Vegan Diet: Pros and Cons (2022)

A vegan diet is a vegetarian eating style, but it's completely devoid of animal products, including eggs, honey, and dairy products. Some vegans choose the diet for health reasons, but others prefer it for ethical reasons, such as avoiding animal cruelty and consuming more sustainable foods.

While there are documented health benefits of a vegan diet, some find the lifestyle challenging to maintain. Consider each of the pros and cons of a vegan diet before you decide if it is the right program for you.

Pros

  • Evidence-based health benefits

  • Encourages mindful eating

  • Wider variety of foods

  • May lead to weight loss

  • Reduced food costs

  • Healthier for the environment

  • No animal impact

Cons

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  • Limited food choices

  • Possible nutrient deficiencies

  • Requires diligence

  • Difficulty dining out

  • Unrealistic expectations

  • Social isolation

Pros

The reason (or reasons) that you choose a vegan eating plan will determine the benefits that are most relevant for you. But advantages to this lifestyle are substantial, regardless of whether you are choosing it for health, environmental, or ethical reasons.

Health Benefits

Since a vegan diet is plant-based, it's easier to load up on healthy whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that many people on regular diets lack. Studies comparing different types of diets have found that vegan eating ranks highest for nutritional quality. A vegan diet is generally high in fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and folate and lower in calories and saturated fats.​

The nutritional quality of a vegan diet leads to more significant health benefits. Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods has been associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases. A large cohort study evaluated vegetarian and vegan diets. Researchers found that both groups experienced a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers, and total mortality. Those who were vegan enjoyed those benefits along with a reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular mortality.

Other studies have confirmed those findings and have also found that plant-based eating may be helpful in the treatment and management of high blood pressure, diverticular disease, and eye cataracts.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a practice that involves paying more attention to our food and increasing sensual awareness and experience of a meal. It requires the eater to be focused intentionally on eating behavior to enjoy the process of eating rather than any specific nutritional outcome (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates). Mindful eating practices are associated with a healthier relationship with food and have been used in some weight-loss interventions.

Vegan eating and mindful eating are different. But because vegan eaters—unlike omnivores—choose to eliminate certain categories of food from their diet, they need to be more selective and conscious about their food choices. In many cases, certain mindful eating practices are built into their meal planning.

For example, if you consume a traditional American diet, it is easy to grab a meal on the go at a fast-food restaurant, convenience mart, or coffee shop. It is easy to consume the meal without being fully aware of the eating process (i.e.chewing, tasting, and feeling a sense of fullness). But on a vegan diet, you may have to plan meals in advance to find foods that you enjoy and that are compliant on the eating plan. Or you may have to make careful selections in the moment. The choosing and planning process requires consideration, focus, and thoughtfulness about your food choices—critical components of mindful eating.

Wider Food Variety

An omnivore diet eliminates no foods. The standard American diet is an omnivore diet. But most people who consume a traditional diet eat a relatively limited number of foods or types of food. For instance, many traditional American dinners include meat, starch (potato or rice), and maybe a vegetable. Dairy products are often used as ingredients, side dishes, or toppings.

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On a vegan diet, however, many traditional foods are not compliant. Therefore, when you begin this diet, you may have to get creative and experiment with foods that are not familiar.

But there is a caveat to this benefit. Many food manufacturers are creating plant-based versions of traditional favorites. For instance, most grocery stores carry vegan-friendly meatless burgers, processed chicken or turkey alternatives, and dairy substitutes that are made from soy or other ingredients. Sometimes, these products are no healthier than their meat/dairy alternative, and relying on them can lead to the same limited food palate like a traditional American diet.

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Possible Weight Loss

Studies have shown that you may lose weight on a vegan diet. Of course, just choosing to go vegan does not cause weight loss to occur. But when you adopt this lifestyle, you eliminate many foods that are high in fat and calories.

Plant-based eating is often associated with losing weight. In 2018, a limited 16-week clinical trial found that a vegan diet proved to be superior to a control diet (that included animal protein) in improving body weight and fat mass. And a broad evidence review published in 2017 found that plant-based diets are an effective tool in the management and prevention of overweight and obesity.

Even if you have problems staying on a weight loss plan, a vegan lifestyle might be the best choice. Studies have also shown that a vegan eating plan may be more effective for weight loss, even if you don't completely stick to the program.

Reduced Food Costs

Choosing a vegan diet may help you to reduce your food costs. But whether or not you gain this benefit depends on what you eat before adopting this eating style and what you choose to eat after.

There is no doubt that meat, seafood, and dairy products are expensive. Some convenience foods can also be pricey. When you remove these foods from your diet, you eliminate the substantial food costs that are associated with them.

Vegan-friendly-grains and legumes are usually budget-friendly. And even though fresh produce and vegan-friendly convenience foods can be expensive, they are likely to cost less overall than a diet rich in animal-based products.

Better for the Environment

Some people choose a vegan diet because they feel it is better for the planet. There is increased concern in the environmental community about the impact of livestock and livestock farming practices on the earth.

By comparison, the farming of vegan-friendly plants requires fewer resources (land and water) than the production of typical western foods such as meat, poultry, and dairy. And cows produce more greenhouses gasses (methane) than plants do, which leads some to believe that eating vegan helps to reduce the risk of global warming.

Severalresearch studieshaveeven suggested that a vegan diet is better for the planet than other diets, including the popular Mediterranean diet.

(Video) The Pros and Cons of Plant Based (Vegan) Diets

No Animal Impact

Because no animals are harmed or killed to produce vegan-friendly foods, many choose this diet because of concerns about animal cruelty.

Onestudyshowed that the most popular reason for choosing a vegan diet is to support the more humane treatment of animals. These vegans may also avoid clothing or other products that are made from animals, poultry, fish, or bees.

Interestingly, another researchstudypublished in the journalAppetitefound that people who chose a vegan diet for ethical reasons were likely to stick to the diet longer than those who follow the program for other reasons.

Cons

Even though a vegan diet may be healthier for you and the planet, this program doesn't work for everyone. Consider these drawbacks.

Limited Food Choices

The vegan diet is often referred to as the most restrictive version of a plant-based diet. Certainly, if you adopt this eating plan, and you currently eat a standard American diet, you can expect to eliminate most foods from your typical weekly menu. For some people, that level of restriction is too severe.

To get a greater sense of the scope of the restriction, remember that not only are animal products eliminated, but any food or product that contains an animal by-product is eliminated. Many traditional home recipes, groceries, and restaurant foods contain at least one animal by-product.

Of course, many vegans will tell you that there is a wealth of food variety in this diet. But because it varies substantially from what you might be used to eating, you may find it to be limiting at first.

Possible Nutritional Deficiencies

A vegan diet can be healthy, but there are a few potential nutritional deficiencies that need to be addressed. Researchers have found that vegan diets are generally lacking in calcium, required for bone formation, muscle contraction, and other essential functions. Vegans can increase their intake by eating calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, pulses, sesame seeds, some dried fruits, and calcium-fortified foods such as plant milks, non-milk yogurt, or cereal with calcium added.

Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin,is another nutrient that may be lacking because it's found primarily in foods of animal origin. Vitamin B-12is needed for healthy nerve function and blood cell production. A deficiency can lead to a condition called pernicious anemia. Although some seaweed, mushrooms, and fermented foods can be a useful source of this essential B-complex vitamin, researchers have found that supplementation may be needed for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Protein can be another issue, but it's one that is easily solved. Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids that your body needs to maintain organs and muscles and important functions. Essential amino acids are those that your body does not make so you need to get them from the foods you eat.

While animal proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, plant proteins are usually missing one or more of those amino acids. So, it's crucial to eat a variety of protein sources to ensure you get all those amino acids you need.

Vegan diets can also be low in vitamin D, though to be fair, so are other diets since most of your vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Two potentially good vegan sources of vitamin D include maitake mushrooms and portobello mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. Fortified nut milks can also help you get vitamin D during the winter months. In some cases, however, a vitamin D supplement may be needed.

A vegan diet is also deficient in two omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid anddocosahexaenoic acid that your body needs for a healthy heart and eyes and brain function. Eating foods such as walnuts, soy, pumpkin, flax,or chia seeds, will help increase your intake of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which your body converts to the other two forms. Still, supplementing with a product such as a micro algae supplement may be needed. Also, if you're pregnant, however, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you get enough omega-3s during your pregnancy.

Lastly, iron is a nutrient of concern in vegan diets. According to the Vegan Society, good plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.

(Video) Pros And Cons Of Vegan Diet

Requires Diligence

Those who follow a vegan diet will need to become accustomed to carefully reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists, especially if they choose to consume processed foods. Foods that you might assume to be free from animal by-products may contain gelatin, whey, casein, honey, or other foods that are non-compliant on a vegan diet.

You'll also need to carefully read nutrition labels to stay healthy on a vegan diet. It is important to choose foods that contain important vitamins and minerals to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Difficulty Dining Out

When shopping for vegan-friendly food, consumers can read product information. But if you eat at someone's home or in a restaurant, you don't have access to an ingredient list. For this reason, dining out can be a challenge for those who choose a vegan diet.

A few restaurants make a note of vegan or vegetarian foods on their menus, but not many. You may be able to create a vegan meal from the salads or side dishes that they already serve. However, you'll need to ask to be sure that no animal products are used in the preparation.

And sometimes, even asking about food isn't helpful. It is not uncommon for well-meaning restaurant staff (or well-intentioned friends and family) to assume that plant-based foods are vegan if they don't contain dairy. But that isn't always the case. Vegetable soup, for example, might be made with broth that used an animal bone for flavoring.

Many vegan experts recommend that when dining at someone's home, bring a recipe that you can enjoy and that you can share with others. And choose restaurants that you know to be vegan-savvy.

Unrealistic Expectations

While consuming a vegan diet is likely to produce health benefits and a healthier weight, it is not a guarantee. For example, if you are trying to slim down, you still need to be mindful of the foods you choose and the amount you eat.

There is an increasing number of heavily processed vegan foods. Many times, these foods are just as unhealthy—containing more fat and calories—as their traditional counterparts.

And health benefits are not a slam dunk either. Astudy published in theJournal of the American College of Cardiology compared a large number of women who ate a healthy vegan diet (includingwhole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, oils, tea and coffee) to those who ate a less healthy vegan food (including juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes, fries, and sweets). Researchers concluded that the healthier vegan diet resulted in a substantially lower risk for heart disease, whereas the less healthyvegan diet was associated with a higher risk.

Social Isolation

People's food choices can come under scrutiny from friends, family, coworkers, and other acquaintances. While veganism is more normalized these days and plant-based foods are more widely available, you might still find that you are questioned and challenged about your reasons for choosing this lifestyle. Additionally, those who don't know how to accommodate your diet may exclude you from social gatherings. Or worse, they may invite you and encourage you to eat foods that are not vegan-friendly.

Some vegan blogs address these issues and provide guidance for those adapting to the eating style. Experts advise that you reach out to other vegans in your community and build a network, while also being patient with those who don't understand your choices.

How Does a Vegan Diet Compare to Other Diets?

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FAQs

What is the downside of a vegan diet? ›

Going vegan side effects sometimes include anemia, disruptions in hormone production, vitamin B12 deficiencies, and depression from a lack of omega-3 fatty acids. That's why it's crucial to include plenty of proteins, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, iodine, zinc, and omega-3s in your diet.

Is a vegan diet healthy or unhealthy? ›

A vegan diet can be healthy as it is typically higher in fiber and lower in cholesterol than an omnivorous diet. As a result, some studies find a vegan diet lowers the risk of heart disease and premature death, helps manage type 2 diabetes and reduces the risk of cancer.

Is being vegan healthy pros and cons? ›

According to the NHS, vegan and vegetarian diets are associated with lower risks of certain health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. They are also linked to lower rates of Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Why do most vegans quit? ›

In the Faunalytics study, the only reason given by a majority of those who had tried and then given up on vegetarian/vegan diets, for originally trialling the diet, was health (58 percent).

What happens in your body when you go vegan? ›

One Year Vegan

A long-term plant-based diet low in salt can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, Medlin states. This is based on a multitude of factors, many of which revolve around what plant-based foods do not contain, such as cholesterol and excess saturated fat.

Do vegans sleep better? ›

A plant-based diet may lead to increased levels of the amino acid tryptophan, leading to increased melatonin and serotonin metabolites, enhancing sleep quality and quantity, and thus reducing cardiovascular risk.

Does going vegan detox your body? ›

Does Your Body Detox When You Go Vegan? It's not so much that your body detoxes when you go vegan, more that you stop putting foods into your body that can throw it out of balance, cause inflammation, oxidative stress and ultimately disease. The vegan diet is not a special 'detox' diet.

What is the healthiest diet in the world? ›

Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and Flexitarian Diets Remain the Best Diets of 2022. All three diets are also highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “The Mediterranean eating plan doesn't have a set calorie range or portion guidelines, which is why it can fit almost anyone's needs.

Do vegans look older? ›

The reality is that you won't look like you're 25 forever – no matter how “clean” or “healthy” or your diet might be. While there are a variety of health benefits associated with following a vegan diet, eating a vegan diet won't make you age faster or slower in and of itself.

What is vegan face? ›

Simply, vegan face is a name for a slack, wasted look that is caused by an absence of protein in your diet. The skin is dry, sallow and flaky. Protein literally props up the face: it makes it look plump (in a good way) and fresh-faced and wakeful.

Do vegans have a lot of gas? ›

Switching to a plant-based diet can cause more flatulence a

It's true that going vegan might lead to an initial gassy phase. That's because plant-based foods are high in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Is vegan better than meat? ›

Fully plant-based eaters score higher on the Healthy Eating Index not because they forgo meat, but rather because they eat more minimally-processed whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Can you live on vegan diet? ›

With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs. If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron, vitamin B12, iodine and selenium.

Should I go back to eating meat? ›

Yes, your body does not lose the ability to digest meat.

No matter how long you've been a vegetarian, you can always go back to eating meat. You may feel a little "heavy" after your first meal with meat, especially if you have a large portion.

What doctors say about vegans? ›

As PCRM says, eating plant-based foods can drastically reduce the chances of developing certain diseases. Some studies suggest that eating whole, vegan foods can dramatically reduce the risk of diabetes. It can also enable diabetics to effectively manage symptoms, and for some, drastically reduce their medication.

How long do people stay vegan? ›

84% of vegetarians/vegans abandon their diet. About a third (34%) of lapsed vegetarians/vegans maintained the diet for three months or less. Slightly more than half (53%) adhered to the diet for less than one year. The only motivation cited by a majority (58%) of former vegetarians/vegans was health.

What are the risk of being vegan? ›

7 dangerous side effects of Vegan diet
  • 01/8​What is a Vegan diet? ...
  • 02/8​Low energy & weight problems. ...
  • 03/8​​Leaky gut issues. ...
  • 04/8​Hormones disruptions. ...
  • 05/8​Lack of iron. ...
  • 06/8​Risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. ...
  • 07/8​Risk of depression. ...
  • 08/8​Risk of developing an eating disorder.
24 Aug 2020

What happens to your stomach when you stop eating meat? ›

There will be gas.

Suddenly increasing your fiber intake (via fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains) may cause you to experience gas and bloating. To offset this unwanted side effect, Glassman recommends that you ease into the diet, phasing out meat and steadily increasing foods that are especially high in fiber.

Do vegans eat rice? ›

So what do vegans eat? grains (pasta, bread, rice, couscous, bulgur, millet, quinoa, and so much more) – it's always best to choose whole grains! legumes, nuts, and seeds (chickpeas, black beans, and other beans are a great source of plant-based proteins!

Why do vegans have good skin? ›

Going vegan can actually benefit your skin because it restricts the intake of dairy and encourages the consumption of foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables.

How do vegans get energy? ›

Fibre-rich foods such as cashew nuts can improve your energy levels by slowing down digestion. Slower digestion doesn't only mean constant energy supply but also consistent blood sugar levels. Brazil nuts are energy dense, rich in fibre, healthy fats, and plant protein.

Do vegans have less energy? ›

One of the most common reasons for fatigue and low energy in vegan, vegetarian and more plant-based diets is because of either low or no consumption of heme iron.

Why does my stomach hurt after vegan? ›

But, bloating, gas, and stomach cramps seem to be especially big problems with new vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians. The culprit is usually dietary fiber—the indigestible plant fibers that, unlike protein or carbohydrates, pass through your digestive system intact.

Do you feel different after going vegan? ›

You'll have more energy.

“You may feel more well-rested and have more energy, thanks to a better night's sleep. Sleep enhancing brain chemicals such as serotonin, tryptophan, and melatonin are found in many vegan foods,” The Nutrition Twins say.

Why do I feel tired on a vegan diet? ›

If you are feeling very tired on your vegan diet it might be because you aren't eating enough protein. This can happen if you are eating too many light foods, like tomatoes, celery, fruit, or cucumbers. You have to branch out from produce into more food options, such as grains, beans, and tofu.

Why is the Japanese diet so healthy? ›

The traditional Japanese diet is largely fresh and unprocessed, with very few refined ingredients and sugar. In fact, it isn't that dissimilar to a traditional Chinese diet, with staples including rice, cooked and pickled vegetables, fish and meat.

Why are Asians so healthy? ›

Nutrition Facts

High in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the Asian diet is also low in saturated and total fat. It is this combination that many health professionals believe protects against many chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. The Asian diet is relatively low in meat and dairy foods.

What is the simplest diet you can live on? ›

In her book "The Scandi Sense Diet," she details a plan that the beauty and health blog Get the Gloss called "the simplest diet in the world." Under the diet, each meal should consist of four handfuls of food — one handful of protein, one of carbohydrates, and two of vegetables — plus a spoonful of fat.

Why do vegan not eat honey? ›

For some vegans, this extends to honey, because it is produced from the labor of bees. Honey-avoiding vegans believe that exploiting the labor of bees and then harvesting their energy source is immoral — and they point out that large-scale beekeeping operations can harm or kill bees.

Why do vegans have saggy skin? ›

Vegans are more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin B12 and iron, which are both commonly found in animal products. Not having an adequate amount of minerals and vitamins can cause some unfortunate symptoms of malnutrition: acne, discoloration, stunted bone growth, saggy skin, and more.

Do vegans get more wrinkles? ›

Vegans likely age slower than meat-eaters on average. Studies show people eating more vegetables get fewer wrinkles. Antioxidants from plant foods also reduce the oxidation and inflammation behind aging. However, vegans eating a diet high in refined carbs may not experience anti-aging benefits.

Do vegans look younger? ›

Do vegans look younger? In general, vegans do not look any younger than people who choose to eat meat and dairy products, though many do live longer, healthier lives. Still, the effects of aging are not only determined by what we eat.

Are vegan children shorter? ›

They were more likely to have lower levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and iron in their diet. Children on vegan diets had about 5 per cent lower bone mineral content and were on average 3cm shorter in height. This is important, as the higher the bone mineral content, the higher the bone mineral density.

What nutrients do vegans struggle to get? ›

The nutritional deficiencies that are most common with vegan and vegetarian diets include:
  • Vitamin B12. This particular vitamin is created by a bacteria and found primarily in animal products such as dairy, meat, insects, and eggs. ...
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin! ...
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ...
  • Zinc. ...
  • Iron.
5 Jul 2018

Is being vegan healthier than vegetarian? ›

The few studies directly comparing vegetarian to vegan diets report that vegans may have a somewhat lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various types of cancer than vegetarians ( 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ).

How do vegans get B12? ›

The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements, such as our very own VEG 1. Vitamin B12, whether in supplements, fortified foods, or animal products, comes from micro-organisms.

How can you get B12 naturally? ›

Sources of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products [5]. In addition, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified nutritional yeasts are readily available sources of vitamin B12 that have high bioavailability [12,13].

Was Albert Einstein vegan? ›

Einstein was only a strict vegetarian for the last couple years of his life, decades after many of his most important scientific breakthroughs. There are countless records of Einstein eating meat, well into adulthood.

Do vegans live longer? ›

Epidemiologic studies consistently show lower disease rates, such as lower incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease, but mortality rates are comparable with rates in vegetarians and occasional meat eaters.

Do vegans eat for breakfast? ›

A vegan breakfast contains all the same nutrients you would find in a dairy, or meat-based breakfast.. Milk, yogurt, cereal, fruit, toast and butter, Danish and many many more items are all on the menu – you just need to source the vegan versions.

Videos

1. LIVE IT: Reduce Risk of Chronic Diseases with a Vegetarian Diet
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5. VEGANS vs MEAT EATERS - Who Will Live Longer? Food / Diet Comparison
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