What Happens To Your Body When You Go Vegan For A Month

Doing Veganuary? Here are the changes you might spot in your body, plus tips to keep healthy.
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If you’re a meat-lover like me, the thought of cutting it out for good is a daunting prospect, whatever the environmental benefits.

But if committing to a vegan lifestyle seems too extreme, you can try joining the masses and go plant-based in your diet for the month of Veganuary.

You might be asking yourself what happens to your body if you swap to a vegan diet for a month. Lifesum’s lead nutritionist Signe Svanfeldt has the answers.

How will your body initially react when you cut meat out of your diet?

How our body reacts to certain food groups is highly individual – some people have allergies, intolerances, or are just sensitive to certain food groups.

As Svanfeldt explains: “When cutting out a food group, such as meat, we naturally need to fill up with different types of food to replace the nutrients otherwise provided by that food group.”

Meat has plenty of protein, as well as minerals and vitamins such as iron and vitamin B12. How our body reacts to a plant-based diet depends on what we swap in its place.

“If you eat plenty of nutritious foods such as vegetables, pulses, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds – you will likely feel energised and nourished. However, if you simply just remove the meat and other animal products, and just eat carbs and fat, you will most likely feel sluggish and tired,” Svanfeldt says.

What happens to your gut when you go vegan?

“A nutritious, balanced plant-based diet rich in vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains, are all very beneficial for our gut flora as they provide plenty of fibre, which both aid digestion, as well as work as prebiotics and feed the gut bacteria,” Svanfeldt says.

However, if you suddenly introduce plenty of fibre-rich foods into your diet, such as beans, lentils and vegetables, your stomach might react by feeling bloated.

This is because these foods are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), Svanfeldt explains. These fibres are very beneficial to our gut health but can build up gas in our colon.

Svanfeldt’s advice is to try introducing the fibre rich foods at a slow pace, and ensuring you get enough hydration in your diet as water can aid digestion.

What happens to your skin on a vegan diet?

How our skin reacts to food is also very individual. Some people won’t notice any difference from a change in diet, others will see big changes. Again, it pays to be mindful when thinking of your swaps, advises Svanfeldt.

A nutritious, vegan diet, rich in vitamin and mineral-packed vegetables, will only benefit you skin, she says, but “fill your diet with ultra processed (even if plant-based) foods, rich in saturated fats, sugar and sodium, and your skin will most likely not gain any additional glow.”

Eating plenty of salty foods, with an excessive amount of sodium (such as in ultra-processed foods), can make our skin puffy and a bit swollen since salt binds water. The same goes for eating an excessive amount of carbs, as we sometimes see over Christmas. Keep it balanced to avoid this puffiness

Will your hair change? If so, how?

Hair quality varies depending not just on the quality but the quantity of our diet.

“Having too large an energy deficit (meaning that you eat less than your body burns), can result in hair loss (among other things, such as fatigue, bone weakness, and nutrient deficiencies), while a balanced and varied diet in line with your energy requirement will provide all the nutrients needed for your hair to grow and glow - such as B-vitamins, iron, zinc and more,” Svanfeldt says.

When starting a vegan diet, it can initially be challenging to reach that energy requirement, she says, as whole plant-based food (vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu) tend to be less energy dense than animal-based products, so you might have to eat larger volumes of food in order to reach the same energy amount.

Keep track of your intake to ensure you reach your daily requirements – apps like Lifesum can help you do this.

How can you stay healthy during Veganuary?

Fill your diet with home-cooked, whole foods. Just because a meal is labelled as plant-based, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy for you.

Don’t remove meat without swapping in other protein. If you cut out a food group from your diet, you need to replace it. So if you remove meat, make sure that you fill up with other protein sources such as tofu, beans, and lentils.

Remember to vary the intake of protein sources. Plant-based food items rarely have a full protein value, which means they don’t contain all essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. But by pairing two or more sources, such as beans and grains, you will get a full protein value.

Fill your diet with vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibres and will provide your body with the fuel it needs.

Choose fortified plant-based milk options. Sometimes it can be challenging to get enough of certain nutrients such as B-12 and vitamin D on a plant-based diet. Many plant-based dairy options (and sometimes grains) are now fortified with these nutrients to help you get enough.