Many people jump on the diet bandwagon for many reasons, including anti-aging benefits, illness control and weight loss to name a few. However, the impacts of a mindful diet change are wide spanning.
It’s no secret that a standard Western diet is not the best…I’m looking at you honey butter fried chicken biscuit. While some things may be mighty tasty (and manufactured to do so but that’s for a different blog post), they do not help us in the overall health and wellness department. That is why so many people turn to restrictive diets. They believe pure calorie restriction will help them achieve their goals. The truth is, eating less isn’t always the right answer. Rather we should consider what we eat in partnership with listening to our bodies and how much is enough.
This brings us to the topic of this blog. Does a vegan diet help you live longer? We need to go through the research to better understand. Let’s dive in!
Does research show vegans live longer?
Here’s the interesting thing, like many highly researched subjects some studies show vegans can live longer while others find veganism doesn’t help with longevity. Why the conflict? From what we can tell, it’s based on habits.
According to research, vegans who live in the UK, US or Germany have a lower risk of contracting illnesses that lead to death than others. In fact, research shows vegans have a 12% lower risk of early death than meat eaters.
But what about those researchers that said it doesn’t extend your lifespan? It comes down to our habits and commitment. If you follow the vegan diet temporarily, say use it to lose weight, then return to your old eating ways once you achieve your goals, then the benefits of eating vegan go away with those changes. Going vegan can do a lot of good for your health, but you must maintain it to reap the long term rewards.
How can veganism help you live longer?
Spoiler alert, there is no secret to living longer. Vegans don’t do anything special versus non-vegans other than their dietary preferences. However, there are a number of benefits to a vegan diet that we’d like to highlight.
Vegan Diet is full of Rich Vitamins and Nutritions
When following a vegan diet, animal-based foods are off the menu. Consuming any kinds of meat, eggs, dairy products and even insect-derived products like honey are against the vegan rule book. Instead, the focus is on a diet full of rich fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, and nuts.
When I say rich food, I don’t mean costly food. I mean foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients to keep your body fueled. And research shows that a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods will lead to living a longer life because these foods can provide the fiber, protein, polyphenols and antioxidants that fuel your body on a cellular level. All this powerful nutrition comes together to help you fight cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
So you can see, it’s not solely the lack of meat, but rather the plant-based, nutrient-dense food you consume that can lead to a longer life.
Veganism can go hand in hand with a healthier lifestyle
Once someone has committed to veganism, they often focus on the big picture of their health as well, not just what food they are putting in their bodies. Many also incorporate exercise and meditation for physical and mental wellness. Some will stop other vices that inhibit their health such as smoking and drinking. Others will connect with like-minded eaters to create community.
All of these pieces can lead to a happier and healthier person as a whole because they take a “whole body/whole life” approach versus purely a diet focus.
Not all vegans live longer
I’m sure you’re saying, “Wait, what? This article is about how being vegan will help me live longer!” You are not wrong, but I need to reinforce a point made above. It’s not the lack of meat that yields the greatest benefits. To truly extend your lifespan, you need to consume nutrient dense, whole foods. If you go vegan only to consume products laden with sugar or processed, fast food, you could negate the whole point of veganism for your health by opening the door to other physical ailments.
A balanced vegan diet contains a mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. The best way to stay on top of avoiding convenient fast food is to meal plan. Planning your meals in advance (and prepping ahead if able) can make committing to healthier eating much easier.
Take baby (spinach) steps
If you are considering going vegan, it’s ok to take baby steps. For some, jumping head first into a 100% plant-based diet overnight will work. For others, the shock of eliminating things they have enjoyed for years is hard. It’s A-OK to slowly choose things to eliminate and work your way into a more plant-based diet over time as you please.
Now you’re armed with details on how a plant-based diet can affect lifespan and lead to other health benefits. It can help you fight diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, and much more, which in turn can help you live a longer life. But the twist is, you need to follow the healthy path longterm and practice healthy habits. That is what every vegan blog will tell you to do.