This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Switch To A Vegan Diet

Buckle up, because we’re about to spill the plant-based tea on what goes down when you make the leap into the world of vegan goodness. It’s… Alli Anderson - December 11, 2023

Buckle up, because we’re about to spill the plant-based tea on what goes down when you make the leap into the world of vegan goodness. It’s not just about swapping burgers for bean bowls; it’s a journey that sends ripples through your entire bod. From the unexpected perks to the little hurdles, diving into a vegan diet is like hitting the refresh button on your health. So, grab a snack (preferably a vegan one), because we’re about to spill the delectable deets on what really happens to your body when you take the vegan plunge!

MJ and Hungryman.

Improved Digestion Due to Higher Fiber Intake

The shift to a vegan diet often brings about a notable improvement in digestion. This is primarily attributed to the higher intake of dietary fiber. Plants, being rich sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, contribute to the overall health of the digestive system. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, fruits, and legumes, forms a gel-like substance that helps regulate blood sugar levels. It can also lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, prevalent in whole grains, vegetables, and nuts, adds bulk to the stool, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. The combined effects of these fiber types contribute to a well-functioning digestive tract.

As individuals embrace a vegan lifestyle, the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes provides a diverse array of fibers that nourish the gut microbiota. A flourishing and diverse gut microbiome play a crucial role in breaking down complex carbohydrates and fermenting fibers. This produces short-chain fatty acids that benefit colon health. This improved microbial balance not only enhances nutrient absorption but also helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces inflammation within the digestive system.

Lower Cholesterol Levels, Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

A vegan diet often leads to a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. This habit imparts a powerful shield against the risk of heart disease. By eliminating animal products and their associated saturated fats and cholesterol, individuals following a vegan lifestyle tend to experience lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. This is the “bad” cholesterol that can contribute to the buildup of arterial plaques. Instead, plant-based diets are rich in heart-healthy components. For example, soluble fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats, which collectively contribute to cardiovascular well-being.

The absence of dietary cholesterol from animal products allows the body to regulate cholesterol more effectively. Subsequently promoting a healthier lipid profile. Moreover, plant-based diets often include foods known for their cholesterol-lowering properties. This includes oats, legumes, and nuts. These foods contain beta-glucans, phytosterols, and other compounds that actively work to reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines and enhance its excretion. As a result, individuals adhering to a vegan diet not only experience a decline in LDL `cholesterol but may also witness an increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol—the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.

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Weight Loss and Maintenance of a Healthy Body Weight

One pivotal factor contributing to weight loss on a plant-based diet is the emphasis on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods. By replacing calorically dense animal products with a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, individuals naturally reduce their overall calorie intake. The integration of high-fiber foods into the diet, such as leafy greens and legumes, not only enhances satiety but also promotes a feeling of fullness. This can help facilitate portion control and contributing to weight loss over time. Transitioning away from high-fat animal products also plays a crucial role. A reduction in dietary fat intake is associated with lower overall calorie consumption and a more effective weight management strategy.

Moreover, a vegan lifestyle encourages metabolic benefits that support weight loss efforts. The thermogenic effect of digesting plant-based foods can elevate metabolism, potentially enhancing calorie expenditure. This, coupled with the exclusion of processed and calorie-dense animal products, may lead to more mindful eating habits. The focus on whole, plant-based foods promotes a holistic approach to nutrition, fostering not only weight loss but also overall health.

Plant Based With Amy

Increased Energy Levels Throughout the Day

Switching to a vegan diet brings a surge of increased energy, fostering a revitalized sense of well-being. The nutrient-rich nature of plant-based foods, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes, plays a pivotal role in energy metabolism. Fueling the body with these wholesome plant foods promotes a sustained and even distribution of energy throughout the day, a stark contrast to the spikes and crashes linked with processed and high-sugar diets.

Moreover, a vegan diet’s exclusion of heavy, animal-based meals contributes to a sense of lightness and increased vitality. Plant-based meals are easier to digest, allowing the body to redirect energy toward other functions instead of intensive digestion. Eliminating saturated fats found in animal products enhances blood flow and oxygen delivery, further boosting overall energy levels. Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle not only brings physical buoyancy but also mental clarity and alertness, accompanying the nourishment provided by nutrient-dense plant foods.

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Enhanced Skin Health and a Potential Reduction in Acne

A vegan diet often results in a positive transformation in skin health, providing a holistic approach to achieving a vibrant complexion. The diverse array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in plant-based foods collaborates to nourish and rejuvenate the skin. Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins A and C, stimulate collagen production and shield the skin from oxidative stress, fostering a youthful and radiant appearance. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties inherent in many plant foods can be instrumental in alleviating skin conditions exacerbated by inflammation, contributing to a clearer and healthier complexion over time.

Beyond the overall enhancement of skin health, individuals who adopt a vegan lifestyle frequently report a potential reduction in acne. The exclusion of dairy products, which have been associated with increased acne prevalence, is a noteworthy aspect of the vegan diet. Hormones and growth factors present in dairy may contribute to skin issues, and by eliminating these elements, individuals often experience a decrease in acne severity. Moreover, the low-glycemic nature of numerous plant-based foods may aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels, potentially mitigating hormonal fluctuations that can trigger acne outbreaks.

Medical News

Improved Blood Sugar Control

A vegan lifestyle, focusing on whole plant-based foods, offers a diet rich in complex carbs, fiber, and low-glycemic-index foods. These components collectively regulate blood sugar levels, ensuring a gradual glucose release, beneficial for diabetes control. The high fiber in fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains slows sugar absorption, preventing rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar, supporting glycemic control.

The exclusion of animal products in a vegan diet often means lower saturated fat intake, linked to insulin resistance. Choosing plant-based options can enhance insulin sensitivity, aiding better glucose utilization by cells. Research suggests a vegan diet aids weight management, crucial for diabetes control, as excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The nutrient-dense, plant-focused nature of a vegan diet is a promising approach for effective blood sugar management, offering a valuable tool for optimizing health in individuals with diabetes.

American Heart Association

Vegan Diet Could Lower Blood Pressure

Embracing a vegan diet holds the potential to significantly lower blood pressure, thereby promoting overall cardiovascular health. Plant-based diets are naturally low in sodium and saturated fats, key contributors to elevated blood pressure levels. The abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in a vegan lifestyle provides essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and fiber, which have been linked to blood pressure regulation. Potassium, in particular, helps balance sodium levels, reducing the constriction of blood vessels and contributing to lower blood pressure.

Furthermore, adopting a vegan diet often leads to a reduction in cholesterol levels. The absence of cholesterol-rich animal products and the increased intake of heart-healthy, plant-based fats contribute to improved lipid profiles. This reduction in cholesterol, combined with the positive impact on blood pressure, creates a powerful synergy that promotes cardiovascular health. Studies have suggested that individuals following a vegan lifestyle may have a lower risk of developing heart disease, making this dietary choice not only beneficial for those seeking to manage blood pressure but also as a preventive measure for overall heart health.


Reduced Inflammation in the Body

Plant-based foods, including fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds like phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polyphenols. They combat oxidative stress, neutralize free radicals, and reduce inflammatory markers, aiding in preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Avoiding pro-inflammatory elements in animal products, like saturated fats and specific proteins, enhances the anti-inflammatory effects of a vegan diet. Research shows that plant-based diets lead to lower systemic inflammation, decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Embracing a vegan lifestyle not only fulfills nutritional needs but actively promotes an internal environment that supports reduced inflammation, contributing to long-term health and resilience.

Foot Pain - Gout

Reduced Risk of Developing Gout

Cutting animal products can play a significant role in reducing the risk of gout. Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. One key factor is the lower intake of purines, compounds found in various foods that contribute to uric acid production when broken down. Animal products, particularly organ meats, seafood, and certain meats, are rich in purines. By eliminating or substantially reducing these high-purine animal products, individuals following a vegan diet can lower their overall purine intake, thus decreasing the production of uric acid and mitigating the risk of gout.

Moreover, plant-based diets, abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, are naturally high in fiber. Increased fiber intake has been associated with lower uric acid levels. Fiber aids in the excretion of excess uric acid through urine, promoting a more balanced and healthy uric acid level. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties inherent in many plant-based foods may further contribute to reducing the risk of gout by minimizing inflammation in the joints. Vegan diets often aid weight loss, contributing to better weight management. This makes a vegan lifestyle an excellent choice for reducing gout risk and supporting overall joint health.

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Enhanced Immune System Function

Plant-based diets are inherently rich in crucial immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc. These essential components play pivotal roles in supporting the production of antibodies and white blood cells, key elements of the immune system’s defense mechanism. By incorporating a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, individuals following a vegan lifestyle provide their bodies with the necessary tools to respond effectively to infections and maintain a resilient immune system.

Moreover, the anti-inflammatory properties inherent in many plant-based foods contribute to the overall enhancement of immune function. Chronic inflammation has been linked to immune system suppression, and by adopting a vegan diet, individuals may experience a reduction in inflammatory markers, creating a more supportive environment for immune responses. The abundance of antioxidants in plant-based foods further reinforces immune health by protecting cells from oxidative stress. While a vegan diet is not a sole guarantee of immunity, its nutrient-rich and anti-inflammatory attributes offer a promising strategy for individuals seeking to bolster their overall health and fortify their immune defenses.


Healthier Hair and Nails

Biotin, vitamin E, iron, and zinc in plant foods fortify hair and support nails. Biotin promotes hair growth, vitamin E protects from oxidative stress, iron maintains follicles, and zinc aids overall hair health and the immune system, indirectly benefiting nails. Including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains provides diverse vitamins and minerals, promoting hair vitality and healthy nails. Their water content maintains flexibility and strength in both.

Skipping inflammatory and saturated components in animal products positively impacts hair and nails. Saturated fats, tied to inflammation, can affect hair and nail health. Going vegan may reduce these issues, fostering shinier, stronger hair, and more resilient nails. This plant-based approach not only meets internal needs but also transforms the health and appearance of hair and nails.


Better Breath and Oral Health When Adhering To Vegan Diet

A diet free of animal products can contribute to improved breath and enhanced oral health through various mechanisms inherent in plant-based nutrition. A key factor is the lower intake of animal products, particularly dairy, which has been associated with the proliferation of bacteria that contribute to bad breath. By eliminating or significantly reducing the consumption of these products, individuals may experience a notable reduction in the compounds that contribute to oral odor.

Additionally, the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables in a vegan diet provides a natural way to clean and stimulate the gums. This obviously promotes better oral hygiene. Crisp, fibrous fruits and vegetables act as natural toothbrushes, helping to remove plaque and bacteria from the teeth and gum line. The vitamins and minerals abundant in plant-based foods, such as vitamin C and antioxidants, contribute to gum health and support the prevention of gum disease. Furthermore, the hydration provided by water-rich fruits and vegetables encourages saliva production, which plays a crucial role in neutralizing acids and maintaining a balanced oral environment


Balanced Hormones and Menstrual Cycle Regulation for Women

A plant-based diet may aid in balancing hormones and regulating the menstrual cycle for women. Nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide essential vitamins and minerals crucial for hormonal health. These include vitamin B6, which supports progesterone production, and zinc, vital for maintaining a balanced estrogen level.

Moreover, the fiber content in plant-based foods helps regulate blood sugar levels, preventing insulin spikes that can disrupt hormonal balance. The reduction of animal fats and processed foods, commonly associated with hormonal imbalances, further supports a more stable hormonal environment. Studies suggest that women adhering to a plant-based diet may experience more regular menstrual cycles and reduced symptoms of hormonal fluctuations, promoting overall reproductive health. While individual responses vary, adopting a plant-based lifestyle offers a natural and holistic approach to supporting hormonal balance and menstrual cycle regularity.


Improved Sleep Quality With Vegan Diet

Opting for a vegan diet can enhance your sleep quality. Plant-based foods, rich in magnesium, promote relaxation, aiding better and more restful sleep. Additionally, the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help reduce inflammation, contributing to improved overall sleep patterns. Making mindful choices in your diet can be a simple yet effective way to support a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Incorporating a vegan diet may lead to better sleep quality. The abundance of magnesium in plant-based foods encourages relaxation, fostering improved and more restorative sleep cycles. Furthermore, antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables might aid in reducing inflammation, potentially enhancing overall sleep patterns. Making conscientious dietary choices by embracing plant-based foods can significantly contribute to a more rejuvenating and satisfying night’s sleep.


Potential Relief from Migraines and Headaches

Adopting a vegan diet might alleviate migraines or headaches. Plant-based foods, rich in magnesium and B vitamins, can play a role in reducing headache frequency and intensity.Magnesium, a mineral found in various plant-based foods, is involved in nerve function and blood vessel regulation. Some studies suggest that individuals with migraines may have lower magnesium levels, and supplementation or dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods may help alleviate headaches.

Additionally, avoiding potential migraine triggers found in certain animal products, like nitrates and tyramine, may benefit those prone to headaches. Plant-based diets, with their focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, offer a natural approach to managing migraines. Making mindful choices in your diet can be a potential strategy for individuals seeking relief from migraines and headaches.


Decreased Risk of Gallstones

A plant-based diet typically includes higher amounts of dietary fiber, which plays a crucial role in preventing gallstones. Fiber helps regulate the release of bile acids, preventing their accumulation in the gallbladder and reducing the likelihood of stone formation. Additionally, a vegan diet tends to be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol, which are known contributors to gallstone development. By avoiding animal products, individuals decrease their intake of these substances, further minimizing the risk of gallstones.

Furthermore, the increased consumption of plant-based foods is linked to better weight management, another factor influencing gallstone formation. Obesity is a significant risk factor for gallstones, and plant-based diets are often associated with lower body weight and a reduced likelihood of obesity-related conditions. The combination of higher dietary fiber, lower saturated fat intake, and improved weight management collectively contributes to the protective effect of a vegan diet against gallstone formation.


Positive Changes in Gut Microbiota for Better Overall Gut Health

Cutting animal products and replacing it with plant based foods is also great for your gut. Abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, a vegan diet provides a diverse array of fibers that act as prebiotics, fueling the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This enhanced microbial diversity contributes to a more balanced and resilient gut microbiome.

Moreover, the exclusion of animal products, which can contain saturated fats and certain additives, may positively impact gut health. Plant-based diets have been associated with a decrease in harmful bacteria linked to inflammation and an increase in beneficial bacteria associated with improved digestion and immune function. This shift in the composition of gut microbiota is believed to play a role in reducing the risk of gastrointestinal disorders and enhancing overall digestive well-being. Adopting a vegan lifestyle can be seen not only as a choice for ethical and environmental reasons but also as a step toward cultivating a healthier and more robust gut microbiome.

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Alkaline pH Balance in the Body

Plant-based diets are typically rich in fruits, vegetables, and other alkaline-forming foods. These foods, when metabolized, leave behind alkaline residues in the body. Maintaining an alkaline pH balance is associated with various health benefits, including better bone health, improved muscle function, and reduced inflammation.

On the contrary, diets high in animal products and processed foods tend to be more acidic. An overly acidic environment in the body may contribute to conditions such as osteoporosis, muscle wasting, and chronic inflammation. By emphasizing plant-based foods, individuals can create a more alkaline internal environment. In turn, promoting optimal physiological functioning and supporting long-term health. Incorporating a variety of plant-based sources into one’s diet is a key aspect of maintaining an alkaline pH balance and reaping the associated health benefits.


Potential Improvement in Mood and Mental Well-Being

Let’s delve deeper into the impact of a vegan lifestyle on mood. The abundance of nutrients in plant-based diets plays a pivotal role in supporting brain health, influencing neurotransmitter function, and subsequently affecting mood regulation. Omega-3 fatty acids, are crucial for the structure and function of cell membranes in the brain. These can be found in flaxseeds and walnuts. Healthy fats, particularly the omega-3 fatty acid (ALA), are associated with positive effects on mood and cognitive function. The incorporation of such plant-based sources of omega-3s can contribute to an optimal environment for neurotransmission, potentially enhancing overall mood and well-being.

Beyond the nutritional aspect, choosing a vegan lifestyle often aligns with values of compassion and environmental sustainability. Feeling more connected to these values and making mindful choices can contribute to a sense of purpose and happiness. Additionally, the increased intake of fruits and vegetables can positively impact overall well-being. While individual experiences vary, many people find that embracing a vegan diet brings not just physical health benefits but also a boost in mood and a greater sense of connection to the world around them.

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Need For Careful Planning to Ensure Sufficient Nutrient Intake

Now it’s time to dive into a few of the downsides of partaking in a vegan lifestyle. Jumping into a vegan diet is awesome for the planet and your health. But it does need a bit of careful planning to make sure you’re getting all the good stuff your body needs. There are some nutrients that might be a bit tricky to get enough of on a vegan diet. These are vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.

First up, B12 is an incredibly important nutrient that is mostly found in animal products. Vegans can obtain it through fortified foods like plant-based milk or supplements. Iron is another nutrient hero. And while plants offer it, the type of iron you find there isn’t as easily absorbed as from meat. Throwing in vitamin C-rich foods with your iron-packed meals can help your body absorb more of it. Calcium, usually a dairy darling, can be found in fortified plant milk and juices, tofu, and leafy greens. Omega-3s, which are important for the brain, are typically in fish. But chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts are solid plant-based alternatives. Lastly, protein, the muscle builder, is found in beans, lentils, tofu, and edamame, making it totally doable for vegans to hit their protein goals.

Initial Digestive Discomfort as the Body Adjusts to Higher Fiber Intake

Initially, digestive discomfort may occur as your body adjusts to increased fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains promote digestive health, but a sudden boost can lead to bloating or gas. Gradually incorporating these foods and drinking plenty of water helps ease this transition. Be patient; your digestive system adapts, and discomfort typically diminishes over time.

If issues persist, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice on managing fiber intake and digestive health. Embracing a balanced approach to incorporating fiber ensures a smoother adjustment and sets the foundation for long-term digestive well-being. Remember, the benefits of a fiber-rich diet go beyond digestion, contributing to heart health, weight management, and overall well-being.

Bruising could be caused by iron deficiency. Shutterstock.

Possible Nutrient Deficiencies if Not Well-Planned

Vegans, while enjoying many health benefits, can sometimes face nutrient deficiencies due to the exclusion of certain food groups. One common concern is vitamin B12, primarily found in animal products. Since plants don’t produce B12, vegans should consider fortified foods or supplements to meet their needs. Another potential shortfall is omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for heart health. While plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts offer alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the conversion to more active forms (EPA and DHA) may be inefficient. Including algae-based supplements can bridge this gap.

Iron is another nutrient that requires attention. Although plants offer non-heme iron, which is less easily absorbed than heme iron from animal sources, pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C can enhance absorption. Calcium, mainly associated with dairy, can be sourced from fortified plant milks and leafy greens. Ensuring sufficient zinc intake is also vital; seeds, legumes, and whole grains are good sources. Monitoring nutrient levels, considering supplements, and consulting a healthcare professional are crucial for maintaining a balanced vegan diet that fulfills nutritional needs.

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Increased Gas and Bloating from a Higher Intake of Legumes and Fiber

A spike in gas and bloating can happen when you amp up your legume and fiber intake. Legumes, like beans and lentils, are stellar sources of plant-based protein and fiber, but they can also bring on more gas due to complex carbohydrates that some stomach bacteria love. Fiber, the digestive superhero found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains, is fantastic for overall gut health, but too much, too soon can cause temporary bloating.

To manage this, start slow and let your digestive system adjust. Gradually increase legume and fiber intake while staying hydrated to help move things along in your digestive tract. Cooking legumes thoroughly can also make them easier on your stomach. If bloating persists or becomes uncomfortable, consider consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice. The body often adapts to increased fiber over time, and finding the right balance can lead to improved digestive comfort while still enjoying the benefits of a fiber-rich, plant-based diet.

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Emotional Challenges Related to Vegan Diet and Societal Norms

Vegans can encounter emotional challenges linked to their food choices and societal norms. In a world where many dietary habits are deeply ingrained, choosing a vegan lifestyle may feel like swimming against the current. Social gatherings and family events centered around non-vegan foods can evoke feelings of isolation or pressure to conform. The emotional toll of constantly explaining and defending one’s choices can lead to a sense of frustration and loneliness.

Moreover, societal norms often equate food with tradition, comfort, and identity. Deviating from these norms can spark emotional struggles, as food is intertwined with cultural and familial connections. Vegans may grapple with a desire for acceptance. All while navigating social situations where their dietary choices may be misunderstood or challenged. The emotional challenges can range from feeling judged to dealing with the stress of finding suitable vegan options in non-vegan-friendly environments. Overcoming these emotional hurdles often requires resilience, open communication, and building a supportive community to navigate the complex landscape of societal expectations and individual dietary choices.