9 Plant Based Diet Benefits – Why Vegan Foods are Healthier

The plant based diet has been a big part of my life for the past 2 years and there are just so many reasons why I would never return to my old meat eating ways, the biggest being my general energy and well-being which has hit an all time high through the eating of nutritious, whole plant foods.

In this post I will discuss all the other plant based diet benefits, and why vegan foods in general are healthier for both you and the planet alike.

The Rise of Plant Based Eating

woman eating sandwich

Veganism and plant based eating is on the rise in the Western world, and this fact makes me very happy indeed. The demand for animal free foods is at an all time high and this is evident everywhere you turn, from restaurants, cafes, fast food joints and supermarkets. In fact, some fast food chains have been blown-away by how popular their vegan options have been from day one of their release onto menus, which has sparked more and more different food chains and outlets to follow suit.

It’s a victory for vegans the world over to see so many every day people turning to plant foods more and more, and statistics show that these numbers are only going to increase in the coming years. This means more healthy people and ultimately less strain on the medical system in the long term if people decide to adopt a whole food plant based diet specifically, and not just consume unhealthy vegan junk foods – there’s a big difference, and I shall explain:-

WHOLE PLANT FOODS

A ‘whole plant food’ means a food that is in its most natural state that hasn’t been refined, had free sugars, preservatives, trans fats, additives or anything else added to it that would turn it into a junk food. Examples of a plant based diet grocery list are:-

  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Squashes
  • Salad
  • Pulses – beans, lentils, chickpeas, legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat flour or grouts
  • Amaranth
  • Spelt
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat noodles
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Wholegrain rices
  • Fresh coconut
  • Soy beans
  • Green superfood powders. See full list here.

VEGAN JUNK FOODS

There are LOTS of foods that are actually plant based but still considered a ‘junk food’. Obviously refined sugars and many trans fats are both technically plant based yet the worst offenders when it comes to some of the most unhealthiest foods on the planet. Examples of such junk foods are:-

  • Fries
  • Sweets and confectionery
  • Cakes/donuts
  • Biscuits
  • Crisps and chips
  • Refined flours in breads and doughs
  • Anything containing free sugars
  • Anything deep-fried

Now you can see a BIG difference in the very different kind of foods I am talking about here in comparison to the first list. This is one of the main reasons why some people who turn to veganism actually become more unhealthy than ever, due to the fact that without proper knowledge and seemingly fewer options to choose from they naturally turn to a diet filled with refined carbohydrates and sugars with little protein.

But where do I get my protein?

glass of soy milk

The plant based diet when done correctly is abundant in protein, but you do need to be vigilant in order to make sure you meet your dietary needs. Regardless of what some people may say, protein is an issue and something that you must be mindful of when you turn to this lifestyle. It is vital to understand which foods you need to be eating regularly to get enough essential amino acids into your diet, otherwise you may end up with issues that can include lower immunity and losing muscle mass (especially if you are an exerciser – this happened to me so I speak from experience).

Plant based diet v’s vegan

Usually the above issues will only occur if you end up eating too many refined carbs from the vegan junk foods list and not enough foods from the whole foods list. In fact, talking about this subject reminds me that I met a vegan once who actually told me she didn’t like fruit or vegetables, which left me astounded as I couldn’t at the time imagine what she could possibly be eating.

Now I know it must have been foods mostly from the junk food list, which of course means her health would have been worse than the average meat-eater. But then again veganism isn’t necessarily about health and is more about animal welfare and environmental issues, whereas plant based eating does focus on the health side of things, and for the purpose of this website this is what I will mainly be focusing on.

High protein plant foods:-

The foods from the following list contain high amounts of protein and should ideally be incorporated in some shape or form into all your main meals and snacks if possible.

  • All legumes, including beans, peas, soybeans, pulses, lentils, chickpeas.
  • Nuts – the highest being peanuts and almonds.
  • Sugar and palm oil free nut butters.
  • Seeds
  • Tofu (made from soybean curd)
  • Tempeh (made from fermented soybean)
  • Seitan (made of hydrated gluten and VERY high in protein).
  • Soya
  • Buckwheat – flour, grouts or flakes.
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Hemp – seeds and powder.
  • Plant based protein powders (vital if you are in training or doing lots of exercise). See full list here.

There are few protein sources in the plant world that contain a ‘complete amino acid profile’ but the exceptions are quinoa, buckwheat, soya, amaranth and hemp. This is why I make sure that I eat from at least one of these sources every day – which is actually quite easy when you start getting the hang of things and learning lots of exciting new plant based recipes.

BENEFITS OF EATING PLANT BASED FOODS

You may notice instant benefits when you decide to clean up your diet and take out all the rubbish that has been bogging you down, keeping you sluggish, tired and bloated. OR, you may not even realise you suffer any of these low-grade problems until suddenly you don’t. Sometimes we simply don’t know how good it is to possibly feel until we have felt it for ourselves, but the benefits of going plant based are many and they include the following:-

1. YOUR BEST SKIN EVER

beautiful skin woman

You will notice this fast once you start eating clean. Your skin will glow and you may even find that mild skin complaints or issues will just clear up on their own, which will more than likely be down to the elimination of dairy products and the upping of antioxidant rich fruits and veggies. You may find that you no longer need to cover up with so much make-up, especially foundation, which is a great feeling.

Drinking LOTS of filtered, pure, or spring water instead of caffeine and sugary drinks will also amplify this effect 10 fold!

2. CLEAR THINKING MIND

Junk and inflammation causing foods can keep your brain all fogged up and your memory not as sharp as it could be. Eliminating these culprits will more than likely elevate your mind to a higher place where you can think clearly, learn faster, and recall information more easily.

3. ENERGY FOR LIFE

man on mountain

You will notice that with the introduction of so many more antioxidants into your diet that you will feel an energy boost (even an exhilaration) for everyday life, including work and menial tasks that are usually a grind. You will feel calmer and happier and this will show in the way you act, converse with others, and go about your work.

You may even find that you have the energy, confidence and drive to go out there and achieve your dreams now that your mind is clearer, and that’s just a feeling that money can’t buy!

4. MORE STABLE MOOD

You will find that good nutrition is at the heart of good mood. You may feel happier in general, and other people will notice and that will rub off onto them too. The fitter and healthier you become the more elated, calmer and stronger you will feel and the more impetus you will have to carry on taking your health to new amazing heights.

You will also find that other people will want to know what it is you are doing to look so well and happy, and of course you can tell them with great pleasure how they can do it too. I mean, who wouldn’t want a slice of this pie?

5. HIGHER FITNESS LEVELS

yoga on beach

I’ve probably felt more physically fit than I have ever felt on a plant based diet – fact! I haven’t changed my exercise routines but I can definitely do more than I used to be able to do. I can go further, faster, and also don’t get the aching muscles after exercise like I did previously – not as badly at least, and I’m guessing this is down to less chronic inflammation from my highly alkaline diet.

If you don’t believe this just check out the many athletes who are beating their previous endurance and times by fuelling their workouts on plants.

6. LESS SICKNESS

All these delicious and nutritious whole plant foods will boost your immune system naturally, thus making you less prone to bugs and viruses. And that’s not to mention the long-term effects of getting more nutrients into your body and eating less junk foods, which include a stronger cardiovascular system, more evened out blood sugar, weight loss, and the many benefits to health that come with all those things alone.

7. SOUNDER SLEEP

You may find that when you are naturally eating less junk foods (especially in the form of refined sugars) you will slumber more soundly and deeply. This is a natural side effect of feeling less stressed, being more physically fit, and eating a lower GI diet. And don’t forget how fantastic a good night’s sleep in itself is for giving you energy and making you feel great the next day.

8. LESS AFFECTED BY STRESS

picture of stress

7. Do you fly off the handle regularly? Or get anxious, depressed or hormonal? You’ll find that a high sugar and junk food diet can keep you wired, wound up and on edge. All the side effects of a psychological dependency to sugar (and by sugar I mean ALL refined carbohydrates, including white flours, breads, pastas and rices).

Cutting down drastically on these, and adding in low GI, plant based foods will help get you off this sugar train, leaving you feeling much more relaxed and calmer; as will eating these metabolism boosting snacks. It will also help shield you against those deadly  high stress levels that can quite literally kill you in the long run.

9. ANTI AGING – BOTH INSIDE AND OUT

Anti aging isn’t just about what you look like on the outside – well it is, but that’s just aesthetics. The most important indicator of age is what’s going on in the inside. We’ve all seen those programs on TV where somebody has a full body scan to reveal their biological age and they find out to their great shock that they are actually 10 or even 20 years older than their chronological age. Scary right?

This biological age is all down to the lifestyle factors of diet, exercise, sleep, and whether the individual is a smoker, drinker, on certain medications, or an abuser of drugs (these are just the common factors, there are many more). In some people their biological age has been accelerated way beyond their actual chronological age (which is the amount of years they have actually been alive) due to the fact they have intentionally or unintentionally abused some or all of the above.

Telomere Aging:-

Aging is all down to our telomeres which are strands of DNA that shorten as we age, but can also be accelerated in their shortening by certain lifestyle factors like those mentioned above. The good news is however, that some studies suggest that not only can we slow down this shortening of our telomeres, but we can actually reverse it! I’m serious – just think what this could potentially mean, and the anti inflammatory plant based diet done correctly could play a BIG role in this

Gene Expression:-

strand of dna

Gone are the days when we thought that we were at the mercy of our genes and that was that. Scientists have since discovered we can actually change our gene expression to a certain extent by the deliberate choices we make in terms of diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco, too much sun exposure, drugs, sugar, trans fats, and too much alcohol.

This is why a plant based diet will keep you much younger for longer on both the inside and out as it will be full of the phytochemicals and antioxidants that help to delay the aging process. And don’t forget that aging on the inside exposes you to higher risk of diseases of all kinds so it’s crucial to slow it down as much as possible.

CONCLUSION:

I hope I have given you some food for thought and even the impetus to give the plant based diet a go for yourself. You’re lucky, it’s so easy these days as you can buy the appropriate foods everywhere and a few years ago this just wasn’t the case. It’s never been a better and more convenient time to take the plunge into the world of plants.

If nothing else, you’ve got nothing to lose in giving it a trial run so you can feel the above benefits for yourself.

If you need a bit more help then please find more information in my Beginner’s Guide to the plant based lifestyle. You may also find helpful this plant based diet 1 Week Meal Plan which will give you a sense of how to correctly combine your macronutrients together to make a nutritionally complete, healthy and satisfying meal.

Good Luck, and thanks for reading this post today and supporting Zestforever.

Don’t forget to share with your friends so they can feel the benefits too!

Stefanie Taylor
Plant based eating is set to EXPLODE in 2019; not just for health reasons, but also to help keep our beautiful planet thriving. I have lived this healthful lifestyle for over 2 years, which is the reason why zestforever was born to share my experiences, trials and errors, how I overcame them, and how to turn to this lifestyle in such a way that you will thrive too.

I have studied, tried and tested healthy foods, superfoods and diets for over 25 years, but nothing has come close to giving me the buzz of wellness that plant based eating has. To expand my knowledge further I have also studied and worked as a Sports Nutritional Advisor, Nutritional Therapist, and Clinical Weight Loss Advisor - all of which can tie in with the plant based diet.

This website is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical diseases or illnesses. It's merely meant as a way of showing you how to boost your health through the eating of more nutritious plant foods in place of junk foods.

I am grateful for your support, and I hope that the tips and guides you find here will help to guide you on your own plant based journey.

8 thoughts on “9 Plant Based Diet Benefits – Why Vegan Foods are Healthier”

  1. Thank you, Stefanie, for another terrific article. The sugar and refined carbs are killing all of us. I quit drinking alcohol a few yrs ago(after 17 hard yrs of it) and have struggled with addiction to sugar ever since. I can be fine for days or weeks at a time but once I start with the cookies or ice team or Little Debbie’s, it’s over and it’s going to take me a while to pull myself out of it.
    Potato chips, French fries, etc. pretty much do the same thing.
    I don’t know if a plant based diet is right for me but you have given me much to consider.

    • Hi Joseph,
      That is just really great that you have kicked the alcohol habit after so long, so congrats on that as I know it must have been very hard. You know, we have treated in the Herbal Apothecary where I work, people with addictions to alcohol and it is quite common for them to then become addicted to sugar as it kind of is swapping one for another (albeit less harmful). Also, alcohol contains lots of sugar too so you were probably getting a hit of that too at the time when you were drinking.

      I think a lot of people have addictive personalities and are therefore more vulnerable to addictions than others. I know that I could easily fall into this category too, which makes sense as to why I am so controlled around food and alcohol alike – because I know if I don’t control it it will control me. It’s just hard being a human sometimes huh? Gee!

      Anyway, I really think you should give a plant based diet a go as it will not only put a ton of nutrition in your body, but will help get you off that sugar train that you desperately need to get off. Please read my post about quitting sugar for more advice. Good luck! How I Quit Sugar – 6 Foolproof Ways to Curb Sugar Cravings

  2. Great article,

    While I am a predominant vegetarian, it is only on rare occasions I do eat meat, I feel compelled to say one thing.

    It is a huge myth that vegetarian diets lack protein. There are certain vegetables that have more protein per 100g than meat.

    I would put it to you and vegeterians that those suffering from a lack of protein are not getting enough of the high protein food sources such as chick peas.

    • Hi Derek,

      I don’t mean to be pedantic but you have mentioned the word vegetarian a couple of times when actually plant based is vegan, so I’m not sure if you meant vegan or not which would make a great difference to this conversation. Vegetarians wouldn’t suffer a lack of protein due to still eating dairy products which of course are highly bio available sources. I guess in the post I am talking about many vegan protein sources being lower than meat and also not as absorbable in the body. Chickpeas are 10 grams protein per 100 grams which is lower than all of the common meats, but there are far higher sources such as soy and quinoa.

      The thing is, when you first begin this diet it is very easy not to get enough amino acids when you are not used to getting them from plant sources. It’s easy to naturally turn to a more carb based diet when you don’t know what you are doing, which is exactly what I did and subsequently started losing muscle mass. And I’m somebody who has way more knowledge of food than the average person and this still happened to me.

      Also, yes, I agree with you that vegans suffering from a lack of protein are not getting enough high protein food sources, which is exactly what I am saying in the post and the reason why I gave a list of the best sources.

      My hypothesis (and I’ve heard other vegans say it), is it takes time for your body to adjust to recycling amino acids from plant sources if it has been used to animal for the last 40 years like mine was. Something definitely went wrong when I started out, and as it happened to me and others I have spoken to then I feel I need to address it. That was actually the purpose of the post, to make sure people eat lots of good quality plant based proteins.

  3. Hi, great post. I really like meat, but due to the fact that I hear more and more about antibiotics, I try to eat it as little as possible. I’ve always wondered if there are alternative products that contain complete amino acids profile. Good to know that there are.

    • Hi, Kamil,
      Yes, unfortunately I believe that meat is often injected with antibiotics which probably isn’t great for us. You could try and cut down on it if nothing else, or make sure you only eat good quality, grass-fed organic ect.

      As for complete plant based amino acids there are 5 good complete sources and they are soy, hemp, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, so you should be adding these daily on a vegan diet. There are also lots of others that are close , but these are the best.

      Or alteratively, you could use plant based protein powders which are usually blended up with each other to form complete profiles.

  4. Excellent post! Actually, right now I am starting a new diet and I think I’ve found the right place to get some perspective about that. I’ve made a big research about all the diets that we can afford (I know, there are tons of options) so I decided to follow just the most popular.

    I found that keto diet has all the requirements I need right now. I don’t suffer any kind of eating disorder or something like that. I’m not fat and my weight is excellent. I’m not looking for to weight loss or something like that. I’m just focused on getting the higher quality of my life through a real and well-made nutrition.

    I could see that you are direct and blunt, haha. I love it! So, please let me know what do you think about the keto diet? Be as direct and raw as you can.

    Thank you for your time, Stefanie!

    • Hi Benjamin, I’m really chuffed that you have found the post so helpful, and it’s great you’re thinking of starting a healthy eating plan.

      Now, as I am a plant based eater I am obviously going to promote a plant based diet as being much healthier than traditional keto that promotes the eating of lots of protein and fats through animal products. There has been much on the news recently (especially here in the UK), that the true keto diet where you literally eat hardly any carbs is actually not healthy and has been scientifically proven not to be healthy too.

      Many will still dispute this, but it makes absolute sense as eating so much meat and dairy isn’t good far anybody (neither the planet) for obvious reasons, the main being the inflammatory effects of too many animal products.

      The most healthiest diet of all is the plant based diet with lots of plant proteins, veggies, nuts, seeds, and pulses, which can still be lower carb as per the suggestions on the list. You can make this diet low carb by cutting out all refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flours, rices, breads and basically anything white. You can add in a few healthy complex carbohydrates in the form of pulses, wholegrains, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth, or anything that hast been refined and had it’s fiber and nutrients taken out. The closer to its natural form the better.

      This will give your body the best of both worlds, and this is the diet that I myself follow and I feel fantastic on it. For the record, I once did the true keto diet for a week and it triggered my depression due to the fact that the body needs carbs to produce serotonin, and if you suffer from anxiety/ depression then this may not work for you either (however, that’s just my personal experience).

      You can do the pant based diet way more cheaply than you think, and in fact I have some lists of budget friendly foods. Her’s the links, and good luck. Feel free to message me any time if you need any more advice and I will be happy to help!
      Top 10 Plant Based Superfoods on a Budget
      Plant Based Diet Food List – Your Complete Shopping Guide

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