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Is a Vegan Diet Healthy & Safe?

With all the different diets to choose from, it is hard to know which one is safe and healthy to follow. Vegan diets can be fairly restrictive; however, with a little creativity and planning, vegans enjoy a wide variety of foods. A vegan diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Experienced vegans tell those considering a vegan diet to convert to an animal-free life gradually. A gradual conversion may be easier and prove more successful.

Description

Vegans do not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, fish or poultry. They do not use or wear items made of animal products such as leather, fur, silk or wool, and they do not use soap made from animal products. People choose to become vegan for health, environmental or ethical reasons. Some vegans claim that eating eggs and dairy products supports the meat industry, because after the animals are done laying eggs and producing milk, they are slaughtered and sold. Vegans must eat a variety of foods to ensure that their daily diet contains the necessary nutrients. A vegan diet should include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

Benefits

Vegans usually have a lower body mass index and blood pressure. Many vegan diets are higher in fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamin E and vitamin C. Because vegans eat a diet high in plant foods, including vegetables and fruits, many show lower levels of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and some cancers. In a study conducted by the American Diabetes Association, people who followed either a low-fat vegan diet or the ADA-nutrition recommendations, improved their blood glucose levels, lost weight and lowered lipid levels and cholesterol.

Risks

The more restricting a diet is, the harder it is to get the proper nutrition, especially vitamin B-12, calcium, zinc, vitamin D and iron. Most people get vitamin B-12 from animal products, but plants do not contain vitamin B-12. A vegan must eat foods fortified with vitamin B-12 to prevent symptoms of dementia, lack of coordination, forgetfulness, nerve dysfunction and problems with coordination and balance. Vegans restrict milk products and must get calcium from eating leafy dark-green vegetables, fortified soy products and fortified orange and fruit juices. People deficient in calcium have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis. People who switch to a vegan diet quickly may have short-term problems of bloating, stomach discomfort and gas due to the high-fiber content of the diet.

Special Needs

When pregnant, a woman’s recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals increases, and the American Dietetic Association states that a well-planned vegan diet can easily meet these needs. It is also important to eat enough calories to gain the appropriate amount of weight. A woman also must eat enough protein for proper growth and development of her baby. A woman on a vegan diet may need to adjust her diet to ensure that her baby’s needs are met. The American Diabetes Association states that children can be vegans, although careful planning is necessary to ensure that children get the proper nutrients to maintain growth and development.

Considerations

Consult your doctor to assess whether a vegan diet is something you should pursue. A dietitian can also help you to develop a proper meal plan based on daily recommended amounts of foods. A vegan diet takes extensive planning to ensure that appropriate and necessary nutrients are eaten.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.