We have all heard the stories of people who claim that switching to a vegan diet was a life-altering event that improved everything from their health and the way they feel to helping them lose weight and clearing up their skin. While these success stories are certainly inspiring, you may be wondering if adopting a vegan lifestyle can help you achieve the same results.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Far more restrictive than a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet which includes eggs and dairy products while eliminating meat, a vegan diet eschews all food products sourced from animals (even honey!). With that being said, it can be challenging for vegans to get all of the dietary nutrients necessary for optimal health. Take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of a vegan diet below:
A plant-based vegan diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts is said to be one of the best out there because plant foods are nutritional powerhouses that can protect our health. It also contains higher levels of fiber and Vitamin C as well as much less of the saturated fat that can increase cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. A vegan diet has also been linked with a variety of health benefits ranging from a lower risk of cancer to a healthier gut and even decreased symptoms during menopause. Being vegan can lead to weight loss, often due to the increase of eating healthier plant-based dishes rather than meals focused on meat.
Without careful planning, a vegan diet can quickly become unhealthy. Just because something doesn’t contain meat or animal products does not mean it is good for you; after all, even plain potato chips are vegan. There are many processed vegan foods on the market these days, which experts argue go against the whole philosophy that a diet filled with whole, unrefined foods is best. And depending on portion sizes, even nutritious foods like nuts are not great for your waistline. Reading labels is important because you may discover vegan foods can still be loaded with fat, salt and sugar. A vegan diet is naturally low in several essential nutrients including calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamins B12, Vitamin D and zinc, so you will need to find vegan dietary sources for them. You might also need to take supplements so you don’t become deficient.
Choosing to go vegan can be a healthy move if you base your diet on whole, unprocessed foods. As with any healthy eating plan, avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar and junk food will yield the best results. When first starting out, you may want to consult a nutritionist for some guidance or buy a book or two on how to follow a healthy vegan diet.