So, you went vegan.
Awesome! You’re saving animals and minimizing your impact on the environment.
And, now that you’re vegan, you’re likely eating more nutritious vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which is great for your health.
Yes, Eating Plant-Based Can Have Huge Health Benefits
People who eat vegan tend to consume less saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and animal protein—which is great because these can have negative effects on health.
Research shows that people who eat vegan have lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol and lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, as well as a lower overall risk of death.
But does that mean you never need to give nutrition a second thought? Contrary to many claims flying around the plant-based community, eating vegan (or even a “whole foods plant-based” diet) is not a total health halo or cure-all.
Vegans Need to Be Diligent About Nutrition, Too!
There is no single healthiest way to eat, and those eating a plant-based diet need to be diligent about nutrition just like everyone else.
Despite all the health benefits listed above, eating plant-based does not provide immunity against all disease or guarantee excellent nutrition or perfect health.
Of course, a well-planned vegan diet can be perfectly healthy for people all throughout the lifecycle. But the truth is, no matter your eating pattern, you still need to be mindful of getting all the nutrients your body needs.
This doesn’t mean you need to track every morsel of food you put in your body (in fact, I don’t recommend that). But it does mean that learning and applying the basics of nutrition and listening to your body will help support your overall well-being and reduce the risk of nutrition-related health issues. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today!
There is Not One “Vegan Diet”
The wonderful thing about being vegan in today’s world is that there are so many delicious vegan food options!
Gone are the days of having to travel far distances to a health food store for soy milk, tofu, and rubbery vegan cheese. There are countless vegan versions of milk, cheese, meat, pizza, ice cream and more at mainstream grocery stores and restaurants in towns all across America.
Vegan living is more accessible than ever—which is great! It’s helping to inspire a wave of better health, sustainability, and compassion all across our world. This is a good thing. And it also means that vegan eating patterns vary more than they ever have. From raw food vegans to self-proclaimed “junk food vegans,” there is a wide spectrum of vegan diets.
Also consider that many other factors, such as where someone lives, their socioeconomic status, their cultural background, and their nutrition knowledge impacts their food choices.
For all of these reasons, we can’t assume anything about anyone’s health or diet (other than that it includes no animal products) just because they are vegan. And it means that simply removing animal products from your life doesn’t give you a free pass on the nutrition front.
Fact: Vegans Tend to be in Better Health than Non-Vegans
Yes, it is true that people who identify as vegan tend to have better nutrient intakes and lower rates of certain diseases than people who do not identify as vegan.
A lot of what we know about how vegans eat comes from studies on people within the Seventh Day Adventist faith. Many Seventh Day Adventists are vegan, some are vegetarian and some consume meat. Because of this dietary spectrum within a community, researchers have been able to study how varying amounts of animal products in one’s diet impacts health.
Research on Seventh Day Adventists has found that…
- They have a lower risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- The less animal products they ate, the lower their risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.
- Vegetarians had a lower mortality risk than non-vegetarians.