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Even though I choose to eat meat, I am happy that vegan diets are popular. As someone who doesn’t eat eggs or milk due to intolerances, this means that when I am on the go or eating out, it is easy to find food that is free of these commonly used animal products. Oftentimes, menus and food labels are marked with a V to make it easy to find vegan or vegetarian options. But is being vegan healthy? Or is it just a fad? And does going vegan to lose weight really work, like some people say?
Is Being Vegan Healthy? Avoiding Animal Products Can Lead to Significant Health Benefits
As we report in “3 Plant-Based Diet Benefits,” eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can be very healthy. Some of the benefits of these diets include lowering cholesterol, getting more fiber, and avoiding excess sodium. This can translate into reduced cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.
But many people also want to know if going to vegan to lose weight will really work for them.
People Who Follow Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Tend to Lose More Weight
Two review studies published in the summer of 2015 found promising evidence for using a vegan or vegetarian diet for weight loss.[1,2]
One study, published in July 2015, reviewed 12 randomized controlled trials involving over 1,000 people. They found that overall, people assigned to vegetarian diets lost 4.5 more pounds, and those assigned to vegan diets lost 5.6 more pounds, than people who didn’t change their diet.
Another systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 trials found even larger weight loss results from following these plant-based diets. They found that those people who were prescribed vegetarian diets (including vegan diets) saw an average reduction in weight of 7.5 pounds.
Vegan and vegetarian diets may be particularly helpful for weight loss because you’re more likely to eat a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These types of foods are naturally good for you and help promote weight loss. They are high in fiber, for example, which has a whole host of health benefits.
Going Vegan or Vegetarian? Make Sure to Plan Well
While being vegan and vegetarian can certainly be a very healthy choice, avoiding animal products can also sometimes make it hard to fill certain nutritional requirements. Make sure to get plenty of calcium, protein, and vitamin B12, which are some of the nutrients that many vegans and vegetarians often lack. Look for calcium-rich greens like Swiss chard, spinach, and collard greens or B12-fortified foods like almond milk or rice milk to fill these gaps.
If necessary, dietary supplementation can help; talk to your doctor about your diet so you can come up with a healthy plan together.
And remember, you don’t necessarily have to go vegan or vegetarian to be healthy, or to lose weight. This is simply one strategy, and it may not be right for you. Animal products, including meat, can certainly be included as part of healthy diet.
GLUTEN-FREE AND VEGAN?
If you have celiac disease, is it more complicated to adopt a vegan eating plan? Our sister publication Gluten Free & More discusses that issue in the post Gluten-Free and Vegan.
But a focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as is done with vegan and vegetarian diets, is certainly a good idea for anyone, regardless of whether or not they eat meat.
Share Your Experience
So, is being vegan healthy? Have you ever tried going vegan to lose weight? Did it work? Share your thoughts on whether or not you think being vegan is healthy in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2015, this article is regularly updated.
 J Gen Intern Med. 2015 Jul 3. [Epub ahead of print]
 J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Jun;115(6):954-69.