Can a Vegan Diet Improve Your Health?

Can a Vegan Diet Improve Your Health?

By: Alexis Supan RD • Posted on July 01, 2024

A vegan diet has the potential to improve your health, but if you are interested in going vegan for health reasons, there are a few things to know before you get started.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is a way of eating where you consume no animals, such as meat, poultry or fish, and no animal products such as dairy, eggs, or honey. The main benefit of following a vegan diet is that it will likely decrease the saturated fat and increase the fiber in your diet. On average, people who consume a vegan diet consume 21g of saturated fat and 41g of fiber a day. These vegan diet numbers are significantly better than those of omnivores, who consume an average of 54g of saturated fat and 27g of fiber a day. The lower saturated fat and higher fiber intake of a vegan diet will help support heart, brain, and gut health.

If you are interested in trying a vegan diet to improve your health, it is best to focus specifically on a whole foods, plant-based diet. A whole foods, plant-based diet is a vegan diet which emphasizes the consumption of whole foods such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Unlike a vegan diet, it limits processed vegan foods which can often be high in sodium, sugar or saturated fat.  A good example of the difference in these two diets can be seen when we compare a convenience vegan food, like the Impossible burger, to a homemade black bean burger. While the Impossible burger is vegan, it still has 8g of saturated fat. That’s the same amount that’s in a Burger King patty! The homemade patty has no saturated fat, double the fiber, and less sodium - making it a much more health-conscious choice.

What do I need to know if I start a vegan diet?

  • Those on a vegan diet will most likely need to supplement certain vitamins that tend to be deficient on plant-based diets, including calcium, omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc. It is important to talk to your doctor about the need to supplement when on a vegan diet. Being consistent with taking the recommended vitamins is essential to avoiding any deficiencies.
  • For women it is also important to monitor protein intake while on a vegan diet. Purposefully choosing high protein foods like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains is a must for meeting protein needs. Even with these foods sometimes it is still necessary to use a plant-based protein powder to reach protein goals for the day. If protein goals are not met it will result in a loss of muscle mass and decrease in bone density. Women who are in perimenopause or menopause should be increasingly careful about getting enough protein.

Where do I start?

A vegan diet can be a big lifestyle change.

  1. If you are currently eating animal products start by replacing them with high protein, plant-based options like lentil soup, chickpea pasta and bean burgers a few times a week.
  2. Start looking for plant-based recipes to slowly increase the number of plant-based meals in your diet.
  3. As you transition to fully vegan just be sure to speak with a doctor or dietitian about making sure your nutritional needs are met.

Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!

Alexis Supan RD, MPH 
Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine 
Appointments: (216) 448-4325 
Wellness & Preventive Medicine Department |  Lakewood, Amherst, Euclid and Willoughby Hills OH

Alexis Supan, MPH, RD earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from The Ohio State University and became a dietitian in 2009. She has also earned a Master of Public Health degree from Case Western Reserve University. Alexis enjoys talking about food and nutrition with both patients and colleagues. She is passionate about educating others on how to make realistic and sustainable changes that can help improve their health and quality of life. She currently splits her time between seeing patients individually and speaking to groups on specific health and nutrition concerns or interests they have.

Related Articles