With the new year comes new beginnings. For some, that means giving up meat and dairy and going vegetarian.

It’s an annual challenge run by a UK non-profit that promotes and educates veganism by encouraging people to adopt a vegan lifestyle throughout January. Last year he had more than 629,000 participants from 228 countries and territories, and this year’s organizers saw a record-breaking registration rate of one he tries every 2.4 seconds.

83% of 2022 participants who were not vegan at sign-up committed to making a permanent dietary change by remaining vegan or at least halving their intake of animal products reports Wales Online.

But what happens when you chill on your turkey and give up meat and dairy? Here’s what the latest research suggests…

Improved taste buds

Many vegans claim their taste buds have improved since making the switch, and this is backed up by scientific evidence. It’s not veganism per se that can improve your taste buds, but cutting down on fat, salt and sugar. Animal foods usually contain saturated fat, so removing them sharpens your taste sensitivities.

If you’re following a healthy vegan diet that’s high in whole foods rather than processed meat substitutes, you’ll notice an improvement in your gut. This is because plant-based foods contain far more dietary fiber, which is essential for gut health, than animal foods.

On an omnivorous diet, a low intake of vegetables and fruits can make it difficult to get the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber per day.

Improved bowel movements

The Mayo Clinic also notes that high fiber intake can make stools bulkier and softer, reducing the chance of constipation and improving bowel movements. However, a diet high in fiber can cause gas.

Potential weight loss

It’s probably not a surprise to most that swapping out high-fat dairy products and meats for vegetables, grains and fruits can contribute to weight loss if done properly.

This link between weight loss and veganism has been confirmed in a study published in the Journal of General Internal medicine which examined a selection of randomised controlled trials to examine the extent to which vegetarian diets are linked to weight loss.

The study concluded that “vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets”, but it stressed that further tests would be necessary to explore the long-term link between reduced animal products and weight loss.

Some vegans, however, have reported weight gain, citing that nuts, coconut oils and other plant-based foods can be high in calories, even if they’re technically healthy. Others say eat more to get the right amount of protein from your diet.

Improved gut bacteria

The human gut is lined with over 100 million nerve cells and is considered by many scientists to be the human body’s “second brain.”

It’s also home to a staggering 100 trillion bacteria, including both good and bad bacteria that have a major impact on human health.

Eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs in exchange for plant-based foods diversifies your gut bacteria.

A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that a more diverse gut bacterium can have an overall positive impact on human health, and veganism is defined as “the human gut microbiota and overall Promote a diverse ecosystem of beneficial bacteria that support both health and wellness”.

Sourdough, kimchi, ginger, garlic, olive oil, and bananas are just some of the vegan foods that can help with gut health.

Good for your heart

According to the British Heart Foundation, heart disease is responsible for a quarter of all deaths in the UK, killing an average of 460 people a day, or one person every three minutes.

Compared to plant foods such as vegetables and whole grains, animal foods have significantly higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.

A long-term study published in the British Medical Journal that studied 48,000 people over an 18-year period found that pescatarians had a 13% lower risk of coronary heart disease than meat eaters.

Vegetarians and vegans also had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease than meat eaters. (However, a vegan has a 20% higher risk of stroke than he does.)

Replacing high-fat animal foods with whole grains, fruits, nuts, and healthy oils will increase your intake of minerals, vitamins, and fiber, contributing to heart health. A low-fat vegan diet can also help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which can help you lose weight and further contribute to heart health, according to Men’s Health Watch from Harvard University.

However, the same study highlights that a vegan diet consisting of processed foods, carbonated drinks, or refined grains such as white rice and pasta may actually increase the risk of heart disease. So it’s important to keep this veganuary in mind. Vegans may want to reconsider their diet of rice, pasta, and Quorn Nuggets.

The Negatives

Reduced bone density

A less-than-ideal side-impact of going vegan is reduced bone density, that is related to insufficient degrees of calcium and nutrition D. The Vegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention additionally states that “vegans can be at extended threat for growing low bone mass because of loss of ok intake of unique bone-reaping benefits vitamins determined in large part in animal products, which includes calcium, nutrition D, protein, nutrition B12, zinc, and n-three fatty acids.” As a vegan this January, it is vital to devour calcium-wealthy meals which includes almonds, beans, tofu and soya products.

High salt intake

On the other hand, depending on your vegan diet type, you may need to consider salt levels if you rely on artificial meats and processed foods to get you through the month. To make soybeans taste like sausage, you need a lot of salt. According to Forbes, 28% of all meat-free products in the UK surveyed had salt levels higher than the recommended upper limit. Some studies have shown that high-sodium diets can draw calcium out of bones, increasing the risk of stroke, heart failure, and even osteoporosis.

B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12, also known as the brain vitamin, plays an important role in supporting nerve tissue health, brain function, and red blood cell production. It is found almost exclusively in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, but it is also found in fortified vegan foods such as plant-based milks. B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and nerve tissue damage, but there are many ways to control B12 levels while being a vegetarian.

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