Is the Vegan Diet Healthy in the Long-Term?

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The vegan diet is a subclass of vegetarianism that excludes all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. It is gaining popularity among athletes, health enthusiasts, celebrities, climate change activists as well as animal activists who strongly oppose animal cruelty.  But is it healthy in the long term?

Is the Vegan Diet Healthy in the Long-Term


Some common myths and main concerns about the vegan diet:

I will feel weak …

According to the National Library Of Medicine, in an online article published January 19, 2023, a study aimed to obtain initial findings on the influence of a diet change to veganism on the performance of strength-trained individuals, revealed the following;

“ For this study, a total of 15 omnivorous individuals were recruited. They documented their dietary food intakes over 16 weeks. Every four weeks, the strength performance was tested via a leg press and bench press. In the first 8 weeks, the participants maintained their omnivorous diet, followed by 8 weeks of a vegan dietary phase. In total, 10 subjects participated successfully, and their data were part of the statistical analyses. There was no difference in the absolute and relative strength performance for the leg and bench press after changing to a vegan diet.”

In reality, many people report increased alertness, vitality, and endurance after switching to a vegan diet.


I won't be able to meet my protein requirements on a plant-based diet …

Carbohydrates are the preferred food for the trillions of cells in our body so the “low carb” prescription is inherently problematic. 

The body was designed to get the vast majority of its energy from carbohydrates, and the minority from protein and fat. Plant foods are primarily carbs, with a lesser amount of protein and fat – in line with the design of the body.

Protein, however, isn’t a nutrient that is usually problematic. Most vegetarians and vegans meet or exceed their protein requirements, according to the scientific literature, especially if they’re eating a variety of plant-based proteins. Protein-rich vegan sources include; peas and beans, grains such as quinoa, millet, wild rice, oatmeal, wholewheat pasta, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

The reason that we’ve been taught to obsess over protein is due to intense meat industry lobbying in developed countries to change dietary recommendations in order to prompt more buying of meat products.


Won't I lack vitamin B12?

While many people get their B12 from animal sources like beef and lamb, it’s important to note that these animals in turn get their B12 from their gut bacteria fed by their plant diet.
The same thing happens in humans when subsisting on a balanced vegan diet.

Studies confirm that in healthy human gut microbial communities, bacteria such as Klebsiella and Pseudomonas produce active B12 in the human colon.

If you’re in doubt as to your gut health or have reasons to be concerned about your B12 levels, then a supplement is an easy fix.


Surely I will lack Iron …

According to a Medical News Today Article, medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D., Nutrition — By Lana Barhum — Updated  July 21, 2023, “Numerous vegetables, legumes, and other foods contain a form of iron called nonheme iron, which accounts for the majority of people’s iron intake in the United States. The type of iron in animal products is called heme iron.

Although the body can absorb it more easily, heme iron is not essential to the human diet.

By selecting the right foods, people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet their daily iron requirements without needing to take supplements.” Rich plant-based sources of iron include; lentils, dark leafy greens e.g spinach, beets, molasses, tofu amaranth etc.

Remember to eat Iron foods along with a source of Vitamin C as this will help the body to absorb iron.


Won't I become deficient in Vitamin D?

Meat eaters as well as vegans can become deficient in Vitamin D if they do not get exposed to adequate sunlight on a daily basis. Vitamin D deficiency results in calcium and phosphorus not being readily absorbed. This limits and misshapes bone growth and influences immune function, mood, and muscle recovery.

The best way to solve this is to get adequate sunlight on a daily basis. Notwithstanding that many vegan foods are now fortified with Vitamin D. If you are still in doubt, get your blood tested, and if necessary, take a vegan vitamin D3 supplement.


What about Calcium?

Calcium is an important mineral that is easy to obtain through the vegan diet.

There are various good vegan sources of calcium including; green leafy vegetables like arugula, broccoli, cabbage, okra, tofu, sesame seeds, pulses, dried fruit, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, kale, edamame, oranges and sweet potatoes, just to name a few.


How can I eat for my blood type having eliminated animal foods …

You never did need to and will never need to. Though popularized by the book ‘Eat Right for Your Type', this notion is based on no factual science. Many studies and scientific reviews have completely disproved this theory. Unfortunately, scientific papers tend not to make their way into common discourse as readily as publicized books.

One such study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The committees president summarizes:

“We found that blood type made no difference… While the blood type diet says that a plant-based diet should be better for blood type A and less so for blood type O, it turned out to be beneficial for people of all blood types, and there was no evidence that meaty diets are good for anyone.

Our research shows that all blood types benefit equally from a vegan diet based on the consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains, looking specifically at weight loss and cardiometabolic health in overweight adults.”


What are the benefits of a healthy long-term vegan diet?

Though there is more to consider in order to maintain a healthy vegan diet long-term than an omnivorous diet, if you decide to take it on, studies have shown support for the significant health benefits of a plant-based diet.

According to the American Heart Association, “A recent study showed that eating primarily these types of food, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts, was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases. The researchers concluded that even if you’ve eaten a poor diet for half your life, adding more healthy plant foods as an adult can help reduce your risk.”

An article in the National Library of Medicine states the following, “Plant-based diets may offer an advantage over those that are not plant-based with respect to prevention and management of diabetes. The Adventist Health Studies found that vegetarians have approximately half the risk of developing diabetes as nonvegetarians.” Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013 Spring;17(2):61-6. doi: 10.7812/TPP/12-085. PMID: 23704846; PMCID: PMC3662288.

“There is growing evidence that plant-based diets are associated with benefits like lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and reduced body weight. These improved health measures often translate to less risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Eating more whole, plant-based foods could help lower the risk of some health conditions, and might even help people live longer.”

“Increasingly, scientists are learning that what’s good for our health comes down to what’s good for our microbiomes. Research is revealing that a diet high in fiber seems to nourish the trillions of bacteria living inside our guts that impact our health. A 2019 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition concluded that diet is the most significant factor that influences microbiome composition. Plant-based diets encourage greater microbial diversity — the hallmark of a healthy gut. Lower microbe diversity has been linked to conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.”


A 2016 study published in the proceedings of the Nutrition Society titled ‘The long-term health of vegetarians and vegans’ noted that these diets have a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity, lower risk of IHD. There is also evidence for a lower risk of cancer, diabetes, diverticular disease, and eye cataracts, and while mortality was similar vegetarians and vegans compared favorably.

In addition, these diets have a much more reduced environmental impact as plants, when farmed sustainably, require considerably less water, space, maintenance, and food, filter the air, stabilize the soil, and produce oxygen. The average water footprint per calorie for beef is twenty times larger than cereals and starchy roots.

Ultimately, a long-term vegan diet properly conducted and maintained in line with your nutritional needs can be not only healthy but beneficial.

– Bone health
– Supplements (do it properly)
– The vegan diet can be a healthy eating pattern for individuals who ensure they are meeting
all of their macronutrient and micronutrient needs, such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin
B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.


Plants also offer something that animal foods cannot:

Plants contain a plethora of not only vitamins and minerals but perhaps, most importantly, phytonutrients. Which simply means Plant nutrients or plant chemicals. 

All plants — including fruit, vegetables, beans, and grains — produce phytochemicals, of which there are thousands. We actually don’t know how many. Estimates range from 4000 to 25,000. Of this, only about 150 have been studied. What we do know is that they offer a myriad of benefits to the body. They are part of the plant’s immune system and help protect the plant from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Phytochemicals offer humans some of that same protection as well as modulating various bodily functions.


Key takeaway:

Ultimately, a vegan diet properly balanced and maintained in line with your nutritional needs will prove very healthy to not just you but also beneficial to the environment.

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