At a time when more than a third of adults in the United States are considered obese, a plant-based, cruelty-free diet known as veganism has been shown to offer multiple health benefits for women.
A vegan diet is void of all animal-based products. That means no meat, including seafood and poultry; no dairy, including milk, cheeses and yogurt; no eggs and no honey. More strict vegans will avoid products made with insects, most of which are food additives and dyes.
The bulk of the diet is fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Eating a balanced amount of these foods may help women maintaining a nutrient rich diet with healthy fats, high in fiber and low in calories.
According to the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, nearly 41 million women were considered obese. Obesity has been associated with a number of diseases affecting women’s health, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer.
A study published May 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed the results of a 74-week clinical trial of people with diabetes trying the vegan diet.
The data offers evidence that a low-fat and balanced vegan diet improved kidney function, weight control, blood sugar control and cholesterol reduction – all key factors in reducing one’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
In comparison to group of 50 participants following a diet based on guidelines offered by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 21 of the 49 vegans in the study reduced the need for diabetes medications.
While the ADA diet also improved glycemic and lipid control in type 2 diabetic patients, only 13 of them could cut down on diabetes medications. The ADA reports that in 2011, 12.6 million or 10.8 percent of all women 20 years and over had been diagnosed with diabetes.
The support of this and other studies of veganism published in various medical journals, paired with the growing number of famous people adopting the diet, veganism is gaining traction. A survey by the non-profit Vegetarian Resource Group in 2009 found that 1 percent of Americans followed a vegan diet, which is about a third of the number of reported vegetarians that year.
Actress Kristen Bell, who was voted the “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), now follows a vegan diet. Bell is quoted by the organization as having said, “I have always been an animal lover. I had a hard time disassociating the animals I cuddled with – dogs and cats, for example – from the animals on my plate, and I never really cared for the taste of meat. I always loved my Brussels sprouts!”
PETA also quotes American Idol winner and country music sensation Carrie Underwood, saying “I do it because I really love animals and (killing animals for meat) just makes me sad.”
Tiffany L. Rider is a journalist working in Southern California who covers multifarious topics from business to women’s health. You can find more of her articles at WomenandOurHealth.com or follow her on Twitter (@WomenAndRHealth).