What are the long-term effects of a vegan diet?

First, it depends on what type of vegan diet you are eating, what results you will see. A junk food vegan diet is not healthy, and while you will earn the good karma of grateful cows, it won’t do much for your physical health.

A whole-foods based vegan diet, that is high in vegetables, (especially green leafy ones), fruits, legumes and whole grains will lead to improved health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and weight loss.   

I highly recommend watching the movie Forks over Knives for some powerful examples of lives that were changed by switching to a whole-foods plant based diet.
The long term effects of any diet are determined by the quality of the food that you eat. The vegan diet is no different.

Some vegans may fall into a pattern of eating a lot of processed "mock meats," crackers, chips, fried foods and sweets. While these options can be technically vegan, they are lacking many of the vital nutrients your body needs to function at it's peak.

On the other hand, a properly balanced and prepared vegan meal plan can be one of the healthiest options around! With a plant based diet, you will be getting a substantial dose of fiber, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients. To be a successful vegan, education and preparation are key.
  • Include a protein rich food in each meal. This could be beans, nuts or nut butter, seeds, tofu, tempeh, sprouted grain bread or a vegan protein supplement (pea, hemp, rice, soy).
  • Fill up on leafy greens. Ounce for ounce, greens like spinach, collards and kale are a great source of protein (surprise!), calcium and phytonutrients.
  • Focus on whole grains. For example, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oats, buckwheat and barley are all whole grains. These nutritional powerhouses have not been processed and therefore, have not been stripped of their healthy, outer shell that is loaded with essential fatty acids, protein and fiber.
  • Eat healthy fats. Don't shy away from unsaturated oils like olive and canola, nuts, olives or avocados. Plant based diets can be very low in calories and healthy fats can be a way to keep you energized and properly fueled.
As you can see, a well planned vegan diet is loaded with disease fighting foods, making the long term effects positively positive!
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than non-vegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals.

Research studies have consistently proven that vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels than meat eaters, they have lower blood pressure. A vegetarian diet was proven to decrease risk for heart disease and in fact reverse heart disease. Following a vegetarian diet also helps prevent cancer and with diabetes control/management.
Alexandra Jamieson
Nutrition & Dietetics
The long term effects of a vegan diet depend on the person and the quality of their food. It is possible to be a "junk food vegan" and get by on processed convenience foods.

However, the results of a well-planned, unrefined vegan diet can be amazing and are well documented. 

Many people have switched to a vegan diet rich in fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, nuts and seeds, low in sugar and salt, and have been able to halt and reverse their diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

This diet is also a great way to lose weight as it is generally higher in fiber, making the plant-based diner feel full faster, and lower in calories.

A vegan diet is naturally cholesterol free, and several of my clients have been able to stop taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication.

For more information, read these books: Living Vegan For Dummies, The Great American Detox Diet, Vegan Cooking For Dummies. You can also watch these movies: Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Crazy, Sexy, Cancer.
Kathy Freston
Nutrition & Dietetics
A vegan diet can have lasting effects on health, says veganist and best-selling author Kathy Freston. To find out how a plant-based diet can not only prevent some chronic diseases but also reverse them, watch this video.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Studies show that vegan diets promote wellness and prevent to disease. Vegan diets reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Vegan diets are high in antioxidants, fiber, and complex carbohydrates and low in saturated fats.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.