By Dr. Rubina Tahir, Co-founder
2.5% of the US population is vegan
Does the idea of a vegan diet interest you? Going vegan is quite appealing given that research supports many health benefits. More and more men, women, children, and even athletes are turning to a vegan diet. Joe Namath, one of the most recognizable names in NFL history, is quoted as saying, “It shows that you don’t need meat to play football,” when he switched to a vegan diet. So if you don’t need meat, what do you need? It just takes a little extra information gathering and recipe creation to ensure a well-balanced plant based diet.
1. You Can Get Enough Protein
Amino acids are like building blocks and form chains together which are called proteins. “Some amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food”, says Lenka Zivkovic, a Philadelphia based vegan chef. Essential amino acids are found in meat, dairy products, eggs, as well as many plant-based foods, such as quinoa. You don’t just have to eat chicken! “Chia seeds are my favorite”, says Lenka, “I use them to make jam, add to shakes, and salads”. A 100 gram serving of Chia seeds contains 17 grams of protein. Generally, patients on a plant-based diet are not at risk for protein deficiency.
2. Unsaturated vs. Saturated
Saturated fats are considered the bad fats. Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. From a scientific standpoint, saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Our body naturally makes LDL, so we need to be mindful of our food choices so we don’t raise this to an unhealthy level. Going vegan is an easy way to control your LDL because you eliminate dairy products and meats which contain large amounts of saturated fats. By reducing the amount of saturated fats from your diet, you’ll improve your health tremendously, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.
3. Should You Go Vegan To Lower Your Blood Pressure?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure is the second greatest public health threat in the US, and about half of all people with hypertension have uncontrolled high blood pressure. Dietary patterns influence health in a major way.
Take this study for example. The British Journal of Nutrition conducted a study with 29 patients who had suffered from essential hypertension for an average of 8 years and were all receiving long-term medication for hypertension. The 29 patients were subject to therapy with vegan food for 1 year. In almost all cases, medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A number of reported symptoms also disappeared. Food for thought. How many days could you commit to going vegan for? It would be a great way to connect with your body and document changes.
4. Foods that fight cancer
Many of us have a friend or family member that has been affected by cancer. Thus, research that supports foods that fight cancer is always a headline to pay attention to. Take for instance one study by Loma Linda University funded by the National Cancer Institute, which reported that vegans have lower rates of cancer than both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
Vegan women had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer.
Vegan men had a 35 percent reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.
(this article was originally featured in Jersey Man Magazine)