Our dietary choices can immediately impact our health and well-being, and when first switching to a plant-based diet, many people report that their energy levels, digestion, skin, hair, and sleep all improve.
For some people, the changes are nothing short of miraculous, with symptoms of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, depression, and many other conditions alleviating or even disappearing. A switch to a vegan diet can be life-changing, but it is over the long term that the most profound impact of our dietary choices really shines through.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death, both in the United States and worldwide. It is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries, which narrows them and restricts the flow of blood to the heart. Animal products contain high levels of saturated fat that can raise blood cholesterol and increase our risk of developing this life-threatening condition. Conversely, most plants are low in saturated fat and don’t contain any cholesterol at all. There is now a vast body of research showing vegans have a lower risk of heart disease.
Insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14 per cent of deaths from gastrointestinal cancer worldwide, but it isn’t just eating too few plants that’s the problem; it’s eating meat. In 2015, The World Health Organization stated that all processed meat is carcinogenic. This includes bacon, hot dogs, sausages, ham, jerky, pepperoni, and all meat-based preparations. It also stated that all red meat is “probably carcinogenic.” At the same time, some studies have linked dairy to prostate cancer and an increased risk of lung, breast, and ovarian cancers in people with lactose intolerance. Research has long shown that vegans suffer less from certain kinds of cancers.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, with almost all being type 2. This potentially devastating condition can lead to vision loss, limb amputations, and kidney disease, and yet in most people, it can be prevented, managed, and even reversed through lifestyle changes. In an analysis of 14 available studies, researchers found that “vegetarians had a 27% lower odds of having diabetes than omnivores” and that “[v]egans in particular often had the lowest odds of diabetes when compared to other types of vegetarians.”
OUR GENETICS ARE NOT OUR DESTINY
We often think diseases run in families, when it is our dietary habits and their impacts that are actually passed down. This is good news! It means that diseases are not inevitable just because our parents and grandparents suffered from them. We may be able to change our “destiny” simply by making different dietary decisions.
“…vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”