog post, Jen points to a 2015 study where participants were surveyed on mood, diet, and lifestyle factors, and a correlation was discovered between a healthy vegan diet and lower levels of anxiety.
"This could be because meat based diets are high in arachidonic acid, a saturated omega-6 fatty acid," she suggests in the post, backing this up with another study where 39 omnivores were divided into 3 groups; a control group eating fish, meat and poultry daily; a group that ate fish 3-4 times a week but avoided meat and poultry; and a vegetarian group avoiding all meat, fish and poultry. "After two weeks, results showed that mood scores were unchanged for omnivores and fish eaters, but the vegetarian group showed significantly improved scores."
5. A vegan diet balances hormones
So if you suffer from PMT, this could be of real benefit to you. As the blogger explains from her research, "our hormones control most of the major body functions, including hunger, reproduction, emotions and mood." Hormones such as oestrogen can also be responsible for causing breast cancer if levels get very high.
Jen explains that animal fats are thought to increase levels of oestrogen (a New York University study found this to be so), but as well as that, people with a plant-based diet "have more of a certain type of carrier molecule called sex hormone binding globulin - or SHBG - which ensures that these hormones remain inactive in the blood until needed." This suggests a vegan diet can control hormone levels, ensuring they don't get too high.
6. Veganism can give you great skin
A study into the population of Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea revealed that not a single one suffered from acne, and their diet is thought to be the reason. This population lives primarily off unprocessed, low-fat plant-foods, so scientists believe there is correlation between this and the non-existence of acne.
Research has also demonstrated that dairy products can lead to acne, as can foods with a high glycaemic load, but a vegan diet eliminates both of these meaning it often improves skin and leads to a brighter complexion.
7. Vegans are less likely to have BO
Who knew there was a direct link between the food we eat and our body odour?! Jen explains it in her post: "Body odour is affected by what is emitted by sweat glands, especially the ones in our armpits. These glands are designed to help us get rid of toxins from the body. The toxins we excrete are what causes body odour, so therefore what we eat directly affects how we smell."
Red meat is thought to be the primary cause of BO, with other food culprits including manufactured foods lacking fibre and made with processed ingredients, such as white flour, hydrogenated oil and added sugars. These kinds of foods don't tend to exist in a vegan diet.
8. Vegans tend to have a lower BMI
As we all know, having a healthy BMI increases our chances of living a healthy and long life, reducing the risk of developing various dangerous diseases including heart disease, stroke, bone and joint problems like osteoarthritis, as well as a number of cancers. And according to various studies (like this one and this one), vegans' BMIs were found on average to be lower than groups eating any other diet.