The Vegan Transition: Advice from a Plant-Based Diet Doc

Plant-Based Diet: It seems that everyone is going vegan these days- from politicians to physicians, from Olympian medalists to Oscar winners. It used to be hard to find a vegan meal in most places. Today, vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere and it’s easier and more convenient than ever to be vegan.

If you are considering a plant-based diet, here are 10 reasons to do it now and three things to watch out for.

Benefits of Plant-Based Diet -Veganism:

  1. Lower cholesterol. The Portfolio diet study demonstrated that 4 weeks on a plant-based diet lowered LDL cholesterol by 30%. This makes the vegan diet as effective as taking Lipitor.
  2. Lower blood pressure. The Adventist Study examined the diets of 70,000 people over 12 years. It showed that vegans have lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures than meat-eaters.
  3. Treat and reverse diabetes. Dr. Neal Barnard’s study showed that the vegan diet improved blood sugar 4 times better than the often recommended American Diabetic Association diet.
  4. The decrease in inflammation. Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated that CRP, the protein marker of inflammation in the body, is decreased by adopting a plant-based diet.
  5. Lose weight. The Adventist study showed that vegans weigh an average of 25-30 pounds less than meat-eaters.
  6. Prevent cancer. It is well documented that vegetarians have lower rates of colon cancer. prostate cancer and lymphoma.
  7. Live longer! The Adventist Study showed that vegans have a lower all-cause mortality rate. Vegans have a life expectancy that is between 3.6 to 7.28 years longer than their meat-eating counterparts.
  8. Animal welfare. There is nothing more compassionate for all living beings than the avoidance of eating meat, dairy and eggs.
  9. Conserve water. According to National Geographic, consuming a vegan diet saves 600 gallons of water per day compared to the average American diet.
  10. Environmental health. The lower on the food chain we eat, the less damage we do in terms of greenhouse emissions, fossil fuel use, air pollution and deforestation.

plant based diet

So you decide to take the plunge, what should you look out for?


Things to Watch Out for as a Vegan

  1. B12 levels. An estimated 75% of vegans and 25% of vegetarians have a B12 deficiency. B12 is an important cofactor involved in energy, mood, blood production, nerve health, and detoxification. If you are on a plant-based diet, it is important to test your B12 levels and take a good supplement.
  2. Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is not found in many plant foods. This cofactor is vital for bone health, immune health, energy, mood and even the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Everyone should know their Vitamin D levels and supplement as necessary.
  3. Fat intake. Plant-based diets are naturally high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It is important to have an appropriate ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in flax, hemp and chia seeds. I recommend taking an algae-based omega 3 fatty acid supplement, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Protein & Veganism

Lastly, a word on protein. I am frequently asked about whether vegans diet have a high enough protein intake. In my 10 years as a vegan and physician, I have never met anyone with protein deficiency. The USDA recommends 10-15% of our calories should come from protein. Most fruits, vegetables, and grains are 10-50% protein, so as long as you are eating enough calories, you are getting enough protein! It is important to take in all nine essential amino acids, so vary your sources of protein and include complete proteins such as quinoa and tofu.

Most importantly, eat mindfully and enjoy it!

Post Contributed by: Sari Eitches, MD,
Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine
Diplomate, American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine

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