6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eating Vegan

Written by Alina Petre, MS, RD (NL) on September 23, 2016

Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight. 

However, they also offer an array of additional health benefits.

For starters, a vegan diet may help you maintain a healthy heart.

What’s more, this diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

Here are 6 science-based benefits of vegan diets.

A Vegan Diet Is Richer in Certain Nutrients

If you switch to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, you’ll eliminate meat and animal products.

This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a whole-foods vegan diet, replacements take the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients.

For instance, several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source). 

However, not all vegan diets are created equal.

For instance, poorly planned vegan diets may provide insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine or zinc (5Trusted Source). 

That’s why it’s important to stay away from nutrient-poor, fast-food vegan options. Instead, base your diet around nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods. You may also want to consider supplements like vitamin B12.

It Can Help You Lose Excess weight

An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in the hope of shedding excess weight.

This is perhaps for good reason.

Many observational studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-vegans (6Trusted Source7Trusted Source).

In addition, several randomized controlled studies — the gold standard in scientific research — report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than the diets they are compared to (8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source11Trusted Source12Trusted Source13Trusted Source14Trusted Source15Trusted Source16Trusted Source).

In one study, a vegan diet helped participants lose 9.3 lbs (4.2 kg) more than a control diet over an 18-week study period (9Trusted Source). 

Interestingly, participants on the vegan diet lost more weight than those who followed calorie-restricted diets, even when the vegan groups were allowed to eat until they felt full (10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).

What’s more, a recent small study comparing the weight loss effects of five different diets concluded that vegetarian and vegan diets were just as well-accepted as semi-vegetarian and standard Western diets (17Trusted Source). 

Even when they weren’t following their diets perfectly, the vegetarian and vegan groups still lost slightly more weight than those on a standard Western diet.