Ask any vegan and they’ll spit off a list of health benefits that come along with a vegan diet, but did you know this lifestyle also has several mental health benefits?
Most specifically, a vegan diet has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
It makes sense when you think about it. What you put into your body helps determine your overall health—which, of course, includes mental health.
But how exactly does a vegan diet help with stress? Let’s find out.
Reducing Stress with a Vegan Diet
Stress plays a pivotal role in our mental health and can occur for a variety of reasons. Social, job, or family demands can lead to stress. Other factors include lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression.
A vegan diet can help eliminate and reduce many of the leading causes of stress.
1. You’ll Have Less Anxiety
If you suffer from constant anxiety, a vegan diet has been found to help relieve and reduce anxiety symptoms.
A recent study looked at vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, and omnivores (meat eaters) and found that people who ate a plant-based vegan diet had the lowest anxiety and stress scores out of all of the groups.
Why? One of the top reasons that a vegan diet is linked to lower anxiety and stress is the reduction in arachidonic acid, also known as Omega-6. This fatty acid is only found in meat and animal products and is known to have a negative effect on mental health.
Vegan foods to lower anxiety: chamomile, turmeric, oats, dark chocolate, chia seeds, and blueberries.
2. Your Mood Will Improve
Vegans following a plant-based diet are often in better moods than their omnivore counterparts. Why?
When following a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, people tend to pack a ton of nutrients into their bodies. The more nutrients you consume, the better your mood will be.
Foods rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E are awesome mood boosters, which keep our immune systems healthy and prevent feeling lethargic and run down.
Whether you’re vegan or not, incorporating more nutritious plants and fruits into your diet can help you gain some of these mood-boosting benefits.
Vegan foods to improve your mood: broccoli, pineapple, brussels sprouts, almonds, spinach, and broccoli.
3. You’ll Sleep Better
Most people don’t realize that there’s such a strong link between high stress levels and lack of sleep. They also don’t know that switching your diet can help improve and balance your sleep cycle. How?
When eating a well-balanced vegan diet, most vegans consume more magnesium and calcium than omnivores. Both help to improve and regulate your sleep cycle.
Vegan foods to improve sleep: pumpkin seeds, spinach, avocados, and oats.
4. Your Stress Levels Will Lower
While all three of the above facts will lead to lower stress levels, there’s also another reason a vegan diet excels at helping to lower stress: antioxidants.
The same recent study found that stress levels were reduced in vegans because of increased levels of antioxidants.
Free-radical damage has been shown to increase whenever stress is present. However, the antioxidants that are found in Vitamins A, C, and E have been found to reduce this damage, thus lowering stress levels.
Vegan foods to reduce stress: blueberries, dark chocolate, strawberries, pecans, artichokes, and goji berries.
Are You Saying All Vegans Are Stress-Free?
No, of course not! Vegans still get stressed out. Everyone does. Stress is a part of life. But, stress should not dictate your life or always be present.
Not all vegan diets are the same, either. The type of vegan diet that can help combat stress is a more wholesome, plant-based diet.
This means processed food and mock meats should not be the center of this diet if you want to experience the mental and physical health benefits.
So, To Reduce Stress I Have to Go Vegan?
While going vegan has a ton of health benefits, you don’t have to dramatically transform your diet overnight to lower your stress levels.
While I love my vegan diet and never feel deprived of any of my favorite foods, I also know it’s not a realistic diet for everyone.
But, you can learn from those on a vegan diet.
What you should do to boost your mental health and lower stress levels is add more varied, plant-based foods to your diet, like leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits, nuts, and seeds. Make these foods the star of your meals, allowing meat and dairy to be more secondary.
You can try doing Meatless Mondays to start or simply fill up with a delicious lentil salad or buddha bowl before moving on to your main course.
Smoothies are also a great way to add extra nutrients with mood enhancing magic into your diet.
These small changes can help you transform your mental clarity and reduce the stress in your life.