You may lower your risk of diseaseiStock/Jodi Jacobson
Vegan diets can reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, thanks to phytonutrients, a substance found in fruits and vegetables that provide various kinds of health boosts. “You’ve got that low-calorie intake with that high-nutritional quality,” Dwyer says. “That’s where you’re really optimizing your energy and digestion, and giving your body what it needs to be healthy.” Scientists conducted a literature review of 27 different studies that looked at people following plant-based diets and found that people who ate vegetarian and vegan diets lowered their cholesterol by up to 35 percent. Another literature review discovered that vegans reduced their total cancer risk to about 15 percent and vegetarians decreased their heart disease risk by 25 percent compared to meat eaters.
You may feel fatiguediStock/mattjeacock
Fatigue could be an immediate sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Humans do not naturally produce vitamin B12, so we must rely on animal products for our daily dose. Cows and sheep have bacteria in their stomach to make B12 for them. What’s more, people are less able to absorb vitamin B12 from foods as they get older. Experts recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement, sprinkling a little nutritional yeast on popcorn, or consuming B12-fortified foods like soy milk and vegan breakfast cereal.
Your may suffer from nutrient deficienciesiStock/Anna_Shepulova
In addition to vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin D are some key nutrients in which your body may be deficient because some vitamins and minerals from plants are absorbed less well by the body than versions found in animal products. Also, experts say overdoing kale and spinach or beans and seeds that contain phytic acid can compromise the absorption of these essential nutrients. “Any food in excess, out of moderation, out of balance is not advised,” Dr. Applegate says. “You want variety. That’s what it’s all about.” For example, nutritionists say vitamin C-rich foods help the body absorb three to six times as much iron from plants because it puts iron into a more bioavailable form. Adding salsa to a rice and beans dish or red bell peppers and citrus dressing to a leafy green salad are all ways you can help your body absorb iron better. As for vitamin D, experts either recommend a daily dose of 10 minutes in the sun without sunscreen. But if you are worried about skin cancer, drinking vitamin D-fortified soy milk or eating irradiated mushrooms works just as well.