In a study of more than 1,100 dieters on a dozen different well-known weight-loss plans over 18 weeks—including Atkins and the American Diabetes Association’s—the vegan group came out on top for weight loss, losing, on average, more than 5 pounds more than meat-eaters and more than 2 pounds more than vegetarians who ate eggs and dairy products. More research is needed, but experts say a healthy vegan diet based on plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains does save on calories. Plus, it delivers soluble fiber, which makes you feel full longer—so you can skip those midnight trips to the fridge.
Eating vegan may help keep your heart healthy. Multiple studies have shown that compared to omnivores, vegans typically have lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension—all serious conditions that can up your risk of heart disease. It makes sense, since plant foods are high in fiber and have more heart-healthy fats (think avocado, nuts, olives) than animal products.
Eating a vegan diet may help reduce your risk of certain cancers. A 2016 review of studies comparing vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters found that vegans have a significantly reduced risk of cancer overall. Other research suggests it may help reduce the risk of prostate and colon cancer in particular.
Being a vegan may help you live longer. In a large study of more than 70,000 adults, vegan participants outlived meat-eaters and most other vegetarians. While the study didn’t take into account other lifestyle factors, here’s one possible explanation for the extra birthday candles: in addition to eating heart-healthy foods like nuts, fruits and fiber, vegans avoid red and processed meats, both of which have been linked to cancer and heart disease.