Photo: Rick Davis / Splash News
When Queen Bey does something, her fans follow – even if that means swearing off meat for 30 days, or better yet, forever. The singer, who has gone vegan in the past, is doing so again in preparation for her long-awaited performance at Coachella this April, which will be her official return to the stage after having twins Rumi and Sir in June 2017. “44 days until Coachella!! Vegan Time!!” she wrote on Instagram in March.
Beyoncé is also challenging her followers to join her in the quest toward a more plant-based diet, specifically by subscribing to her meal-planning service, 22 Days Nutrition, which she and hubby Jay-Z founded alongside trainer Marco Borges back in 2013. If you’re considering following suit, here’s how a vegan diet can benefit you in more ways than making you feel like a queen.
It’s more nutritious
Generally speaking, a plant-based diet is significantly more nutritious than a diet that incorporates meat, dairy, and eggs. It mainly consists of vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and heart-healthy oils, all of which contain healthy doses of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients your body needs. But, Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, registered dietitian and chef, points out that you must eat these nutritious, “whole foods” in order for a vegan diet to quality as healthy. “Technically, a person following a vegan diet could consume a diet full of added sugar or unlimited servings of pasta and bread, for example, and still be a strict vegan, and we know this isn’t necessarily a good thing,” she says. “However, a vegan diet can be very nutritious with careful planning, and many people who are vegan consume a very well-balanced diet.”
It decreases your risk of diseases
One of the most obvious benefits to a plant-based diet is the decreased risk of illness and chronic conditions. This is, in part, due to the reduction of saturated fat from meat intake. “Saturated fat, which is many animal proteins from meat, has been linked to heart disease among other conditions including diabetes,” says Roger Adams, PhD, Houston-based dietitian, nutritionist, and founder of Eat Right Fitness. “Replacing saturated fat from animal sources with healthier, monounsaturated fat from vegetable sources, like the fats found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds, can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.”
It helps with weight maintenance
If Beyoncé’s body is any indication, a vegan diet can work wonders for weight loss. “The reduction of fat in the diet, increase in fiber-rich vegetables, and foods having less calorie density, all will likely lead to weight loss,” says Dr. Adams. “Meats tend to be higher in calories, so naturally a meat-based diet is usually higher in calories than a plant-based one.” You can usually eat more food when following a plant-based diet without having to count caloric intake, since most vegetables and fruits are relatively low in calories.
It makes you feel fuller faster
Many people have a tough time with the concept of going vegan, because they worry that they’ll always feel hungry. But it turns out that the opposite is true. “When consuming refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar will tend to spike and then quickly drop causing you to become hungry soon after consuming those foods,” explains Jeanette Kimszal, RDN. “In contrast, a plant-based diet will help to stabilize your sugar levels after eating, leaving you more satisfied.” Foods that are best at improving your blood sugar levels include green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, she adds.
It’s better for your gut
Eating a large plant-based diet can also improve your microbiome (aka your gut). “Like probiotics are good for the gut, there are certain foods that have the ability to ferment in the large intestine and produce beneficial gut bacteria,” says Kimszal. “Incorporating foods rich in probiotics was shown to strengthen gut lining and prevent pathogenic bacteria from invading the gastrointestinal [GI] tract.”
It decreases your risk of cancer
The cancer rate in the U.S. is undeniably high, with approximately one in four Americans being diagnosed with cancer in his or her lifetime. While many cancers are caused by genetic and environmental factors, we do know that the food you consume can play a role in increasing or decreasing your risk. Research has found that eliminating meat and animal products from the diet may be the ticket to help lower cancer incidences. One 2009 study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than those eating meat. “Fiber and antioxidants are linked to a protective effect against cancer, and plant-based diets contain a myriad of sources of both,” adds Dr. Adams.