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How healthy is veganism? Just as with omnivorous and vegetarian diets, ensuring a good intake of healthy ingredients and all essential nutrients is key. There are plenty of advantages, but there are some risks too. Some people actually choose to go vegan exactly because of health reasons, and a number of organisations admit there can be health benefits, especially compared to a standard Western diet. However, to blindly follow an incomplete vegan diet can have sad consequences too, so a well-planned diet supplemented by some nutrients is recommended.

The healthiness of vegan diets

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970-1980. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025.

"It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease."

Dietitians of Canada

"A vegan diet includes grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), seeds and nuts. A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer."

The British Nutrition Foundation

"A well-planned, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate ... Studies of UK vegetarian and vegan children have revealed that their growth and development are within the normal range."

The British National Health Service

"With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs."

The Dietitians Association of Australia

"Vegan diets are a type of vegetarian diet, where only plant-based foods are eaten. With good planning, those following a vegan diet can cover all their nutrient bases"

The National Health and Medical Research Council

"Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle. Those following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet can meet nutrient requirements as long as energy needs are met and an appropriate variety of plant foods are eaten throughout the day."

Jack Norris RD

Video: Answering the nutrition questions vegans commonly receive


Registered dietitian Jack Norris is one of the most respected sources on what a healthy vegan diet looks like:


...The seemingly never ending question vegans have to answer is: Where do you get your protein? The common question belies much ignorance regarding protein and our needs for it.

The World Health Organization recommendation is minimum 0.8 grams of protein per day per kilo of body weight. For example a woman who weighs 94 lbs = 43 kg needs 43 x 0.8g = 34 grams protein. This amount can easily be met on a vegan diet that adequately meets the persons caloric needs. A general recommendation for women is 2500 calories per day and for men 3000 calories per day. These will of course vary depending upon amount of physical activity. It should also be noted that an argument can be made in favor of the natural, easily digestible amino acids found in raw fruits and vegetables which provide higher quality protein than that found in cooked foods because the cooking process has rendered some of the proteins in the food unusable or actually converted them into toxic substances that the body will have to eliminate. In addition there are a variety of problems which arise when too much protein is ingested in the diet.

  • Extra proteins can cause kidney problems in people. A diet with too much protein stresses the kidneys. This can also result in the development of kidney stones.
  • Another important side effect of too much protein is the accumulation of ketones in the blood, a condition that is known as ketosis. The kidneys flush out excess proteins along with water, which can lead to dehydration, thus making you feel weak and tired.
  • The amount of calcium required by the body increases with the amount of protein consumed. If your body in unable to get the minimum required calcium, it will start leeching out calcium from the body. This condition can become worse and lead to osteoporosis, where the bones tend to become brittle and break easily. While handling excess protein, kidneys become unable to process uric acid quickly, thus leading to gout, a type of arthritis. Uric acid accumulates in the joints, hence causing pain and tenderness.
  • High protein foods that come from animal sources are very high in fats. Excess fat can lead to a rise in cholesterol, eventually putting you at a greater risk of developing heart disease. In case the high protein foods are high in calories, you are likely to gain weight easily.
  • Studies show that women who consume excess proteins are more likely to have broken wrists, as compared to women who eat less protein. Other side effects of too much protein include hypertension, dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, diabetes, cataracts, arteriosclerosis, different kinds of allergies and increase in the acid content in the blood.


Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin for our nervous system. Registered dietitians generally agree that vegans should take B12 supplements if they do not consume B12 fortified foods at least twice a day. If you're vegan and you have your blood tested it's good to tell the medical personal to also check for B12 levels. Check our detailed article about B12 for more information.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is primarily created by sunlight and getting enough be an issue for both vegans and non-vegans, whether living far from the equator, living indoors, or just sensible avoiding the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Supplements are a safe and effective option for those who do not get optimal amounts from sunlight. Check our detailed article about vitamin D.

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Some vegan whole foods are rich in calcium, like bok choy, legumes and almonds. However, some vegans consume less than the recommended intake of calcium.

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