More and more of us are trying (and enjoying) vegan food. Of course we all know that eating fruit and veg is good for us, but are there any surprising benefits of having a plant-based diet?
1. You can save money
“One common misconception around veganism is that following a strictly plant-based diet is expensive, but that isn’t the case,” Beskow explains.
“While it’s true that there are some expensive, processed vegan alternatives and ‘fad’ foods out there, it’s very easy to follow a vegan diet and avoid these completely.
“Instead of plant-based versions of sausages or mince, swap out meat in meals for nutrient dense alternatives, such as lentils and sweet potato in curries, or grate whatever vegetables you have in the fridge to make fritters, fried in a little bit of coconut oil.
“Choose versatile ingredients, such as chickpeas, spinach and soft fruits, that are in season where possible. Cooking from scratch is usually far cheaper than eating processed foods. ”
2. It’s good for your skin
“Going vegan may benefit your skin because it encourages more frequent consumption of foods high in antioxidants,” notes Rollason.
“Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent and slow the cell damage caused by free radicals. They are found predominantly in brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, carrots and tomatoes, as well as vegan staples like chia seeds – the tiny nutrient power houses.
“Antioxidants are critical in helping stressed or inflamed skin to promote healing. Some antioxidants may also aid with collagen production, which helps promote a youthful complexion.
“Eliminating dairy products for some people may also have an impact on the skin,” Rollason continues. “Limiting or removing dairy completely has been said anecdotally to improve the skin’s texture and even out skin tone, and is often suggested as a solution for acne and other dermatological complaints, although the jury is still out on whether this is actually beneficial for improving skin health.”
3. It can increase your sex drive
“A number of vegan foods are thought to aid with improving blood circulation – including to the brain, which could have a positive impact on sex drive,” Rollason explains.
“Eating a lot of these circulation-boosting foods, such as fruits, leafy greens, beetroot, cayenne and cacao, will help circulate blood throughout your body, which may help with libido and desired sexual function,” she continues.
“On the flip side, eating a diet high in saturated fat – often found in animal products – can have the opposite effect, as it will increase your level of ‘bad’ cholesterol and negatively impact your blood flowing through the arteries.
“It’s important to remember though that not all vegan diets are created equally. You need to have an energy-boosting vegan diet – filled with plant-based protein – for your sex drive to benefit; filling up on vegan ‘junk food’ won’t have the same effect.”
4. It improves your gut health
“A high intake of animal proteins and saturated fats from dairy and red meat has been found to create an environment in which pathogenic, ‘bad’ bacteria thrives and can upset the gut microbiome,” Rollason explains. “By contrast, consuming a diet focused on plant proteins, complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids frequently, is associated with better beneficial, diverse bacteria growth.
“This means that a plant-based diet can be great for the gut, because plant proteins contain fibre that animal proteins do not, and dietary fibre is critical to good digestion and a happy, healthy gut.
“With gut health increasingly linked to a myriad of health concerns, from immunity to heart health and sleep, there is a real benefit to considering a switch to a more gut-friendly, plant-based diet.”
5. It can make you a more experimental chef
Katy Beskow has been vegan for over a decade and argues this has made her much more creative and inventive in the kitchen: “Without the fall-back of meat or fish as the main component to every meal, it forces you to think outside of the box – with herbs, aromatics and spices becoming key to making plant-based dishes come to life.
“It also encourages you to look at cuisines from across the world for inspiration, with India and the Middle East being particular favourites for their dishes that pack a huge punch when it comes to plant-based flavour. My caramelised onion dahl recipe is inspired by the best dahl I ever had in Mumbai – it’s so rich and creamy, you’d never know it was totally vegan. I love frying the onions in Vita Coco’s coconut oil, to get that depth of flavour.
“Similarly, when it comes to baking, you need to learn how to adapt recipes, which can push you to get creative. Eggs can be replaced by chia seeds as a binding agent, and dairy milk with a plant-based alternative, such as Rude Health’s delicious oat drink.”
Beskow adds: “It’s not about missing out on a vegan diet, but reinventing and recreating all the dishes you’ve previously loved, in a way that’s great for your health, and for the planet too.”
15 Minute Vegan: Fast, modern vegan cooking by Katy Beskow, published by Quadrille Publishing.
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