What happens to your body when you go vegan?
Several people consider going vegan. Yes, you hear about all of the benefits going vegan has on the environment and all of the health risks you cut out on…but how does it actually affect your body?
The answer is that is affects it in many great ways! As long as you follow a proper, nutrient-rich vegan diet your body and senses will improve drastically. Many people go vegan after battling with weight loss…and losing time and time again. Weight loss is actually a common occurrence after going vegan. Jennifer Mimkha, MPH, RD said “many clients tell me they are surprised by how easy it was to lose weight once they transitioned to a fully plant-based diet”.
A lot of people’s struggle with weight comes from the excess calories in protein attained from meat, and mindless snacking. It is hard to keep that hand out of the cookie jar late at night when you are binge watching Netflix or super stressed about your day. Good thing about the vegan diet is that you will cut down on snacking, unless you keep a bunch of vegan snacks around.
Less available temptations = less snacks = fewer empty calories.
A further major contributor to weight loss when following a vegan diet is that plant-based proteins are lower in calories than meat. Another big perk of going vegan that a lot of vegan people report; is developing evolving taste buds and cravings. "My whole sense of taste is heightened, and food brings me so much pleasure. And, my hard-to-tame sweet tooth has pretty much disappeared," says Alexandria Abramian, a California-based content director who recently switched to a vegan diet.
Science confirms this taste-bud transformation. “We have evidence to back up the idea that even if you go a few weeks without junk foods and animal products high in salt, fat, and sugar, your tastes start to change,” Dr. Ravella says. “Even after just a few weeks, the sensitivity of our taste buds for fat can change.” How about that? Not only does your palate get heightened but those pesky cravings can get tamed! You know those odd tasting shots of wheatgrass that give you a boost of energy? A vegan diet is like that…but long lasting and tasty. Many people report needing less coffee to get them through the day after switching to a vegan diet. There are no scientific studies directly showing how a vegan diet is linked to higher levels of energy. The increased energy (and lack of afternoon sleepiness) may be the result of a healthier diet overall, especially if going vegan means you’re avoiding sugary treats and processed foods, since those set you on a path of blood sugar spikes and crashes.
Wondering how your body changes from day one? Let’s break it down:
The first few weeks
The first thing people notice when starting a vegan diet is an energy boost that comes with the removal of processed meats that they were eating before. Substituting the meat to fruits, vegetables, and nuts boosts your vitamin, mineral and fiber levels. Thinking ahead about your meals and snacks rather than just eating whatever is convenient also helps sustain consistent energy levels.
After a few weeks being vegan, your your bowel function may either shift toward a more regular, healthy pattern or you may experience an increase of bloating and loose stool. This is due to the increase of fiber in your diet from the fruits and vegetables, but don’t worry, your body will get used to it soon. The change can lead to an increase in diversity of the bacteria in the colon which can be beneficial for the whole system.
Three to six months later
After several months of the vegan diet many people find that the increase in fruit and vegetables and reduced processed food can help acne to clear up. Just make sure you take vitamin D supplements and eat plenty of fortified foods to ensure your vitamin D levels do not drop at this point. After a few moths, a well-balanced vegan diet which is low in salt and processed food may help prevent heart disease, stroke and reduce risk of diabetes. As the intake of nutrients like iron, zinc and calcium are reduced on a vegan diet, our bodies get better at absorbing them from the intestine. The adaption may be enough to prevent deficiencies in some people but not for everyone, in which case supplements can fill the shortfall.
Six months to several years
Around a year on a vegan diet your vitamin B12 stores may be low. This can easily be prevented by eating three portions of fortified food per day or by taking supplements. At this point your body is thriving off of the plant-based nutrients and completely used to a life without meat and processed food. You will feel healthier and your body will be functioning the way it was always supposed to. As long as you make sure you eat a balanced diet with enough essential nutrients, you will be reaping all of the health benefits that come with veganism and most likely enjoy year after year of a healthy life.
Going vegan can be an intimidating decision and that is understandable. Knowing all of the benefits to not only the environment, but your body as well can help urge you to make the first step in your health journey.
Sophie Medlin, a nutritionist at King’s College of London wrote “supermarkets and food outlets are making it easier than ever to enjoy a varied and exciting vegan diet and our appetite for meat overall is declining. With the right preparation, a vegan diet can be good for human health.”
It has never been easier to go vegan than now, so why not?
Read more about 7 tips for eating less meat.