What is your opinion on a vegan diet? Will it help me lose more weight than if I eat meat?

To be quite honest, the vegan diet…intimidates me! I am a BIG fan of cheese so I already know that I would have a very difficult time adhering to this strict eating plan. However, I do think that diets should be less about meat and animal products and more about consuming plant based foods. The American Cancer Society suggests that one of the best ways to reduce risk of cancer is by moving towards a plant-based diet. I encourage my patients to reduce the amount of processed meats, red meats, high fat dairy products and simple sugars and instead focus on foods rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fat. If you are truly interested in trying out the vegetarian lifestyle then, in addition to the vegan diet, there are several other types of “vegetarians “ out there:

Vegans eliminate all foods coming from animals including meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, etc. They consume only plant-based foods.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians omit red meat, poultry, and fish but do eat eggs, milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt) in addition to plant-based foods.

Lacto-vegetarians omit eggs, red meat, poultry, and fish but will allow milk and milk products.

Fruitarians eliminate all animal products and processed foods.

Following the vegan diet (or any vegetarian diet) could certainly help you to lose weight. Since red meat/sugary foods/high fat dairy products tend to be high in calories, cutting them out may help you reduce your calorie intake, leading to weight loss. However, like with any “diet” out there, if you consume more calories than you are burning (plant based or otherwise) you will end up gaining weight. So, to summarize, I think becoming a vegan may be good for your health because helps one reduce intake of red meat/high fat dairy products. But, because it is a more restrictive way of eating, you need to make sure that you do your research and plan ahead to be sure you are consuming a variety of nutrients from non-meat sources.

Protein is a nutrient that is essential for building new cells and for the growth and repair of damaged tissues. Non-meat sources of protein include legumes, lentils, meat substitutes, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Sources of calcium include: low fat dairy products (if you include these), dark green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, and spinach), and enriched tofu, soymilk, and fruit juices. Vegetarians need to include non-animal sources of vitamin B12 to ensure proper production of red blood cells. Examples include: enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by supplementation. Iron helps carry oxygen to cells. A few sources of iron are dried beans, peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, and green leafy vegetables. Finally, zinc is an important nutrient in the wound healing process and is vital for many enzyme reactions. Good sources of zinc are nuts, wheat germ, soy and green leafy vegetables.

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