More than 7.3 million Americans are vegans. That number equates to roughly 3 percent of thvegan-diete population

What’s a Vegan?

Vegans do not eat any animal products including meat, dairy, eggs or honey.

Like every other diet, eating a vegan diet has its fair share of pros and cons. There is no question that being vegan can be a healthy lifestyle choice, but is it right for everyone? There is no one “right” or “perfect” diet for everyone. It is important to do your research or speak to your doctor or a dietitian before making any drastic diet change.

The Positives

It never hurts to add in extra plant foods: fruits, veggies, as well as whole grains. When deciding to commit to a vegan diet, it is important to know that your intake of vitamins and other nutrients can drastically increase, creating an overall sense of wellbeing.

Eating a vegan dietcan not only reducesaturated fats, but may  increase the amount of fiber you consume. Consuming more fiber improves the digestive tract and may aid in weight loss. Fiber is also extremely filling, so one is less likely to snack between meals when eating a fiber-rich diet.

Choosing a plant-based diet may also benefit the environment. It is believed that the average meat eater consumes about 197 pounds of meat products per year. This may be harmful to the environment.

The Negatives

Being a vegan is as healthy as you make it, but it can be unhealthy as well. Many vegans lack a vital nutrient, Vitamin B-12. This is because the only natural sources of this vitamin are found in animal-based foods. It is highly recommended that regardless of what kind of vegan you identify as, that you take a B-12 supplement daily.

Participating in a vegan lifestyle can also make getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, and zinc more difficult. These are all important nutrients that we need to function. Lack of these nutrients may lead to many health problems including severe fatigue, immune dysfunction, and heart problems.

Know the Facts

Because it usually contains a large amount of fruits and vegetables, a vegan diet can be lower in calories than the standard American diet. For some, this may aid with weight loss. For others, a vegan diet can actually contribute to weight gain due in part to eating low calorie meals that may be unbalanced or arenot as filling as meals including meat.

Lack of fullness after eating a meal can lead to overeating later. In any diet, whether vegan or not, frequent snacking can add calories along with processed sugars and other ingredient that can contribute to weight gain.

What most tend to overlook about processed vegan foods is that ingredients that are substituted can actually make the product less healthy. Additives, chemicals, and sugars are found in items like “vegan pizza” or “vegan ice cream.” Putting the word “vegan” in front of a product does not make it healthy or healthier than regular processed food.

Before making a drastic diet and lifestyle change, consult with your doctor. Veganism can be very positive for some, but it is a challenge and a commitment. It is important to know the difference between being a healthy vegan with a well-balanced diet and eating a highly processed or unbalanced vegan diet.

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