How Eating A Vegan Diet Affects The Immune System
Eating has become a complicated task in recent years, mainly due to the widespread availability of information regarding food and how it affects your health. Before the internet age, people were told to eat from a pyramid and include all food groups. The way people are advised to eat now is significantly different.
For example, milk was once a staple in many people’s diets. It was thought that drinking milk every day would keep your bones healthy. However, nowadays, people are opting for plant-based milk because of the plethora of new evidence that suggests milk may not be as good for you as it once was.
The change-up of health information regarding food has paved the way for people to dive deeper into their eating habits and formulate an eating plan that truly benefits their bodies. Out of all the new available diets out there, a vegan diet has gained traction in recent years. But what is a vegan diet, and can what you eat really affect your immunity? Read on to learn how eating a vegan diet affects the immune system and your overall health.
What is a vegan diet?
In the simplest of terms, a vegan diet is a way of eating that excludes all meat, dairy, and animal products. People who stick to a strict vegan diet will not consume anything that comes from an animal. These foods include meat, fish, milk and other dairy products, eggs, gelatin, and honey. This may sound difficult because it excludes two major food groups: meat and dairy. However, many vegans have found a way to use substitutes for anything they don't eat and are entirely happy with their choices.
The only issue with the vegan diet is that if done incorrectly, it can lead to you missing out on some vital nutrients your body needs.
Can your diet have an effect on the strength of your immune system?
The immune system relies heavily on various bodily processes for it to function at its best. Sleep, exercise, and stress levels determine the immune system's health. That said, diet is perhaps the factor most correlated with a healthy or unhealthy immune function. This is because what you eat gets turned into energy for your body. Within that energy are specific nutrients that help various immune processes work smoothly. Without the proper nutrients, your immune system will suffer.
Research shows that the body needs a wide variety of nutrients to function at its best. Some of those nutrients include:
- Amino acids
- Vitamins A, C, and E
- B vitamins
All of these vitamins play their own various roles. For example, zinc and vitamin A aid in cell division. The immune system needs this process to produce and create the appropriate number of immune cells for its response against pathogens.
Vitamin C, on the other hand, helps to keep the immune system strong by encouraging white blood cells to function at their best. If the body doesn't get enough vitamin C, immune cells will be less able to fight off foreign invaders. Amino acids regulate the immune response by regulating immune cell activation and the production of other immune cells known as antibodies and cytokines. These cells are also used in response to a threat.
Does a plant-based diet boost your immune system?
Eating a plant-based diet can help to boost your immune system. However, it depends on the specific foods your diet includes. For example, many vegan diets are not entirely made up of whole foods. Instead, heavily processed meat replacement products and other less healthy foods take center stage. A vegan can eat white bread all day long, but it’s not going to give them the proper nutrients they need to function.
Certain types of junk foods may be classified as vegan. Even so, they contain substances that can harm how well your immune system works when it comes into contact with a foreign invader. The trick to eating vegan and boosting your immune system is to choose the right foods with the proper nutrients.
To boost your immune system as a vegan, you’ll want to focus on whole foods that provide as many nutrients as possible. Nutrients found mainly in animal products can be consumed through supplements. Using the right supplements can help bridge the gap so that you don't deprive your body of what it needs to keep you healthy.
A positive immune benefit of a vegan diet is the high amount of fruits and vegetables vegan people tend to eat. Vegetables and fruits are rich in many immune-boosting nutrients. They also contain high amounts of other substances such as antioxidants that can help keep inflammation at bay and the immune system running at top speed.
There is no one answer as to whether or not a vegan diet is better than any other. What you eat while avoiding animal products determines your immune strength.
Do vegans have a better immune system than vegetarians or meat-eaters?
There is no correct answer as to who has the best immune system among the three main diet types. Too many factors come into play for there to be a definitive answer. As mentioned above, the types of food a person eats – no matter whether they’re vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise – will be the ultimate deciding factor. There are upsides and downsides to all diets, especially those that lack wholefoods or include too many options that are nutritionally lacking.