Every vegetarian and vegan I know strongly defends their choice to abstain from eating meat and meat byproducts. And, with good reason, they obviously chose this lifestyle because they believe doing so will improve their health. Here’s the rundown on the pluses and minuses of becoming a vegan:
Higher intake of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C & E, potassium, magnesium and many phytochemicals (plant based healthy compounds).
Less saturated fat and cholesterol (beneficial? For some, possibly)
Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower total cholesterol and lower blood pressure reducing their risk of heart disease.
In general, vegetarians typically have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Vegan diets increase the risk of some nutrient deficiencies including vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids.
Iron and zinc status may be compromised because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals in a vegan diet (compounds in grains, seeds and legumes as well as some other foods and beverages interfere with the absorption of iron and zinc).
Consume B-12 fortified foods such as rice and soy milk and breakfast cereals (check out the Nutrition Facts panel).
Consume calcium-fortified plant foods such as breakfast cereals, fortified beverages, in addition to natural sources such as green leafy vegetables, tofu and tahini.
Consume vitamin D fortified foods.
Eat omega 3 rich vegetarian foods (which contain the omega 3 fat ALA) including flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, soy products, hemp seed beverages. Also, consider taking EPA and DHA supplements or eating foods and consuming beverages fortified with these two omega 3 fatty acids.
Click here for references.