There are certainly plenty of reasons to go vegan. But is it the best choice for you? We asked John Rickards, a local registered dietitian and personal trainer, why you should — or shouldn’t — go vegan, how to make it last, and what his secret ingredient is for whipping up vegan baked goods.
Can a Vegan Diet Be Healthy?
Absolutely! Since you cut out all animal products on a vegan diet, you are able to eliminate all sources of animal fats from your foods. This makes your diet significantly lower in saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease and inflammation.
Can a Vegan Diet Be Harmful?
Unfortunately, yes. A lot of people attempt going vegan “cold turkey” and don’t do appropriate research on the risk factors. A vegan diet can be extremely low in iron, certain B vitamins such as B12, and protein sources.
Should Certain People Not Consider Going Vegan?
I think that most people, with sufficient research, can successfully go vegan without too many risk factors, but I do think children and adolescents would be at the highest risk if they do not replace the vitamins and minerals they need for growth and development.
How Can Vegans Get the Nutrients They Need to Stay Healthy?
Variety! When you eat vegan, you eliminate entire food groups, so it is even more important to get a variety of different grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, and oils into your diet. All foods have different nutrient make-ups, so variety helps to cover the gaps in your diet.
Another option for vegans is to take a “food-based” or “food-derived” multivitamin. This is a multivitamin completely derived from food sources, making it highly absorbable and easier on the stomach. Depending upon the individual, supplementation with B12 and iron may also be necessary.
Any Advice on Making Popular Holiday Dishes Vegan?
Try aquafaba to replace egg whites when baking. This is becoming trendy right now. What you do is use the liquid from cooking beans or the liquid in organic canned chick peas to give your recipes some fluff.
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Starting a Plant-based Diet?
Take your time! I recommend making this a progression. Don’t feel rushed, and don’t feel the need to label yourself a vegan right away. Maybe try cutting out meat first but keeping fish, then try cutting out cheese but keeping yogurt. If you take your time, you will really grasp the lifestyle of being and staying a vegan. If you go “cold turkey,” it may just become another restrictive diet that doesn’t last.
So, Should You Go Vegan? Ask Your Own RD!
Ready to go plant-based? As an IBX member, your plan may cover six free visits with a registered dietitian each year! To find a participating registered dietitian, primary care provider, or another network provider who offers nutrition counseling, search our Provider Finder Tool or call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY: 711).