So many people brush off a vegan diet for various reasons, saying “I love meat and cheese too much,” or “I won’t get enough iron and protein.” The term “vegan” in and of itself can even deter people from trying it, as it’s often seen as a New Age term that only die-hard animal lovers would choose to identify with. Although veganism is a lifestyle choice, it’s not this radical club filled with judgemental hippies, which so many people seem to think.
In reality, there are many other reasons to eat a plant-based diet other than just feeling compassion for animals, and anyone can do it! For example, it’s better for the environment, it can be seen as a spiritual practice, it’s often more affordable, and it’s far healthier for the body. In fact, after a group of 19 nurses learned the health benefits of consuming a vegan diet, they decided to eat vegan for 21 days and document the side effects.
What Happened to These Nurses After Being Vegan for 21 Days
After Joanne Evans, MEd, RN, conducted a presentation on the health benefits of adopting a plant-based vegan diet for her nursing colleagues at Virginia’s George Mason University, 19 of them were inspired to try the diet themselves. The nurses decided to collectively eat vegan for 21 days and measure and record how that affected their overall health.
As individuals who work in the health profession, they were intrigued by the dramatic health effects eating plant-based can have. For example, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating vegan reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 62%, of death or a hospitalization from a heart attack by 32%, and of developing all forms of cancer by 18%.
The study concluded by stating, “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
It’s not really surprising that health professionals would at least be open-minded to adopting a vegan diet because they deal with so many people suffering from the very health issues that plant-based diets can avoid. However, some of these health benefits are only seen after a longer period of time, so how much improvement can adopting a vegan diet for 21 days really have? Well, apparently a lot!
After three weeks:
Ten of the nurses lost weight, with an average of 4.4 pounds and a range from 1.5-9 pounds
This isn’t much of a surprise, as people on plant-based diets typically lose weight because, even though they’re eating more volume, they’re getting far more nutrients and eating fewer calories (source). Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to starve yourself on a vegan diet because you actually get full faster and more efficiently because of our nutrient sensors and stretch receptors.
Most of the calories found in a typical North American diet are made up of animal products and processed foods, meaning that most people are severely nutrient and fiber deficient. If your diet doesn’t have enough plant-based foods in it and you’re not getting enough nutrients, your body will continue to feel hungry until those needs are met. Plus, high-fat foods and sweets dull our dopamine reward system, leaving us feeling unsatisfied, even if we’ve just consumed a high-calorie meal. You can read more about this in our CE article here.
Six of the nurses reported increased energy levels
There’s a common misconception that eating vegan will leave you feeling tired, similar to how some people feel when fasting. However, when you really start to understand the relationship your body has with food, versus the relationship it should have, you’ll realize that all food really is, is an energy source. If you want to consume the healthiest foods with the highest vibration, which in turn will provide you with the most amounts of energy, it should be plant-based.
Of course, you could be vegan and experience low energy levels if you’re not getting adequate nutrients. That’s why you need to be mindful of what you’re consuming, and more importantly, how you’re feeling.
74 percent of the nurses (14 out of 19) lowered their cholesterol, with a mean average of 18 mg/dL, and six of them lowered their cholesterol by a shocking 45 to 60 mg/dL
A huge risk factor for heart problems is high blood cholesterol. Saturated fat, primarily found in meat, cheese, poultry, and various other animal products, dramatically influences our blood cholesterol levels. Switching to a plant-based diet can significantly decrease cholesterol levels, so instead of prescribing so many people cholesterol and heart medication, doctors should be focusing on changing their diets.
“Whole-food, plant-based diets reduce blood cholesterol because they tend to be very low in saturated fat and they contain zero cholesterol. Moreover, plant-based diets are high in fibre, which further reduces blood cholesterol levels. Soy has also been shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, for those who choose to include it.”
– Michelle McMacken, MD
Eight of them reported feeling “highly satisfied” with their health, in comparison to only one nurse who reported this prior to the program
It’s sort of alarming that so many of these health professionals felt like they were unsatisfied with their health prior to the challenge. However, you’ve probably seen many overweight doctors or health professionals who don’t “practice what they preach,” or are so overworked that they have trouble implementing it, so perhaps this isn’t as surprising to you.
This begs the question: If we’re feeling like we’re not very satisfied with our health, why do we continuously perpetuate that same feeling by eating poorly and not exercising? There’s always a way to turn our health around, even if we’ve manifested a ton of disease within the body. If we expose our bodies to poor quality products and foods, then of course we will feel this way, too.
After the challenge was finished, the nurses reported eating more fruits and vegetables
You may think that once you finish a diet like this, you’ll binge and eat all of the things that you were restricting yourself from consuming. However, removing foods from our diet often has the opposite effect. For example, after fasting for a prolonged period of time, even if it’s just for a couple of days, you’ll likely crave fruits or vegetables instead of processed foods. This begs the question: How much of our cravings are actually related to hunger, as opposed to food addiction? You can read more about how we’re addicted to animal products and food in our CE article here.
After the program finished, the nurses reported eating less meat and dairy.
If you’re already feeling great, why would you return back to your old way of living? We have evolved as a species, continuously progressing together as a society, as we abandon old belief systems and adopt new ones that can better serve us. What if eating animal products is one of those things? This isn’t just a trend; veganism is a way of living that’s healthier and more sustainable. Perhaps we need to stop looking at this as a diet so we can realize that this isn’t just a fad, but rather a conscious decision that could better humanity.
These nurses weren’t the only health professionals to try adopting a vegan diet after learning about the health benefits, either. More doctors are performing studies and changing their diets in order to inspire their patients to do the same. However, it’s unlikely that this will be adopted by all doctors any time soon, as diet currently plays a very small role in treating patients (after all, there’s no money in recommending dietary changes instead of purchasing pharmaceutical drugs).
Nevertheless, some doctors are challenging the norm, including Kim A. Williams, M.D., a cardiologist and the former President of the American College of Cardiology, who adopted a vegan diet. Dr. Williams often sees patients who are overweight and struggling with hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. To combat these health issues, he advises his patients to eat vegan. His enthusiasm for a planet-based diet comes from his interpretation of medical literature, having cited several studies proving that people who eat vegan live longer than meat eaters and have lower rates of death from heart disease, diabetes, and kidney problems.
No matter what your diet currently looks like, it can’t hurt to add in more vegetables and fruits and at least somewhat decrease your consumption of animal products! Even if you just eat plant-based once a week, that’s still an incredible start, and I’m sure your body would be grateful for that.