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This is What Happens to Your Body When You Switch to a Plant-Based Diet

Some changes happen rather quickly on a vegan, or plant-based, diet. Others are more long-term and may occur, months or over a year down the line.

People switch to plant-based diets for any number of reasons: ethical/moral, religious, health or even because it's the newest thing to try. Whatever your reason, switching to a vegan diet will change your body. You are removing animal products such as meat and dairy, but also many processed foods as they are made with animal products as well.

What Do You Eat?

Plant-based isn't what it used to be! Nowadays, there are many prepared products that try to simulate meat, dairy and other foods that are not included in a vegan diet. This includes pasta, desserts and things like crackers and bread. But at the core, it is called a plant-based diet. So, you will be eating fruits, vegetables, tubers, legumes, whole grains, nuts, etc. And you can have a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fats as well as vitamins and minerals.

The First Few Weeks

You may decide to go plant-based cold turkey or make the switch gradually. Either way your gut may be feeling a little off at first. Often, people feel a little bloated and are a bit more gassy than normal. You are increasing your fiber and fresh produce which may take a little getting used to. This is normal and often clears up after a few weeks when your body becomes accustomed to your new way of eating. What you may also notice during this time is increased energy as you are getting more vitamins and minerals and cutting out animal-based processed foods.

The First Few Months

Many people notice that within a few months of a vegan diet their skin improves and acne clears up. A well-balanced diet may also be improving your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes after a few months. However, you may also have decreased your vitamin D stores. Deficiency has been linked to cancer, migraines, heart disease and depression. It's important that you get out in the sun, take a supplement or eat fortified foods to prevent deficiency.

Long-Term Changes

At this point, the plant-based diet has become your norm. Your body is used to it and your gut is most likely more healthy than before. You have more energy and have lowered your risk of many diseases. But the key is a well-balanced diet. You need to make sure you are getting enough nutrients and eating fortified foods to replace those things that we often get from plant-based foods such as vitamin B12 and calcium in addition to that vitamin D. Those that don't eat those fortified foods and keep a good balance of nutrients are more at risk for fractures, breathlessness, exhaustion, poor memory and tingling in the hands and feet. However, this is all preventable, so if you are switching, do your research. Plan your meals and make sure you are taking fortified foods or supplements as needed so you can reap the benefits of a plant-based diet.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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