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Your Diet, Plants Only

Are you ready to go vegan? Here are some pros and cons.

With a vegetarian diet, you say goodbye to meat, poultry, and fish. Other animal foods such as dairy and eggs are allowed. Going vegan, on the other hand, is much more restrictive. In addition to cutting out meat and poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and honey are off limits with a vegan diet.

You may choose a vegan diet for health reasons, environmental concerns, or fears of animal cruelty. Whatever your reason, if you’ve thought about going vegan, you’re in good company. But before you make the leap, here are a few pros and cons to consider.

Pro 1: Faster Weight Loss

Going on a vegan diet can lead to weight loss. If you’re overweight and looking for a new diet plan, a vegan diet could be your answer. Studies show that a vegan diet that allows you to eat until you feel full (and no more) may be more effective at weight loss than restricting calories. The reason for weight loss? Plant-based foods are low in calories and high in fiber, which aids weight loss by increasing satiety.

Pro 2: Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Compared to non-vegans, vegans have a 78 percent lower risk of getting diabetes. That’s because a vegan diet lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity. Someone with pre-existing diabetes can also benefit from a vegan diet. Why? Because foods high in fiber work to keep blood sugar in check and aids weight loss.

Pro 3: It’s Good for Your Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. A vegan diet is one way to support a healthy circulatory system. Animal foods are often high in saturated fats, which increase cholesterol levels, block your arteries, and increase your risk of heart disease. A high-fiber diet helps reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If a vegan diet helps you lose weight, that’s another added benefit for your heart.

Con 1: Potential Nutritional Deficiencies

Because animal-based foods are high in certain nutrients that plant-based foods lack, vegans are at an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies. Common deficiencies include vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, iron, zinc, calcium, choline, and omega-3 fatty acids. Slight deficiencies may not be harmful for a healthy adult, but can be dangerous for children or pregnant or nursing women. Of these deficiencies, vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources and is used by the body to make DNA and red blood cells, which are essential for a healthy immune system. To make up for these potential dietary pitfalls, vegans must be careful to eat fortified foods or take supplements.

Con 2: Overdoing “Vegan” Junk Food

A true vegan diet has many potential health benefits. However, it can be tempting to eat high-calorie vegan-friendly foods that negate any benefit offered by going vegan. Vegan cookies, candy, or ice cream don’t contain animal-based ingredients, but they are often high in fat, processed ingredients, added sugar, and calories.

Con 3: Weak Bones

A recent study found that vegans have a 43 percent greater risk of suffering bone fractures, especially in the hip and legs, compared to people who eat meat. This is due to several factors. Vegans consume less calcium and protein and are more likely to have a lower-than-healthy BMI, which increases the risk of bone fractures.

Con 4: Hair Loss

Meat is many people’s primary source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B, nutrients that are essential for hair growth. A diet without meat can lead to a lack in these nutrients if you’re not careful. The result? Potential hair loss.

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