What you need to know about going vegan

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MYTH: Going vegan always leads to weight loss

While you may lose weight on a vegan plan, it’s not a guarantee. Though a review of different diet patterns found that vegan diets can prompt weight loss, you still need to eat well. After all, Oreos and French fries are both animal-free, but they aren’t going to help you slim down.

That said, if your diet consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, you’ll be getting a lot of fiber, and a year-long study found that this one dietary change helped people shed about 5 pounds.

FACT: You need to supplement a vegan diet

The biggest concern for vegetarians is vitamin B12, which is critical in cell division and the maintenance of nerve cells. This nutrient is only found in animal products, not plant foods, so if you aren’t eating animal foods, like salmon, tuna, chicken and beef, you could come up short. If you don’t want to pop a vitamin B12 pill (or a multi, which would do the trick), the workaround is a fortified cereal. However, don’t assume that all cereals are fortified. Cheerios, for instance, doesn’t contain vitamin B12, so you’ll need to read labels to make sure you’re covered.

Vegans are at risk for falling short on other nutrients, like calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids so it’s a good idea to meet with a registered dietitian who can either suggest how to meet your needs with foods or recommend a quality vegan supplement.

Focus on animal-free whole food staples, like beans, nuts, whole grains, and fruits and veggies and you’ll be setting yourself up for a nutritious vegan diet.

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