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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Fad Diet Dilemma: Vegan

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian


The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix diet is popping up promising to help you quickly shed unwanted weight.

While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.

So, each month, we’re examining a different diet—diving into the science behind it, the pros, the cons—and letting you decide whether or not it’s worth trying.

Vegan Diet

This month we’re going to take a closer look at the Vegan diet. The term veganism was coined all the way back in 1944, so this eating style has been around for a while. In recent years, it seems as if the diet has grown in popularity.

The basic premise of veganism is to completely eliminate any animal products from your diet. This means no meat products like chicken, turkey, beef, or fish, but it also means no dairy, eggs, butter, cheese, or even honey since it was made by bees.

While there are many different styles of veganism, the rules remain the same throughout, and the research on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet are numerous. Let’s take a closer look to find out if this eating style is right for you.

The Science

Increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein (i.e. beans, nuts, and seeds) in your diet can have tons of benefits to your body. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients like beta-carotenoids, isoflavones, and all kinds of other hard-to-pronounce words that decrease inflammation in your body and have cancer-preventative benefits.

Furthermore, the fiber content of these dietary choices is much higher, and increasing fiber consumption can improve overall gut health as well as reduce blood sugar spikes.

Lastly, meat products, especially red meat, pork, or processed meats like sausage and bacon, are higher in saturated fat which has a tendency to clog your arteries. By eliminating this source of saturated fat in your diet you can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease.

The Pros

A healthy eating plan consists of lots of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, which the vegan diet can be full of! Eating a plant-based diet can increase the amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body is getting and can reduce the risk of certain diseases like stroke, cancer, and heart disease. Additionally, there is some research that shows that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day can actually make you live longer! Moreover, proponents of the vegan diet often note the environmental benefits of following a plant-based diet. If reducing your footprint is important to you, then this eating plan may help you in doing that.

The Cons

When it comes down to it, a vegan diet is very restrictive. Any diet that eliminates entire food groups can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 is the most at-risk nutrient in a vegan diet because it primarily comes from meat and animal products. It can be very tough to intake enough Vitamin B12 with this eating plan, so followers should make sure they are supplementing in some form and look out for common symptoms of a deficiency which include extreme fatigue, weakness and lack of appetite.

Furthermore, following such a restrictive eating plan can seem overwhelming for some and can generate a negative relationship with certain foods. It’s important to understand that in a well-balanced diet, all foods can fit. Lastly, just because you’re not eating meat doesn’t mean that eating a diet high in junk-food is a healthy option. Be wary of replacing animal products with highly-processed foods.

Hopefully, this Vegan overview helps you understand some of the ins and outs of this particularly popular diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what approach to nutrition is right for you and works best for your body. Talking with your doctor and a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you create a healthy eating plan that's effective and safe. Check back next month when we break down the Weight Watchers Diet.

Read more Fad Diet Dilemmas about Keto, Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting, and Whole30.

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