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- A vegan diet, or one that excludes animal products, can have a lot of health benefits, but it also comes with risks.
- Switching to an all-plant plan may help you lose weight and improve your gut health, for example, but it may also raise your risk of certain nutrient deficiencies.
- Here’s everything that can happen — both good and bad — to your body if you go vegan.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Your gut microbiome will likely improve.
Research has shown people on a vegan diet tend to have healthier gut microbiomes, or the collection of good bacteria that live in the digestive tract.
This is in part due to the extra fiber vegan eaters can get from a veggie- and whole-grains-rich diet; fiber helps cultivate healthy gut bacteria.
Studies have also suggested that a vegan diet cultivates different types of bacteria than an animal-based diet. Vegans’ bacteria, the findings suggest, can help lower inflammation in the gut and may have other benefits like boosting metabolism.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You might lose weight.
Plant-based diets have long been recommended for weight loss, since vegetables tend to have more nutrients and fewer calories than animal products.
But research has also suggested that going vegan can help overweight people reduce body fat and shed pounds — even if they eat the same number of calories as meat-eaters.
In one study, participants on a vegan diet lost a significant amount of weight compared to those who stuck with their non-vegan eating habits. Nearly two-thirds of the vegans’ weight loss was body fat, researchers found.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may lack B vitamins and iron.
Even if you’re piling your plate with kale, chickpeas, and other nutrient-dense foods at every meal, you may still be missing vitamin B12 and iron, which are both found in meat and essential for making red blood cells and keeping energy levels stable.
However, it’s not impossible to get these nutrients from plant-based sources; algae, mushrooms, and fermented soy products contain B12. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are high in iron.
Supplemental vitamins can also be a convenient way to make sure you’re getting enough of these essential vitamins.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may miss out on necessary calcium.
Calcium, found in dairy, is important for healthy bones and teeth but also good nervous system function. Vegans can get calcium from some legumes, including soybeans, but may also want to consider supplementation.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may feel tired or foggy at first.
A vegan diet also tends to lack iodine and choline, since the two necessary nutrients are found in eggs. Iodine is needed to keep your thyroid healthy, regulating energy, metabolism, and mood. Choline supports your brain, affecting your memory and mood.
But veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes can provide choline, and you can get iodine from fortified (iodized) table salt. Still, supplementation may be a good idea for these nutrients too.
Since plant-based foods can also be low in calories, a vegan diet can lead to fatigue if you don’t eat enough to keep your mental and physical energy up.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Foods may start to taste different.
Red meat is high in a mineral called zinc, which regulates your ability to taste, as well as your immune system’s other important functions, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you’re eating less zinc, you may start to notice things smell or taste differently.
However, it’s possible to get enough zinc on a vegan diet, either from taking a supplement or by getting it from vegetable sources like mushrooms, chickpeas, kidney beans, tofu, kale, and whole grains.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may be at higher risk of stroke.
Although cholesterol can increase the risk of heart problems, there’s also some evidence that it can protect against a stroke.
It’s not yet clear exactly why this may be the case, but other nutrients in animal protein, including B vitamins and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are believed to play a role.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may reduce your risk of some cancers.
A vegan diet also cuts out processed meats, which have increasingly been linked to a range of deadly cancers, include colon, kidney, and stomach cancers.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You might have more energy and even sleep better.
Anyone who’s ever sat down to a huge steak or hefty turkey dinner knows the drowsiness that comes afterward. That’s because animal-based foods can take a lot of energy to digest due to their high protein and fat content.
As a result, if you switch to a plant-based diet, you may feel more energized. That’s especially the case if you’re eating plenty of nuts, legumes, quinoa, and whole grains, which can provide a sustained boost of a energy due to a mix of macronutrients like healthy fats, complex carbs, and proteins.
Theese foods also have a low glycemic index, which keeps your blood sugar stable over time, helping you avoid an energy crash.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Your skin may improve.
Going vegan can improve your complexion for two reasons: Eliminating dairy has been linked to acne and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake adds micronutrients to your diet that are linked to healthy skin.
“I do find that patients who follow a primarily plant-based diet report brighter complexions and less bloating of the face,” dermatologist Papri Sarker previously told Insider.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips It may help relieve symptoms of some autoimmune and inflammation disorders.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when your immune system attacks your body’s own tissues instead of invaders like bacteria, viruses, and allergens. This can cause symptoms such as exhaustion, joint pain, and skin rashes.
Some research has found sensitivities to certain foods like animal products can exacerbate these conditions. One 2015 study, for instance, found a vegan diet could help reduce inflammation, easing some of the side effects of autoimmune disorders.
Tennis star Venus Williams has said a raw, vegan diet mitigated the extreme fatigue caused by a rare autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips You may eat too much sugar and processed foods.
As with any diet, veganism can fall prey to the bad habits of too much processed food and not enough vitamins and other nutrients. Balance is key — most of the benefits of veganism come from eating a lot of fresh product, legumes, and other nutrient-dense plants.
Eating nothing but microwaved noodles, chips, and sweet granola bars, by contrast, is vegan, but still isn’t great for your body since you’re likely to get a lot of sugar and saturated fats without a lot of vitamins.