When former President Bill Clinton announced in 2010 that he’d given up Big Macs and adopted a vegan diet, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Clinton was known for having an appetite for meat and junk food. But after two heart surgeries, his doctor told him he must do more to protect his cardiovascular system. Clinton took the advice and soon switched to a vegan diet.
Like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat meat, and they also avoid foods that contain animal byproducts like eggs, dairy and honey. Studies show plant-based diets can improve heart health, ease arthritis pain, prevent diabetes complications and protect against some cancers. Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet may also be effective for weight loss because plant-based foods tend be more nutrient dense than calorie dense.
However, following a vegan diet can feel restrictive and may make it difficult to get the daily requirement of certain nutrients.
If you’re thinking about trying a vegan diet, be sure to consume enough protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12, nutrients mostly found in animal products. Talk to your doctor about any health issues that might be affected by a vegan diet.
Plant sources of key nutrients
Calcium: Fortified soy, broccoli, leafy greens
Iron: Tofu, kale, beans, peanut butter
Protein: Lentils, quinoa, oatmeal
Vitamin B12: Fortified soy milk and cereals