It seems like anyone and everyone is trying to go vegan nowadays. Your fave celebs, your best friend, your colleague, and even your next-door neighbors. In 2005, there were 2 million self-identifying vegans in the US, but today, that number has more than tripled to 6.5 million today. People turn to the vegan lifestyle due to health and nutrition reasons, as a response to animal cruelty, and even in a push to save our environment from the affects of the animal farming industry. But should you give up meat, eggs, dairy, and possibly honey, in an attempt to join the crowd? The answer is actually a lot more simple than you'd think.
“Eating more plants is always good!” says Mascha Davis MPH, RDN and founder of NomadistaNutrition.com. “Adding more fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains to your diet will benefit your health… However, there are nutrients in some animal foods that are essential and hard to get without any animal products.”
Getting enough essential nutrients and the right amount of calories is a significant part of keeping up a healthy diet and lifestyle — so much so that if you can’t find a way to sustain this part of your diet, going vegan might not be the right move for you.
“Being vegan does not always equal eating healthy,” Davis adds. “There are plenty of highly processed vegan foods on the market. Vegan cheeses, meats, and even some plant-based milks can be high in saturated fat, sugar, and chemical additives… If you are eating vegan cookies, ice cream, and burgers, your diet will not necessarily be healthier.”
Although veganism might sound like the healthier and trendier option, if you're not willing to put in the time, energy, and effort into doing it right, it might not be worth it health wise.
“No studies have shown that vegan (or other vegetarian eating patterns) improve health or athletic performance compared to healthful omnivorous eating patterns,” says Tanya M. Halliday PhD, RD and an assistant professor at the University of Utah says. “Importantly though, they do not appear to decrease health or performance either.”
If your draw to veganism is based more on sustainability and animal ethics than health reasons, then that's a better reason to go vegan, adds Halliday.
In the end, if going vegan is something you really want to do, go for it. But, it’s not really necessary if you're not 100% passionate about it. Davis recommends following an eating pattern that suits you — you can be healthy and still eat animal products, after all.