This article was written by guest contributor Helen Williams. She is a freelance healthcare writer.
If you're unhappy with your weight, and skipping meals hasn't helped, you could try going on a vegan diet. Veganism was once thought of as the domain of animal welfare activists, but its ability to slim the waistline and improve health has caused many to make the switch.
What is a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is a plant based diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds. It excludes all animal products including meat, fish, eggs, cheese and other dairy. The diet typically contains a higher amount of fruit and vegetables than would normally be consumed by someone on a standard diet.
The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Lower BMI, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer
Plant based diets are lower in saturated fats and "bad" cholesterol. People who eat vegan find it easier to stay healthy. They usually enjoy lower blood pressure, lower body mass index, lower rate of type 2 diabetes, lower rate of heart disease, and may have a reduced risk of getting certain types of cancer.
Increased Longevity and Fewer Chronic Diseases
In fact, choosing to go vegan may bring such drastic health benefits that it could help you live longer. A study of over half a million Americans, entitled 'Meat Intake and Mortality' found that those who consumed the most red meat over a 10 year period died prematurely compared with people who ate less, or did not consume read meat at all. One of the ways that eating a vegan diet could boost longevity is by positively influencing genetic make-up so that a person is no longer susceptible to developing heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Althought the results of many of the studies are not 100% conclusive, they still lend support in favor of plant heavy diets.
In addition to reducing the risk of developing certain disease, eating 100% vegan food may help in patients already diagnosed with certain cancers. The Journal of Urology found that a vegan diet combined with moderate exercise, yoga and meditation could slow or halt the progression of prostate cancer. What made the power of plant food so obvious was that none of the men involved had any conventional treatment, radiotherapy or surgery, yet they showed a marked improvement. The comparative group who did not eat a 100% plant based diet and had standard medical treatments did not do as well; in fact, several had to have further radiotherapy because their cancer progressed.
See the Effects Faster
Eliminating dairy products may be more effective than simply being a vegetarian. Dairy is high in saturated fats, which when consumed in large quantities may make weight loss difficult. Nutritionists from the University of South Carolina looked at five different types of diets and found that over-weight participants in a vegan weight loss program, lost the most weight at two and six months compared to other diet types.
Don't Want to Make a Permanent Change? You Don't Have To
Veganism is easy to achieve once you're used to it, particularly if you are already a vegetarian. If you'd like to experience the benefits of a vegan diet without radically changing your whole life, you can try it temporarily until you get the shape you want; it can also be used intermittently as a detox. Results with a low fat, starched based vegan diet could be achieved in as little as seven days as decreases have been noted in cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose in that time. To maintain the benefits, however, you could consider adding more fruit and vegetables to your meals and snacking on fruits instead of junk food.