Should you go on a vegan diet?

Should you go on a vegan diet?

Have you ever thought about going on a vegan diet?

Research company GlobalData reports that six percent of U.S. consumers now claim to be vegan, up from just one percent in 2014.

“No longer relegated to the fringes of society where for so long it was mocked for being ‘weird’ or ‘extreme’, veganism is going mainstream,” wrote Forbes contributor Katrina Fox back in December.

It’s certainly not the norm, but veganism is predicted to be a growing food trend of 2018, and there’s reason for that. Beyond the impact on sustainability and animal welfare, there is a sizable contingent of physicians and nutritionists who recommend the diet as a way to control weight, cholesterol and blood sugar, while lowering the risk for heart disease.

A 2013 study published in The Permanente Journal found that a plant-based diet was cost-effective, lowered body mass index and blood pressure, reduced the number of medications required to treat chronic diseases and lowered the mortality rates of ischemic heart disease, a condition in which blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle are compromised. Summaries of 16 other studies, published by healthline, showed similar benefits of a plant-based diet.

This diet consists of whole, plant-based foods with no meat, dairy or egg products and a bare minimum of refined and processed foods. It encourages lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and seeds and nuts.

Many physicians are now recommending the diet to patients, particularly those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.

Dr. Andrew Kotis, interventional cardiologist at the Advocate Heart Institute at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., says, “The importance of plant-based dietary changes have become an excellent approach toward the reduction of lipids. One popular plan is the Mediterranean diet, proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events through weight and sodium reduction, thereby lowering blood pressure and saturated fats.”

Note, the Mediterranean diet does encourage lean sources of protein, like fish and poultry, but there are plenty of other sources of protein that work for vegans or vegetarians.

Samantha Barbier, a registered dietitian at Condell says, “Any diet that promotes plant-based eating will have positive health outcomes, as plant-based diets are high in fiber, can aid digestion and prevent constipation.”

When recommending the diet, physicians are encouraging patients to start slowly, allowing the body to adapt to the change, before strictly following the diet.

Barbier emphasizes the importance of “gradually increasing fiber over the course of several weeks, particularly if your original diet is typically low in fiber.” She cautions that if pursuing an increased fiber diet, “it is important to drink plenty of fluids.”

Dr. Kotis adds, “Additional positive lifestyle changes include reducing processed food consumption, smoking cessation and most importantly, increasing physical activity. All have been well supported in the literature influencing improved health and mortality.”

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  1. Christina D'Arco March 7, 2018 at 11:51 am · Reply

    I think it is important to note that there is a difference between vegan and plant-based food. Vegan purely refers to the exclusion of animal products, and really goes beyond just diet to include all aspects of life style. There are vegan “junk foods”; you can eat a “vegan diet” that contains processed and unhealthy foods, and still gain weight. What you describe here is really much more accurately referred to as a plant-based diet. Both have their merits, but I think it is important not to confuse them.

  2. Veganism alone isn’t going to fix obesity. Obese people generally have poor eating and exercise habits. It’s just as easy to eat unhealthy vegan food as it is to eat unhealthy animal-based food. French fries, onion rings, fried pickles and other sorts of fried foods are perfectly vegan, and, moreover, they’re the types of foods obese people are likely to be drawn to if they can’t eat things like chicken or cheese.

    If you want to lose weight and get healthy, diet is certainly part of that, but it doesn’t have to be vegan. Lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs and other animal-based foods can all be a part of a healthy diet.

    If you are going to go vegan and try to be healthy, you need to get very comfortable with beans in order to make up for the animal-based protein you’re not getting. Most people aren’t that comfortable with beans. Nuts are good too, but very high in fat and not a replacement for meat.

  3. I don’t know what makes the author think this is a growing trend. There have recently been all kinds of research reports linking vegan diets to diabetes, and the disease is rampant in India, literally a public health crisis now. Veganism, a religion, leads to high blood sugar over time. Veganism does not provide adequate protein for good health. Meat has over 300 amino acids and each one is needed by the human body in one form or another, while plant-based proteins number in the 30’s and leave the body starving for these essential building blocks.

    Please don’t promote this health menace.

    • Christina D'Arco March 8, 2018 at 12:35 pm · Reply

      Janet Baker, study after study have found links between animal products and cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. That sounds like a health menace to me.

    • Christina D'Arco March 8, 2018 at 1:29 pm · Reply

      Janet, furthermore, I could not find one single thing to suggest veganism causes diabetes or higher blood sugar over time. In fact, when searching for “veganism causes diabetes”, nearly every link indicated that veganism lowers blood sugar and allows those with diabetes to go off their medications.

  4. @ Dienne, any animal based food cannot be healty, neither for humans nor animals. It destroys both parties. Animals are tortured and killed by humans, and human health is destroyed by animal product consumption. Human digestive sytem is designed for processing plant based foods and this could be the answer why plant based eating is so beneficial for our health.
    On the other hand, you don’t have to eat beans to balance the protein intake in your diet. Almost all plant based foods have proteins. It’s just the amount of it differs.
    Go plant-based and you see the great result and positive impact on many aspects of your life, including your mental and physical health. Just to know that you do not destroy anybody’s life is highly rewarding.

  5. Christina D’Arco, I agree with you completely! There are plenty of vegan junk foods out there that do nothing to improve your health. The best diet is one that excludes overly-processed foods and includes whole plant foods such as fruits, veggies, beans, seeds, and whole grains. My favorite teacher is Dr. Greger at He has plenty of studies proving the health benefits of eating a whole foods plant-based diet.

    It’s great to see this article at this site. So many doctors don’t recommend this diet because they don’t think their patients will adhere to it. That might be; however, it’s their responsibility as doctors to recommend the very best for their patients. Study after study has proven this diet is the best for good health.

  6. In my 40’s I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy. I decided to change to vegetarian. I quickly found some of the meat substitutes were loaded with sodium. So like the article says be careful of processed foods. Today I am in my 50’s and almost complete vegan. My heart is back to pumping normal and my blood pressure under control. I also have comfort that I am not contributing to horrors of the slaughter house.

About the Author

Shvetali Thatte
Shvetali Thatte

Shvetali Thatte, a junior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, is a remote Public Affairs and Marketing intern for Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. She spends her time by engaging in clubs and sports at school as well as volunteering at the hospital and nearby tutoring programs. She enjoys spending time with her friends, traveling, and reading. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine with a focus on public health.