Food & Nutrition

13 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat a Vegan Diet

You might feel gassy or bloated

Yasu+Junko for Reader's Digest

When you increase your intake of beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, and other vegetables, you may get a bloated tummy or develop a stinky case of gas, especially if you’re eating loads of raw vegetables, which are difficult for your digestive system to break down at first. “Anytime you increase fiber, do so gradually,” says Michelle Dwyer, a health coach and nutrition consultant. “So you give your body time to catch up.” Dwyer suggests lightly steaming your vegetables, chewing food well, and eating blended soups or fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut to break down the food better and help your body absorb it easily. Check out these other 11 essential items to add to a vegan shopping list.

You’ll change the bacteria in your gut

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Your gut microbiome is made up of different bacterial populations that live inside your digestive tract. Researchers are now researching how these unique gut bacteria can influence your health and risk of disease. Some studies show that your diet can give your intestines a microbiome makeover quite rapidly. A small study published in Nature compared plant-based diets and animal-based diets; researchers discovered an increase in B.wadsworthia, a bacterial microbe linked to inflammatory bowel disease, inside the stomachs of the people who ate animal foods. People who ate meat also had more fecal bile acid in their guts, which can cause gastrointestinal infections. “This shows that our microbiome is elastic and very responsive to stimuli,” says Carolyn Slupsky, PhD, a nutrition professor at the University of California, Davis. Here are other great, non-dairy options for boosting “good” gut bacteria.

You may feel a pep in your step

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Processed fats and sugars deplete your energy, but when you start eating foods rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, your energy levels will get a boost, a recent American Journal of Cardiology study suggests. Researchers asked 620 people to take a survey about their diets, mental health, and lifestyle. The scientists then split the participants into vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore groups based on their diet responses and then analyzed the data. Vegans reported less anxiety and stress than omnivores. One of the other benefits of a vegan diet is that it may also prevent blood sugar spikes, Sheth says. “[Vegans] are eating lighter foods,” she says.“Their bodies are not stuck with all this fat and extra sugar.”

On the other hand, you may also gain weight

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Don’t let the word “vegan” on a snack or box of frozen “meat” fool you—weight loss isn’t always one of the benefits of a vegan diet. Vegan bars and processed proteins are loaded with additives, processed sugars, fat, sodium, and calories. For example, a small bowl of frozen vegan chili has 80 more calories and 30 more grams of carbohydrates than a small bowl of chili from Wendy’s. “Just because the word ‘vegan’ is on a product doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free,” Dr. Applegate says. “It is not a prescription for skinniness.” Processed foods are still processed foods, vegan or not. Here are 14 things to know if you’re going on a vegan weight-loss diet.

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