Whether you’re a vegetarian and thinking of taking things to the next level of animal-free eating, or a long-time carnivore getting ready to start a completely plant-based diet, going vegan is a major life change. A change that many people are now choosing. Studies show an increase of 350 percent of vegans in the Uk over the last 10 years, a 2016 study shows.
It’s more than just a decision about taking strict control of what goes into your stomach and making sure to not consume any animal-derived products. This decision is a major life change and the health benefits of eating a predominantly plant-based diet are well documented – not to mention the ethical and environmental pros of giving up meat for good.
Before switching over to veganism, you should be aware of the major biological shifts that will likely happen when changing your diet in such a drastic manner.
You May Feel Tired
Due to the absence of red meat in a plant-based diet, vegans (and vegetarians) are typically deficient in vitamin B12 and iron.
This can lead to fatigue, headaches, dizziness and if left untreated, anaemia.
There are also a number of foods which are naturally rich in iron, such as ground linseeds, nuts and spinach.
“Just remember to include at least one serving of iron-rich foods with every meal,” advises dietician Bahee Van de Bor, who specialises in paediatric nutrition.
You’ll Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease
Numerous studies have linked vegan and vegetarian lifestyles with a significantly decreased risk of heart disease. Fatalities from ischemic heart disease—the kind characterized by coronary arteries narrowing or closing completely—has been shown to be 24 percent less prevalent in vegetarians and vegans versus those who regularly eat meat.
Scientists say this is likely due to the inflammation caused by various digestive and circulatory parts as they process meat and animal products. Skipping out on meat and animal products, such as cholesterol-heavy eggs, results in less inflammation. And with less inflammation comes fewer heart problems.
You Might Get Gassy and Go to the Toilet More
Abruptly quitting meat and animal products leaves all of those digestive enzymes in your gut with nothing to do. With all the plant matter-digesting enzymes suddenly extra busy, this could lead to a bacterial imbalance in the stomach, and that manifests with bloating.
Vegans naturally have a much higher fibre intake, explains Professor Ian Rowland, head of nutrition at the University of Reading.
Pulses, whole grains and starchy vegetables are all common staples of a vegan diet and are naturally rich in fibre.
Eating these regularly will naturally improve your digestive system.
You’ll Lose Weight
A 2015 study by Dr Neal Barnard of the George Washington University School of Medicine published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that going vegan generally leads to weight loss—even if you aren’t necessarily looking to do so.
Skipping out on meat, eggs, and milk means you’re significantly cutting down those calories and likely filling your gut with food that is probably healthier for you. However, if you’re constantly loading up on starchy foods such as bread, chips and Oreos (yes, they are vegan), your vegan diet could obviously also cause you to gain weight.
It’s important not to use veganism as an excuse to binge on unhealthy, albeit plant-based, food.
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