Is going vegan good for you?

Rachael Eden
Dietitian at Bupa UK
15 January 2019
Next review due January 2022

Veganism has become hugely popular in recent times. More than half a million people in UK are now opting for a plant-based, vegan diet – and nearly half of those people made the change in the last year. But what does following a diet free from any animal products mean for your health?

As Veganuary continues, read on for some health pros and cons that you might want to consider if you’re thinking of trying a vegan diet.

What are some potential health benefits of going vegan?

  • Vegan diets tend to include a lot more fruit and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals and high in fibre. Eating more fruit and vegetables can decrease the risk of diseases such as bowel cancer. Vegans also tend to eat more wholegrains, soy and nuts, all of which can help to protect your heart.
  • By avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat, such as red meat and cheese, a vegan diet can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Vegan diets are often lower in calories because of the lack of meat and dairy products. This means a vegan diet can be a good way to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Having a healthy weight decreases your chances of diseases linked with being overweight, such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • A vegan diet is less of a drain on the world’s land, water and energy compared to a meat and dairy diet, making it better for the environment. In the long-run, more people going vegan could contribute to better health for society at large.

What are some potential health risks of going vegan?

  • The British Nutrition Foundation points out that a well-balanced vegan diet should give you the vitamins and minerals you need, but there can be a risk of nutritional deficiencies. This can include a lack of calcium and vitamins B12 and D. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that vegans should take extra care to plan and balance their diet, and may need take nutritional supplements.
  • All of us need a variety of sources of protein in our diet to get the right mix of amino acids, which help to build and repair cells in our bodies. Meat and dairy products offer an easy way to achieve this, while vegans need to plan more carefully to get the balance right. Good sources of protein for vegans can include pulses and beans, cereals, soya products and nuts and seeds.
  • Going vegan doesn’t automatically mean you have a healthy diet. You could be a vegan and still have chips, biscuits and alcohol every day! Whether you’re vegan or not, it’s important to follow the recommended healthy eating guidance for everyone, which includes aiming for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and balancing this with other important food groups.
  • Children and pregnant women need to take extra care when following a vegan diet, to make sure they get enough nutrition. Doctors and dietitians can give guidance in these situations.

Trying out a more plant-based diet

A lot of us could benefit from eating more fruit and vegetables, and less meat and dairy. If you’re inspired to eat a more plant-based diet, there are lots of easy ways that you could try it out.

  • Try going vegan or meat-free for just one day a week to reap some of the positive benefits.
  • Try to limit red meat to once or twice a week and be mindful of quantity; a portion size of meat should be no bigger than the palm of your hand.
  • Limit the amount of processed meats such as bacon and sausages. They can be high in saturated fat and may impact cholesterol levels and salt, potentially increasing blood pressure.
  • Replace red meat with chicken or fish, which are leaner sources of protein, or consider non-meat protein such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.

We have more information about having a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Rachael Eden
Rachael Eden
Dietitian at Bupa UK

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