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Is a vegan diet healthy?

Is a vegan diet healthy?

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A vegan diet consists of vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits and other foods made only from plants. Many argue that we should all be making a conscious effort to reduce consumption of animals and animal products for the sake of our health and for the planet.. Vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and veg, and plant-based food is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle.


The answer depends as much on what you eat as with any other diet. Someone living purely on crisps or chips, for example, would be technically following a vegan diet, but it would in no way be healthy.

Research has shown that the average vegan diet is higher in vitamin C and fibre, and lower in saturated fat than one containing meat, all of which are beneficial. In addition, statistics show that vegans have a lower BMI (height-to-weight ratio) than meat eaters – in other words, they are skinnier.

A diet without any meat or dairy products is likely to contain a lot less saturated fat, which is related to increased cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease. We also know that fat contains more calories per gram than other foods, and so vegans may consume fewer calories as a result. Finally, a vegan diet is generally thought to contain more cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds than a non-vegan diet.


By eliminating food groups from your diet, you are potentially at risk of missing out on certain micronutrients. By avoiding animal and animal products, a vegan diet is at risk of being low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, if you follow a vegan diet it is essential that you get enough of these nutrients through specific vegan food sources – and may even need to take additional supplements.

When selecting dairy-free alternatives, make sure you are choosing the fortified options, e.g. Alpro unsweetened soya milk is a source of calcium, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 (which are found in milk), and also vitamin D. Humous is a good choice – the tahini (sesame seed paste) in the recipe is a good source of calcium, zinc and iron, which are all micronutrients hard to get a hold of on a vegan diet.


Many people see the word vegan on the label and they assume it must be super healthy – wrong. Even if it’s vegan, it’s just as important to look at the ingredients list and the nutrition information to see how much fat, sugar and salt something contains. Coconut oil is hugely popular in vegan baking and its health benefits are shouted about all over the place. However, it’s also worth noting that coconut oil is high in saturated fat. This is not to say you shouldn’t use it or it can’t be healthy in small amounts, but too much of it could be detrimental.

We should all be reducing meat consumption and eating more plant based foods…

According to the “eatwell” plate, you will see that less than 15% of our diet should be made up of protein. Try and moderate intake of both red and white meat and replace with plant-based proteins like beans and pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds, as well as having a few meat-free days a week.

If you do decide to follow a vegan diet, apply all the same principles that you would to any healthy balanced diet: eat plenty of different fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, pulses, and make sure you are aware of the nutrients you may be at risk of developing a deficiency for. For information about a healthy balanced diet, please see Jamie’s ten tips to a healthy lifestyle, and check out our gorgeous collection of healthy recipes.

50+ Plant Based Whole Foods Recipes

What better way to kick off the New Year than with a vegan cleanse! Cleanse the body and mind and follow along on my 30-day whole foods, plant based diet. 50+ recipes for a month of vegan and gluten-free clean eating.

I used to think New Year&rsquos resolutions were a kind of silly. They never turned out too well for me. Within a few days of the new year, my goals were long forgotten and only the faint guilt of broken resolutions lingered. So for years, I ignored the ritual altogether.

More recently, however, I&rsquove started to see the whole new year&rsquos resolutions thing in a new light. I look forward to the fresh start that is symbolized through the changing of calendar years. It&rsquos a renewed chance to evaluate where I am and where I want to go, a chance to shed the unhealthy habits that have dragged me down and reach for the things that give me life. Now what once was an arbitrary calendar change from December 31 to January 1 has become the perfect time to hit the &ldquorefresh&rdquo button of life.

And so with a fresh view and an optimistic outlook, I&rsquom kicking off this year with my annual 30-day vegan cleanse as both a physical and mental way to clean up and start fresh.

Get Ready, Get Set — Go Vegan!

Hummus with raw vegetable batons. &mdash Kat Teutsch

Dine like Bill Clinton does. Check out great recipes for hummus, quinoa, beets, cauliflower, snow peas, beans and more.

As we enter a private room overlooking Manhattan's busy Rockefeller Center, I'm struck with a dazzling kaleidoscope of a dozen delicious dishes: including roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes, spiced and herbed quinoa with green onions, shredded red beets in vinaigrette, garlicky hummus with raw vegetable batons, Asian-inspired snow pea salad, an assortment of fresh roasted nuts, plates of sliced melon and strawberries, and rich, toothsome gigante beans tossed with onions in extra-virgin olive oil.

The luncheon banquet gives a whole new meaning to the dreaded cliché "Eat your vegetables." And this is exactly what Clinton, who is taking on America's obesity epidemic with the same passionate commitment he brought to the presidency, wants.

As I gawk, he smiles. "This looks pretty good, doesn't it?" Clinton asks. It looks better than good. We sit down and with great relish start passing plates back and forth. He favored the quinoa I loved the roasted cauliflower and snow peas and we both liked the beans.

The road to a healthier diet

At age 66, Bill Clinton still travels and works at a pace that completely exhausts staffers who are two or three decades younger. Yet, while coping with heart disease and the usual complaints of aging, he has managed to change his diet drastically, lose more than 30 pounds and keep the weight off. If he can do all that, then maybe there's hope for the rest of us baby boomers — and Americans of all ages — whose eating and exercise habits (and medical expenses) worry him a lot.

I first noticed a change in Clinton's eating habits when we were in Capetown, South Africa, back in July 2010. (I have been covering his extraordinary postpresidential career since 2005, interviewing him frequently and traveling with him across Africa, Europe and the Mideast, as well as the United States.) We were all preparing to dig into a tempting dinner sent up to the former president's suite from a very fine restaurant in the hotel. Sitting down next to him, I glanced at his plate and saw none of the steak, shrimp, fish or chicken on the buffet — just a tangle of green lo mein noodles and a pile of broccoli.

"Is that all you're eating?" I blurted.

"That's right," he replied. "I've stopped eating meat, cheese, milk, even fish. No dairy at all." He smiled and yanked on his waistband. "I've lost more than 20 pounds so far, aiming for about 30 before Chelsea's wedding. And I have so much more energy now! I feel great." (He achieved his ideal weight in time for his daughter's marriage to Marc Mezvinsky on July 31, 2010.)

Clinton traces his decision to change back to the morning in February 2010 when he woke up looking pale and feeling tired. His cardiologist quickly brought him into New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to insert a pair of stents. One of his veins had given out, a frequent complication following the quadruple-bypass surgery he had undergone in 2004.

At a subsequent press conference, Clinton recalls, his doctors tried "to reassure the public that I wasn't on the verge of death, and so they said, you know, this is actually fairly normal." Soon after, he received a "blistering" email from Dean Ornish, M.D., the renowned diet and heart disease expert.

"Yeah, it's normal," wrote Ornish, an old friend, "because fools like you don't eat like you should."

Prodded into action, Clinton started by rereading Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, which urges a strict, low-fat, plant-based regimen, along with two books that were, if possible, even more militantly vegan: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and The China Study, by Cornell biochemist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. (When I suffered a heart attack in late November 2010, Clinton sent me all three books.)

"I just decided that I was the high-risk person, and I didn't want to fool with this anymore. And I wanted to live to be a grandfather," says Clinton. "So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival."

Pass the quinoa

As we talk, Clinton is clearly enjoying every virtuous bite, helping himself to seconds of both the quinoa and the beans. He still has a hearty appetite, but what he loves to eat now is obviously good for him.

It's a testament to his discipline that he pulled off a 180-degree pivot overnight — motivated not only by his own urge to live but by the goals he has set for his foundation. Worried by the increasing prevalence of diet-related disease among Americans of all ages, he and the Clinton Foundation are committed to promoting healthier lifestyles, with what he sees as far-reaching effects on the nation's finances, quality of life and even climate change, which is exacerbated by meat production. "I wanted to do it because this health and wellness work I've been doing is increasingly important to me," he says.

To most Americans of Clinton's generation — especially those, like him, who grew up in places like Arkansas, where barbecued pork and cornmeal-crusted catfish dominate the local cuisine — cutting out meat, fish and dairy would seem a radical deprivation. But Clinton quickly adapted. "The main thing that was hard for me actually — much harder than giving up meat, turkey, chicken and fish — was giving up yogurt and hard cheese," he says. "I love that stuff, but it really made a big difference when I did it."

He no longer craves steaks, but bread is a potential pitfall. "Heavily processed carbs, you really have to control that," he says. When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: "I'll remind you one more time, I've treated a lot of vegans for heart disease."

Clinton's daily menu

These days at the Clinton residence in suburban Chappaqua, New York, house manager Oscar Flores prepares simple meals for Clinton and Hillary, who vowed to start eating healthier after she stopped globe-trotting as President Obama's secretary of state.

For Bill Clinton, breakfast is almost always an almond-milk smoothie, blended with fresh berries, nondairy protein powder and a chunk of ice. Lunch is usually some combo of green salad and beans. He snacks on nuts — "those are good fats" — or hummus with raw vegetables, while dinner often includes quinoa, the Incan super-grain, or sometimes a veggie burger.

The former president has a tip for those who crave starchy food: "You can make whipped cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes, and it's great." Once a week or so, he will have a helping of organic salmon or an omelet made with omega-3-fortified eggs, to maintain iron, zinc and muscle mass.

In addition to his dietary changes, Clinton also walks two or three miles a day, outdoors whenever possible plus, he works out with weights and uses an exercise ball for balance drills. And, of course, he continues to play golf, always walking the course without a cart.

Wherever he goes, Clinton finds signs that vegetarian and vegan alternatives are winning wider acceptance. During a recent visit to South America, the Peruvian president and his wife invited Clinton to dinner. "They made a whole vegan meal for me, and they ate it too." They'd obviously done their homework: The centerpiece, Clinton recalls, was this "unbelievable quinoa dish."

As we finish our hearty lunch, the new Role Model in Chief takes a helping of fruit for dessert. And he offers some final, practical advice to America's struggling yo-yo dieters: For anyone who wants to change, he says, "I would keep a record of everything I ate every day — what, when and how much. That's easy for everybody to do. Just go write it down. And then I'd start looking at it and say, what am I going to give up and what am I going to substitute?"

If you don't have the willpower to do it for yourself, he adds, do it for your loved ones. "A lot of people who are busy and stressed feel that eating and being comfortable is their reward," he says. But particularly for those who, like him, have children, he says "you have a responsibility to try to be as healthy as possible."

Sounding the themes that still drive him every day, Clinton wraps up our meeting with a message, reminding me that "the way we consume food and what we consume" are driving the unsustainable level of health care spending in America. To truly change the conditions that lead to bad habits and poor health, he warns, "we have to demand it by changing the way we live. You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, and that of your family and your country."

Joe Conason is a freelance journalist who writes about politics.

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Benefits of a vegan diet

There are loads! If you’ve decided to take this step and switch to trying veganism, we hope you’re as excited as we are! We don’t look at the vegan diet as being restrictive, but rather look at what it can do for us.

A well-balanced vegan diet can and should provide you with almost all of the essentials a body needs.

Vegan diets can also help with weight-loss, probably as a result of changes to eating lots of unprocessed, whole foods (study 1).

Eating lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes also appears to be an excellent way to lower the chances of heart diseases (study 2). Which is great, obviously.

It also seems that by sticking with a vegan diet that is high in these healthy whole foods then various cancers also have lower risks. Two major studies supporting this can be found here and here. That’s also a winner in our eyes.

A motivating and insightful movie on vegan nutrition came out lately: it’s called Game Changers and available on Netflix. Check it out, even Arnie is on board!

Is a vegan diet healthy? - Recipes

To mark the end of a turbulent year, we are bringing back some of our favourite stories for BBC Future’s “Best of 2020” collection. Discover more of our picks here.

The number of people cutting down on meat and dairy, or cutting these foods from their diets entirely, has been rising over the last decade. The number of vegans in the UK, for example, quadrupled between 2006 and 2018, according to research by The Vegan Society.

One common motivation for shunning steak and stilton and going vegan is the promised health benefits. The vegan diet is generally considered to be higher in fibre and lower in cholesterol, protein, calcium and salt than an omnivorous diet – but there are still misconceptions and concerns around cutting meat, fish, eggs and dairy completely from our diets.

One common concern is whether a vegan diet provides enough vitamin B12. B12 helps prevent nerve damage, and is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy, but not in fruit or vegetables. It's recommended that adults consume 1.5 micrograms of the vitamin per day.

“A B12 deficiency can lead to neurological symptoms such as numbness, and it’s irreversible if the deficiency is present for too long,” says Janet Cade, of the Nutritional Epidemiology Group, School of Food Science and Nutrition.

Read more from The Vegan Factor on BBC Good Food

A recent study involving 48,000 people over 18 years compared the health of meat-eaters, pescatarians – who eat fish and dairy but not meat – and vegetarians, including some vegans. They found that people who eat vegan and vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease, but a higher risk of stroke, possibly partly due to a lack of B12.

The researchers found that those who didn’t eat meat had 10 fewer cases of heart disease and three more strokes per 1,000 people compared with the meat-eaters. Researcher Tammy Tong, nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, says the higher risk of haemorrhagic stroke could be for several reasons.

Haemorrhagic stroke is caused by a bleeding in the brain. While low cholesterol is protective for heart disease and ischemic stroke, there’s some evidence showing that low cholesterol levels (associated with the vegan and vegetarian diet) may be linked to a small risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

How to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet

Eat a vegetable with every meal. Vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, which can help you eat less with greater benefit to your health.

Say no to ultra-processed foods. Most of the foods you should avoid to lose weight are part of traditional vegetarian/vegan diets, which discourage regular intake of processed food.

Get creative in the kitchen. You don’t have to eat beans and rice for every meal. A few simple ingredients can go a long way. Experiment with unfamiliar plant-based ingredients to learn what you like. You might even learn to love cooking!

Eat a variety of foods. Vary your meals and snacks from day to day so you don’t get bored. It’s tempting to veer away from your diet plan when you aren’t satisfied with the foods you are eating.

Never underestimate the power of herbs and spices. If you think a meal without meat is too bland, skip the salt and prepare your produce and other ingredients with herbs and spices to give them flavor.

The Bottom Line: A vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t have to be bland. Fill up on high-fiber foods like vegetables, and try avoiding high-calorie, low-nutrition foods like processed junk food.

Who is the vegan diet right for?

People are unique in terms of what makes them feel well and their comfort with different dietary plans. If you are interested in seeing what effect a vegan diet has on you, do it with the guidance of someone who has experience finding vegan foods that are healthy, satisfying and filled with a sufficient variety of nutrients.

Notice how you feel after 3 weeks on it. Check immune markers such as your white blood cell count and high sensitivity c-reactive protein, as well as cholesterol, to see what impact it has on these markers – for some people the positive effects are astounding.

The ideal vegan diet consists of whole foods, lots of vegetables, and nearly zero refined grains and sweets. If you want to try it, just be sure to plan ahead before making this transition, so you don’t end up reaching for that vegan chocolate brownie instead of a handful of walnuts when you’re hankering for a snack, and keep in mind which nutrients you might need to supplement.

If done this way it can potentially decrease your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers.

Frequently asked Questions

  • Question: What is the best vegan meal?
    Answer:29 Delicious Vegan Dinner Recipes1) Amazing Vegan Mac and Cheese…. 2) Sugar Snap Pea and Carrot Soba Noodles…. 3) Kale, Black Bean and Avocado Burrito Bowl…. 4) Creamy (vegan!) Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage…. 5) Favorite Veggie Burgers…. 6) Vegetable Paella…. 7) Mujadara (Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)… 8) Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls.More items…
  • Question: What should I cook my vegan girlfriend?
    Answer:Check out these 10 finger-licking vegan date night recipes to cook for your date:Chickpea Butternut Tagine…. Potatoes and Porchini Mushroom Ravioli in Broccoli Cream Sauce…. Raw Vegan Enchiladas with Chunky Salsa, Cheesy Sauce, and Spicy Nut Meat…. Very Vegan Mac n’ Cheese…. Easy Veggie Pot Pie.More items…
  • Question: Are potatoes vegan?
    Answer:Q: Can you eat potatoes on a vegan or plant-based diet? A: Heck yes! Potatoes are a plant food and contain absolutely no animal products or protein, so they are a perfect food to include in a vegan or plant-based diet.
  • Question: What can I make for a vegan guest?
    Answer:20 Tips for Hosting a Vegan Guest for DinnerVegan blogs are your friends…. Pick up vegan appetizers…. Find a local bakery that serves vegan pastries…. Serve a kickass salad…. Guacamole and hummus are vegan and delicious…. Whip up a batch of vegan dark chocolate truffles…. Throw a make-your-own pizza party.More items…•May 15, 2015
  • Question: What is a typical vegan meal?
    Answer:On a vegan diet, you can eat foods made from plants, including:Fruits and vegetables.Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils.Nuts and seeds.Breads, rice, and pasta.Dairy alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk.Vegetable oils.
  • Question: Is Jamie Oliver a vegan?
    Answer:Oliver is not completely vegetarian, but in 2018, he confirmed that around 70 percent of his content is meat-free. He still eats meat and fish but understands the importance of a shift towards plant-based foods. He told The Sun, &ldquoI think we all know that eating more vegetables is good for us and the environment.&rdquo

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Prepare Basic Tofu Marinade, marinate tofu slices for at least 20 minutes, and bake tofu with marinade for 20 minutes at 375°F. Coordinate so you bake the tofu with the yams at the end of their baking time.

The recipes in this section are my vegan takes on old favorites.

Quick and easy vegan slow cooking: more than 150 tasty, nourishing recipes that practically make themselves.

She has great recipes and ideas for raw, vegan, and gluten-free living:

Cut the tofu into 1­inch cubes, layer in a heatproof casserole or baking pan, then bake for 20 minutes.

What to eat and drink on the vegan diet

"B12 and vitamin D ," are common nutritional concerns on a vegan diet, says Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, who is a dietitian in private practice, author of "The Plant Powered Diet" and a vegan herself.

"The key to a healthy vegan diet is variety and balance," says Palmer. As a general rule, Palmer suggests the following foods to eat and drink on a vegan diet:

  • Plant proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (in a variety of colors)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fortified plant-based milk
  • Water often throughout the day

Eat in moderation:

  • Plant-based oils, like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil
  • Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits)
  • Coffee and tea
  • Vegan chocolate

Eat less often:

Potato Pancakes

Who needs oil-fried potato pancakes that leave you feeling full and heavy? Just wait until you try this zesty, crunchy, whole-food version that is 100 percent oil-free.

View Recipe

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