Going Vegan

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Friday, September 16, 2011 - 9:46am

Doctors warn shunning animal products carries its own health risks.

Just how healthy is a vegan lifestyle?

Experts say more and more people are shunning animal products in favor of a this plant based diet, but it's not for everyone.

"It is a little bit of a change and whole lot of people know that they want to do it because they know if they do it they can get rid of all the cholesterol, all of the animal fat and they can be slim and healthy," says Dr. Neal Barnard.

Dr. Barnard is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which organizes a 21-day vegan kick start program.

He says if former President Bill Clinton can live the vegan life, then anyone can.

"He looked terrific when Chelsea got married. He was 24, 26 pounds lighter, but the reason he did it was for a healthy heart. He didn't want to go back and and have heart surgery again. Diet can do the same thing," he says.

Barnard says a plant-based diet can help people lower their cholesterol, blood pressure, and lose weight, but it's not always an easy change to make.

It requires a lot of meal planning and cooking.

Vegan convenience foods like dairy-free cheeses and fake meats can help make the transition, but dietitians say just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy.

"If it comes in a package, it's still a processed food," warns dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield.

Scritchfield says that means it can be packed with calories, sodium and sugar, so you need to read the label carefully.

Dietitians say vegan diets can be very healthy, but you do need make sure you're monitoring your vitamins and minerals.

Vegans often have Vitamin B12 and protein deficiencies.
 

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