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4 Health Benefits Of A Vegan Diet (And A Few Potential Drawbacks)

Determine whether a completely plant-based diet is right for you.

Just a few years ago, mentioning a vegan diet might have elicited an eye roll or two. Many people associate the plant-based diet, which excludes all dairy and animal products, with crunchy granola and Birkenstocks. But not any longer. While only about 2% of Americans identify as vegan, the diet is becoming more popular, with celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Beyoncé claiming to be vegan (well, at least part-time). And there are numerous health reasons why people are becoming more interested in plant-based eating.

Is a vegan diet or a more plant-based diet right for you? Here are some of the science-backed health benefits of veganism, as well as some of the drawbacks.

Loss of Weight

In a study of over 1,100 dieters on a dozen different well-known weight-loss plans, including Atkins and the American Diabetes Association’s, over 18 weeks, the vegan group came out on top for weight loss, losing more than 5 pounds more than meat eaters and more than 2 pounds more than vegetarians who ate eggs and dairy products. More research is needed, but experts say a healthy vegan diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you lose weight. It also contains soluble fiber, which keeps you fuller for longer, allowing you to skip those late-night trips to the refrigerator.

Cardiovascular Health

Veganism may help keep your heart healthy. Several studies have found that when compared to omnivores, vegans have lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension-all of which are serious conditions that can increase your risk of heart disease. It makes sense because plant foods are higher in fiber and contain more heart-healthy fats than animal products (think avocado, nuts, and olives).

Cancer Avoidance

A vegan diet may help lower your risk of developing certain cancers. A 2016 meta-analysis of studies comparing vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters discovered that vegans have a significantly lower overall risk of cancer. According to other research, it may help reduce the risk of prostate and colon cancer in particular.

Live a Longer Life

Veganism may help you live longer. Vegans outlived meat eaters and most other vegetarians in a large study of over 70,000 adults. While the study did not take other lifestyle factors into account, here’s one possible explanation for the extra birthday candles: Vegans avoid red and processed meats, both of which have been linked to cancer and heart disease, in addition to eating heart-healthy foods like nuts, fruits, and fiber.

Potential Cons of Eating Vegan

Going vegan has drawbacks, just like any other diet. According to some research, vegans may be deficient in nutrients, particularly vitamins B12 and D, as well as calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Consult your doctor to determine whether you will require supplements.

There are also practical issues to consider. While there are more vegan options on restaurant menus, dining out can still be difficult. And be prepared to check grocery store food labels for hidden animal ingredients such as anchovies in Worcestershire sauce or honey in salad dressing. Finally, meal planning will most likely require some ingenuity, especially if you live with non-vegans (“You want us to eat what?”).

Still, going vegan can pay off with some careful planning. If you aren’t ready to make a complete commitment, you can always make an effort to eat more plant-based foods or fewer animal products. Consult your doctor, take it slowly, and see if it’s right for you. Remember that it’s not about being vegan in the end—about it’s being healthy and enjoying what you eat.

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