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Nutrition
Does Being a Vegan Truly Make You Live Longer And Lose More Weight?

Does Being a Vegan Truly Make You Live Longer And Lose More Weight?

I couldn’t imagine living a meat-free life. Between the occasional juicy steak or fresh caught fish grilled to perfection, I just don’t think I could ever give it up.

Sure, I enjoy vegetarian dishes here and there, but I’ve never gone a full 24 hours without consuming meat. For me, eating meat is second nature.

When I plan my meals, I work around the protein first and then I choose my starches and veggies. I’ve always thought that lean meat should be the predominant protein in my diet.

However, on my quest to better nutrition, I’ve learned that there may be a wealth of health benefits to living a vegan lifestyle. Although I don’t plan on going Vegan, I thought they were at least worth sharing with you. So I dove into some research and found out the truth behind the question: does a vegan diet help you live longer?

What is a Vegan Diet?

cooking vegan food For starters, many people assume that a vegan diet is the same thing as being a vegetarian. While I can certainly understand the confusion, the main thing you should keep in mind is that vegans follow a much stricter diet than vegetarians.

Vegetarians do not consume meat, but that doesn’t mean animal products are off limits to them. Some vegetarians still consume dairy, eggs, and animal byproducts like milk and honey.

Vegans definitely don’t consume meat. However, they take it a step further and avoid any foods or products made by animals of any kind at any point. This means that everything a vegan eats comes strictly from the earth.

When it comes to milk, vegans opt for varieties such as almond, rice, or soymilk. As for honey, many vegans substitute this sweet ingredient for pure maple syrup. I’ve come to learn that almost anything made with or by an animal can be replaced with a plant-based substitute.

Even eggs can be replaced in a vegan diet by following recipes that use ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, vinegar and baking soda, or even dairy-free yogurt instead. You can also purchase an egg replacer powder. I definitely didn’t know that existed.

But what about the protein?

How do vegans consume enough protein without meat or dairy?

Getting Enough Protein in a Vegan Diet

chickpea hi protein bowl breadThis is probably the biggest debate among vegans and non-vegan dieters. Many anti-vegan claim that there’s no way to consume enough of the recommended amount of protein each day following strictly plant-based regulations. Yet many staunch vegans disagree.

I was surprised to learn just how many meat-free protein sources are available.

According to Health, the following foods are the best sources of protein for vegans:

  • Green peas
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Tempeh and tofu
  • Edamame
  • Leafy greens
  • Hemp
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame, sunflower, and poppy seeds
  • Seitan
  • Non-dairy milk
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

As you can see, this list is full of plentiful options–my favorite being the last one–which makes me question the whole protein debate. Seems like vegans have lots of protein sources to choose from. When you think about it, non-vegan eaters only rely on meat and dairy. Seems like we may be limiting ourselves, doesn’t it?

Research on Veganism

freash vegetables board knifeDebates aside, I had to see what the research concluded.

First, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out that “vegan diets are usually high in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals and they tend to be lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.”

That gives us some good news and some not-so-good news. While it’s good to have a diet that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the lower amounts of omegas, vitamins, and minerals have me a little concerned.

Next, we have a study published in the US National Library of Medicine. This study measured the triglyceride and cholesterol levels plus the amounts of both high and low density lipoproteins (HDL & LDL) of 76 men and women. Participants were separated into four groups: restricted vegetarians (vegans), omnivores, lacto-vegetarians (vegetarians who ate dairy), and lacto-ovo vegetarians (vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs).

At the end of the study, blood samples were taken to measure the effects of each diet.  According to the report, significantly higher levels of triglycerides, low density lipoproteins, and cholesterol were found in omnivores. But get this: vegans had decreased levels of all three.

That gives the vegan corner a plus one.

The study also discovered that there was no difference in high density lipoprotein levels, however, the ratio of high density lipoproteins to cholesterol was much higher in vegans.

Okay, so the vegan diet scores another point.

With this kind of information, I started to wonder if going vegan might help you live longer.

“Researchers from Loma Linda University in California report that vegetarians outlast meat eaters,” according to an article in TIME. I use this example of vegetarians in this case since vegetarians and vegans are both non-meat eaters.

70,000 participants had a 12% lower risk of death as compared with meat eaters.

I know that 12% may seem low, but we’re talking about having the control to lower our risk of death and live longer. That’s a huge advantage no matter how small the percentage is.

Finally, one more study examined 773 participants who were given a dietary questionnaire that determined what type of diet they typically adhered to. Three groups emerged: vegetarian, non-vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian.

Once again, the vegetarian diet surpassed as the winner. The report stated that the participants who ate a vegetarian diet showed “significantly lower means for all MRFs except HDL and a lower risk of having MetS,” or metabolic syndrome. This condition includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The MRFs in this case were measurements of triglyceride, glucose, blood pressure, and HDL levels, as well as waist circumference.

Vegan Diet for Weight Loss

weight vegetablesReady to slim down in a natural and nutritious way? Consider going vegan. Of course, you’ll want to seek out the recommendation of a medical professional before diving in head first.

A study from the Arnold School of Public Health examined the effects of a vegan diet as compared to a plant-based diet and an omnivorous one. Individuals were randomly selected and assigned vegan, semi-vegetarian with occasional meat, pesco-vegetarian, vegetarian, and omnivorous diets to be studied over the course of six months.

When the trial ended, the vegan dieters lost the highest amount of weight. They lost an average of 4.3%, or 16.5 pounds.

One thing that’s important to note: the vegan diet was high in carbohydrates that rated low on the glycemic index, according to Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, the lead author.

And that’s not the only proof that a vegan diet can aid in weight loss.

According to the Physicians Committee, “Observational studies have shown that vegetarians have a body weight that is, on average, 3 percent to 20 percent lower than that of meat eaters…the prevalence of obesity in vegetarian populations ranges from 0 percent to 6 percent. In general, vegans have a lower body mass index (BMI).”

However, similar to the gluten-free hype, vegan diets can create a false sense of “healthy.”  Just because something is marked vegan does not automatically make it healthy.

Which means you can still gain weight following a vegan diet if you’re not careful about what you’re eating.

Downsides to a Vegan Diet

corn chips vegan Let’s take a look at this list of vegan approved foods from the Huffington Post:

  • Oreos
  • Pillsbury crescent rolls
  • Ritz crackers
  • Kraft creamy Italian salad dressing
  • Doritos (spicy sweet chili flavor)
  • Fritos
  • Unfrosted strawberry Poptarts
  • Sara Lee frozen apple pie
  • Boxed Krispy Kreme glazed apple pie

Not exactly a list I’d call healthy.

You can also find several vegan options in the frozen food section of your grocery store or down the prepackaged foods aisles. But watch out for the ingredients and make sure to pay attention to the nutrition labels. Just like non-vegan options, prepackaged foods are notorious for containing added preservatives and high amounts of sodium in an effort to preserve the food or make “healthy” foods taste more appealing.

This leads me to my first downside. Following a vegan diet may take some extra work. Since meats are off limit, getting your daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals is much harder as a vegan.

As always, the best way to get the full benefits of a vegan diet, or any healthy diet for that matter, is to stick to whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, and grains such as quinoa. Don’t forget that variety is important, too.

The second downside to a vegan lifestyle is the toll the diet takes on vegans’ mental health.

Unfortunately, the vegan diet is not for anyone with a history of depression or any similar mental disorders.

Psychiatrist Emily Deans of Psychology Today examined a German study of 4,000 participants to help understand this. In the study, individuals were divided into groups of completely vegetarian or predominantly vegetarian dieters and non-vegetarians. The vegetarian groups showed the highest prevalence for depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.

These results are still relevant despite the fact that they reflect a vegetarian diet and not a strictly vegan diet. In essence, those who abstained from meat were affected the most mentally.

Although the vegan diet piqued my curiosity, I recently found another way of eating that’s also just as interesting in the realm of alternative, healthy diets. This one combines the principles of Paleo with vegan undertones.

Introducing: the Pegan diet.

Pegan Diet, a Mix Between Paleo & Vegan

pegan paleo vegan diet foodsThe latest hybrid diet coined by Dr. Mark Hyman combines an abundance of fruits and vegetables with small amounts of white meat, eggs, grains and nuts. It’s almost like picking the best foods from both Paleo and vegan worlds.

According to Dr. Hyman, a pegan diet works by overlapping the two diets in the following areas:

  • Consuming an abundance of vegetables and fruits
  • Avoiding processed foods and sugar / choosing low glycemic index foods
  • No chemicals
  • Protein consumption
  • Organic, local ingredients
  • Grass fed meats
  • Quality fats
  • Low mercury fish

The pegan diet claims that small amounts of beans, grains, and eggs are okay, which is contradictory to beliefs held by die-hard Paleo supporters.

Unfortunately, the pegan diet is so new that additional studies and research are still needed to prove its efficacy and safety. But the concept sure sounds promising.

Whether you decide to follow a vegan or a pegan diet, you should always consult your doctor first. You should also know a few other key points to remember when considering going vegan.

A Forewarning

vegan dish radish fork knifeGoing meat-less is a huge step and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Take your time to assess this new menu mentally before you jump in. For most of us, choosing to avoid meat is a radically different approach to how we decide our meals at home or at restaurants. You may be surprised to learn just how limited some of your favorite places actually are when you start picking apart the menu for healthy alternatives.

Here’s my suggestion: start out slow by choosing a few days a week to go completely meatless and see how you feel. I also recommend finding nutritious recipes online from other vegetarians or vegans who have been working out menu options to make sure they don’t miss out on essential vitamins and minerals their bodies need.

If you’re feeling pretty good after a few weeks you can slowly increase the number of consecutive meat-free days until you’re eventually off meat for good.

You may experience an initial sluggish or groggy period as you transition, but rest assured that your body just needs some time to get used to this huge dietary change. This is also why it’s important to check in with your doctor. Feeling too groggy and out of it all the time could be a red flag that you’re not getting adequate nutrition.

I can definitely see why people are drawn to the vegan lifestyle. With weight loss benefits, lower BMIs, and a 12% lower risk of death, it makes perfect sense.

Would I be able to do it?

Never.

I’d be more interested in seeing further scientific studies on the pegan diet since it seems like a nicer balance of vegan and Paleo options.

Do you think you could follow a vegan diet?

 

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31 Comments

  1. Ravi

    June 8, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Following a plant-based diet is much easier if you radically expand your possibilities for what food options are available. Explore meditteraean, ethiopian, south indian, thai and other cuisines that have extensive vegan options. You will find that you can eat anything and everything you crave as a vegan, and get all the nutrition you need.

    New products like Beyond Meat and high quality vegan ice creams and cheese alternatives (along with almond milk!) make it a no-brainer.

    Vegan or not, eat more veggies and you will be happier and healthier. Guaranteed!

    Ravi
    http://Motivated.Life

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 8, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Agreed Ravi! Thanks for the input

      Reply

  2. Eduardo Cornejo

    June 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Hey Mike,

    Check out Frank Medrano, he’s a calisthenics master. Not only is he ripped and super strong, but also a vegan with 5% body-fat.

    I’m on your side when it comes to meat, but he’s definitely an inspiration to vegans! 🙂

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 9, 2015 at 7:01 am

      Hey Eduardo,
      Thanks I’ll have to check out him out.

      Reply

      • Sally

        March 18, 2016 at 2:14 am

        5% body fat also has negative health implications. Vegans don’t have to aim to towards the extreme!

        Reply

  3. Björn

    June 8, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I’d like to add this vital info to your post. People considering going vegetarian/vegan might do well to study up on Vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as the role that animal fat plays in our bodies, particularly, our brains. Lots of references at the end of this post, http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/vegetarians-have-smaller-brains.html#.VXaMl8-qpBc

    Reply

  4. Zarayna

    June 9, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Hello Mike,

    Thank you for this stimulating topic.
    Although, talking as a long time vegetarian (and obviously with a very small brain – thanks Bjorn),I reluctantly suggest that, as we are all different, there is no one dietary regime that suits all.
    I do advocate tolerance! But please buy organic if you can as it is one of the more ethical ways of treating animals.

    BTW, shortly after I became a veggie, more than 40 years ago, I read an article that claimed veggies have much lower IQs than meat eaters. Later I found out that they were testing veggies who were not just lacking in meat but in just about every other major food group as well.

    We do have to be careful with what data we consider: its origin, parameters, time line whose paying for it, what is being included and what excluded.

    Basically, we have to undertake our own investigations, honouring our individuality, make our own mind up and be kinder both to ourselves and to others.

    What do you think?

    Kindest regards.

    Reply

    • Björn

      June 9, 2015 at 12:51 am

      I agree with you on the organic thing Zarayna. As a meat eater, I am not ok with the unethical way in which most of these animals are treated. Also, I don’t think people need to eat meat on a daily basis. That is just not necessary.

      As a rational skeptic, and someone with Crohn’s disease (I can’t eat most of the proteins mentioned in Mike’s article), I have researched this extensively. It’s often difficult to separate the hearsay from the scientific fact. I would much rather listen to what the scientists say on this one though.

      Reply

      • Zarayna

        June 9, 2015 at 1:18 am

        Hello Bjorn,

        So glad that you are being proactive regarding your Crohn’s. Here, in the UK, as I understand it, this condition is poorly treated by the medical profession who have traditionally shown little interest in nutritional approaches.
        If you have good expert support, you can very gently discover what suits you and what doesn’t.
        Many years ago I had to pay privately to have aspects of my gut scientifically analysed as the NHS was unable to get their heads round the effect my gut biome could have on the chronic inflammatory condition I was suffering from etc, etc.
        I won’t witter on but wish you well.
        Please accept my kind regards.

        Reply

        • Björn

          June 9, 2015 at 1:44 am

          Yes, not enough is known about this condition unfortunately, but there are a lot of studies going on about it with good results.
          I’ve unfortunately had to have some of my gut removed. I’m busy doing research on using cannabis oil. A lot of people claim to have had amazing results. Sifting through the “hysterical hippy stuff” to get to the actual facts is not that easy though!

          Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 9, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Hey Zarayna,

      One reason I buy all organic meat is because of how poorly the animals are treated. The other reason, it’s much better for your body. So for people out there who either don’t how badly these animals are being treated, or don’t care, at least consider the fact that organic is much better for you. It’s a selfish way to look at it but if everyone did, organic would be more popular and less animals would be mistreated.

      Reply

  5. Zarayna

    June 9, 2015 at 2:04 am

    Hello again adventurer!

    As with all things, stress just about inflames everything so hope you can remain chilled out as you try to separate the gold from the gravel. Cannabis oil? Groovy man! But who knows? It might suit you or maybe there is something better out there for you to find.

    If I do discover anything useful, or even intriguing, and that looks worth investigating, I’ll let you know, if I may.

    In the meantime, may your days be full of joy.

    Kindest.

    Reply

  6. Zarayna

    June 9, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Yes, having watched the clip can see the attraction.

    Because I am very old and very cautious, I would suggest something you would know already. If you do decide to investigate this further and think it worth trying (and all life is a little experimental, isn’t it?) I would do so with the support of someone entirely trustworthy, preferably medically qualified and take it slowly and minimally to begin with.

    I wish you well with your prospecting. As I say, if I come across anything useful, I’ll get back to you.

    I might have a small brain but I have a big heart!

    Z.

    Reply

  7. Björn

    June 9, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Naturally. 😉
    Haha, at least I made you aware of that issue!

    Have a good day my new friend.

    Reply

  8. Maureen

    June 9, 2015 at 3:13 am

    I believe that there is no better way than to balance everything. I am not saying that vegan diets are not particularly beneficial, because obviously it is especially when it comes to the fiber and vitamins. However, some of the most important nutrients are, by nature, found only in meat and fish products. I think absolute veganism will never work for me, there are just some foods that cannot be substituted I guess. Just balance it. Everything must be balanced.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Maureen,

      Balance is the key to a healthy life. Exercise, eat healthy, well rounded food, and your body will thank you.

      Reply

  9. Linda

    June 9, 2015 at 6:42 am

    For chron’s disease, I know MANY people that were helped with the Breaking the Vicious Cycle diet from Elaine Gottschal. Here’s a link to the book http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Vicious-Cycle-Intestinal-Through/dp/0969276818

    There is a tins of support our there for this diet.

    Reply

  10. Jenn

    June 11, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I toyed with a Vegan Before 6 (VB6) diet at one point, but am too much in love with dairy and eggs. I was a vegetarian for almost a year, but found it hard to keep it up with a meat-loving family. Plus, I love meat and it is quite hard to find good, quick options for vegetarian foods when you don’t love raw veggies and live in the Midwest, where produce is not terribly tasty during the winter months.
    Great break-down of the differences, and intro to Pegan.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 11, 2015 at 11:34 am

      It’s hard to eat a certain way when everyone around you eats differently. Thanks for the feedback Jenn 🙂

      Reply

  11. Tony

    July 15, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    The section about the impact of a vegan / vegetarian diet on one’s mental health seems to be a little misleading. In the linked study it states “the adoption of the vegetarian diet tends to follow the onset of mental disorders”. If we’re talking about depression or anxiety disorders then I think that makes absolute sense, but it does not conclude in any way that the person’s diet is the cause. Conversely, it would seem to me that the two are correlated but not directly related to each other. If we consider the reasons behind why people choose to become vegan or vegetarian it makes sense: vegans and vegetarians CARE about things. Most of the very reasons why one would become vegan or vegetarian are not strictly diet related. Most find the act of eating meat disgusting – morally, physically, or both – and therefor choose to refrain. Of course vegans are depressed and anxious, but that has nothing to do with their diet! If anything, the diet is a result of their depression or anxiety, not vice versa. The meat industry is horrendous and destroying our planet. That sucks.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      July 16, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Tony, you bring up some great in-depth post. I think there should be a distinction made that is less causal and more exploratory — there needs to be more research done in the field. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

      Reply

  12. David Taylor

    May 2, 2016 at 11:23 am

    A fairly informative article but some of the points were misleading, especially the one about vegan diets not being recommended for folk with mental health issues.

    To say vegans are depressed and anxious is not accurate. Vegans are some of the most mentally stable, healthy individuals around and as they are caring and compassionate and can understand why they are being labelled by certain flawed comments as many omnivores like to criticise and ridicule vegans for their different choice of diet. This could be because the habitual eating of animals desensitises a person and makes them overlook the cruelty aspect of flesh and dairy product eating or perhaps other reason(s).

    As mentioned by Tony in his comment, the meat industry is a horror business and if you saw what these innocent gentle creatures are being subjected to, you might reconsider. It takes a determined self-disciplined individual to completely give up the products of suffering and stick to that.

    Just been over 6 months on this diet and feel so energised and clear with fewer colds and flu. Also was able to stop taking so many strong painkillers (Codeine Phosphate, Tramadol, Ibufrofen) for an spinal injury and now, almost off these now.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      May 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      David, Glad you found it helpful. I think the bottom line is making sure you figure out how and when to indulge in certain foods. You should ideally find the best source meats as well.

      Reply

  13. Savanna Frederick

    May 7, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Horrible message in veganism. Could have said “hey I know you’re here for animal rights but I love a big old juicy piece of rotting flesh” you know some actual facts about modern farming techniques? Cows are raped to produce mass quantities of milk at a consistent pace through a process called “artificial insemination” male chicks are grinder up because they have no use and cannot produce eggs. Male cows are also beaten to death because they cannot produce milk. Please do not assume meat industry is purposeful. Our bodies are naturally herbivorous and its selfish.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      June 12, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Like it or not, we are carnivores. We can eat meat and pass it up so we do not need to feel guilty about eating animals. Thanks Savanna for sharing your opinion, I truly respect your point of view as well.

      Reply

  14. Matthew

    July 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I went vegan as soon as school ended. I stopped eating meat eggs and dairy overnight and I have only had like four cups of wheat products in a month.

    Reply

    • Mike Kamo

      July 6, 2016 at 4:29 am

      MATTHEW, thanks for sharing additional information. Keep posting!

      Reply

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About Mike Kamo



Hi, I’m Mike. One of my biggest passions in life is nutrition and after being certified, I wanted to create a site where I could help readers live a healthy and nutritious life. I believe we control our destiny and we can choose to live a long and healthy life by eating right and treating our bodies with respect.

Let me show you how our simple and efficient online fitness coaching has made it easy for thousands of women to lose weight, and how you can too!


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