Can Vegan Diets Help Control Inflammation?

Plant-Based Milk
Plant-Based Milk
Plant-Based Food
Plant-Based Food

The scientific world has been long touting the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet to fight inflammation. A diet that is low in added sugars and saturated fats and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins, is believed to help control inflammatory diseases like arthritis. Due to this, many people who are suffering from inflammatory types of arthritis are now tempted to go vegan and vegetarian, hoping that it will help them manage the symptoms of the disease in a better way. Shared below are some important benefits of vegan diets in controlling arthritis.

What Science Says  

Many studies have been done to find the impact of plant-based food on inflammation and the results of the studies were mixed. As per the results of a 2015 study that was published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, following a vegan diet for 3 weeks reduced the quantity of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the bodies of the 600 participants. CRP is a marker of chronic inflammation.

Another meta-analysis of 17 studies that was published in Public Health Nutrition revealed that following a vegetarian or vegan diet for 2 or more years was linked with low levels of CRP. Out of the 17 studies that were analyzed, 12 compared the results of following a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet against one that included meat. But, three of the studies showed that following a vegetarian diet was associated with high levels of another inflammatory marker, IL-6.  However, as per the author of the study, the findings should be interpreted with caution as more studies are necessary to analyze the association between vegetarian diets and IL-6 levels.

Other Benefits And Pitfalls

There are other benefits of going vegetarian that are not related to inflammation. Vegetarians and vegans are not much likely to be obese when compared to meat-eaters. Moreover, they are found to have low cholesterol and blood sugar levels. However, there are some potential pitfalls too. Vegans are found to have low levels of vitamin D and B12, fatty acids, and calcium. These minerals and vitamins are important to ensure bone health and decreased levels of fatty acids are linked to cardiovascular risks.

Vegans can also have high levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid that is linked to heart problems. Therefore, it is important to supplement these vitamins and minerals if you are planning to go full-time vegan. Vegans should include omega 3 fatty acids to ensure heart health and to fight inflammation, zinc to improve immune response, iron to avoid anemia, selenium for thyroid health, calcium and vitamin D for bone health, and Vitamin B12 for energy.

No matter what the choice of your diet is, you need to consult with your doctor and get the help of a dietician to ensure a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals. This is especially important if you are planning to add supplements to your diet.

The Vegan Way Of Life

By following a vegan diet, you are not only avoiding meat but also avoiding all products that are made by exploiting animals. People planning to switch to vegan or vegetarian diets should add more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains to their diet, instead of having white rice, bread or pasta, that are just empty carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, and other healthy alternatives are rich in phytonutrients and phytochemicals. These include flavonoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants that can help decrease inflammation levels and offer protection to cells and tissues against oxidative damages.

Any plant-based food preparation can benefit from adding healthy oils, as they have anti-inflammatory benefits. For instance, using extra virgin oil in plant-based food preparation can help reduce inflammation and can have an effect similar to that of ibuprofen. However, it is advised to use the oil at low temperatures as high temperatures can damage the beneficial compounds that are present in the oil. These beneficial compounds are called polyphenols. Other than using the oil for baking and frying, you can use it in salad dressings and for tossing the pasta.

If you are planning to switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet to control inflammation, you can start with a meatless day and then build-up to more meals that are meat-free. You may go vegan overnight, but it will be easy for you, both mentally and physically, to do it gradually, as avoiding meat can result in digestive changes, headaches, and cravings.

If you are finding it very difficult to avoid meat completely from your diet, you can make it a side dish, rather than the focus of your diet plan. You can serve it in small quantities or mix it with protein-rich plant-based food items like tempeh, soy, or seitan. If you are unable to have an “all or nothing” attitude about having plant-based diets, you can make certain days of the week or certain meals completely vegan and others mostly plant-based.