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Signs You Should Avoid the Vegan Diet, From Processed Foods to Anxiety

  • Eating vegan has some health advantages, but it’s not for everyone.
  • You won’t benefit from the vegan diet if you rely on processed foods.
  • Consider a different diet if you notice adverse changes, and don’t start a new diet to fix your mood.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the vegan lifestyle moves closer to the American mainstream, many people might be considering a plant-based way of eating.

While adding more plants to your diet is usually a good thing, adhering to a vegan eating plan requires some restriction. And because we’re not living in a majority-vegan world, it can be challenging to stick to the diet while getting your essential nutrients.

“A well-planned

vegan diet
can support the greatest athletes in history,” nutrition expert Wendy Bazilian, RDN, told Insider. “But well-planned is key, and well-planned can be challenging in our environment.”

If you’re not prepared to take on that challenge, the vegan diet may not be right for you. Insider spoke with Bazilian about three other signs that you shouldn’t eat vegan.

You won’t benefit from the vegan diet if you rely on processed foods

On the vegan diet, you can eat anything that didn’t come from an animal. While that means meat, eggs, and dairy are out of the question, human-made or processed foods can have a place at a vegan table.

A vegan lifestyle may not be a good fit for people who rely heavily on “ultra-processed foods,” Bazilian said. Almost every food is processed to some degree, but the highly altered versions contain lots of salt, sugar, and fats and very few essential nutrients.

“There’s a lot more great choices out there right now, but you can be a vegan on a soda and potato chips diet,” Bazilian said. “That’s vegan, and it could even have a beautiful splashy label that says it, but you will be at risk for some nutritional deficits by that.”

Be prepared to consume more, and stop your diet if you notice any signs of deficiency

If you’re going vegan after years of eating an omnivorous or vegetarian diet, you’ll likely have to eat more food to meet your nutritional needs. Although this can sound appealing at first, “more is more,” Bazilian said.

Some people may have trouble finding a variety of vegan dishes that suit their taste buds, while others may struggle to get a greater volume of food down. 

As with any new diet, it’s important to listen to your body and stop eating vegan if you notice any adverse effects that don’t align with your nutrition goals. Some people may gain weight due to over-consumption, while others may not eat enough and experience nutrition deficiencies, Bazilian said.

She added that if you notice your hair and nails becoming brittle, new problems with your skin, or deteriorating mood and energy levels after starting a new diet, you should consider a different eating style.

Don’t start a new diet to fix your mental health

Eating a plant-based diet has a range of benefits for physical health, including lowering the risk of type two diabetes and heart disease.

But the relationship between eating vegan and mental health may trend in the opposite direction. A recent review of 18 separate studies concluded that meat-eaters may have better psychological health than those who abstain.

However, it’s hard to say whether the study participants who didn’t eat meat chose to diet because they were dealing with preexisting depression, or if their moods changed after they shifted their diets. Either way, it’s important to consider your mental state before starting any diet.

“We should be asking about mental health when it comes to diet, in general,” Bazilian told Insider. “It’s not just that mood is tied to food, but our physical and mental health are tied together and food is part of that, regardless of diet.”