If plant-based foods are generally healthier than animal-based foods, should you consider a vegan diet, banishing all animal products? It seems like something to consider, with the increasing amount of vegan foods now sold in grocery stores and restaurants.
A study published in April 2019 in The Journal of Nutrition found that a vegan diet slightly outperformed a pescatarian diet and a lacto-ovo diet when it came to the amount of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, and that a vegan diet significantly outperformed diets with meat. However, this is just one study. “Most studies don’t separate vegan and vegetarian diets, so we don’t have a lot of evidence comparing one vegetarian diet to the other,” says McManus.
A vegan diet also comes with health risks, especially for older adults, although you can take action to counteract those risks. In particular, McManus notes, when you cut out animal products, you may come up short on certain nutrients:
Calcium. Calcium is important to many functions, especially bone, dental, heart, nerve, and blood health.
Protein. We need protein to build strong muscles, bones, and skin — particularly as we age and lose muscle and bone mass and have a harder time healing from wounds.
Vitamin B12. This vitamin comes only from animal-based foods. B12 is crucial to our DNA, red blood cell formation, new cell growth, glucose metabolism, and maintaining our nervous system and thinking skills.
In addition, you may have trouble getting enough calories on a highly restricted diet. If you don’t give your body enough fuel, you may become tired or malnourished.