A question from a Community Member:

“I have noticed/observed that quite a few vegans look pretty unhealthy (off colour and with really dark circles under the eyes like people with actual illness, not just “extra tired)”. Is a plant-based diet actually healthy?”

My thoughts on this …

I don’t find appearances to be the best assessment of the lifestyle. Perhaps those people are on a journey, and looked quite a bit worse before they began.

Maybe they are making gradual changes and trying to figure it out along the way. I know people who stopped eating animals immediately because they didn’t want to be a part of suffering anymore and their own health is a secondary priority.

Or they were appalled with the state of the planet which to them was more pressing.

Everyone has their own priority based on what they value.

The best marker of good health are blood tests – before and periodically throughout. That’s why I encourage clients to get baseline bloods done, and then recheck 3 months, 6 months, 12 months later. I teach them how to interpret their results. And I recommend using a free tool like Cronometer to track nutrition as beginners to ensure adequate nutrition.

Another important aspect if you’re interested in the lifestyle is to trial it, following above action (blood testing before, food tracking, mood journal) and assess how you feel at the end of that period. In my experience, if the advice is followed, almost 100% of people feel and look better (and can measure their physical and mental improvements).

As for evidence of plant-based being a superior diet … first we have to get the terminology right.

1) There are “vegans” (who identify with the label for the moral / ethical aspect of the cause as well as eliminating the consumption and purchase of all animal foods / products). “Vegan” doesn’t necessarily equal healthy because items like sea-salt chips and coca-cola still pass the “no animal product” rule yet are anything but healthy.

2) there are those who eat “plant-based” (again, can include soft-drinks, sugar, oil, salt and processed foods) without the emphasis on the moral / ethical aspect

3) and there are “whole-food plant-based” (WFPB) folks who focus on consuming whole plant foods – veggies, fruit, whole grains, legumes and beans, and nuts and seeds. What’s different here is the elimination of highly processed foods including refined sugars, oil and salt.

To complicate matters, yes, there can be plant-based AND WFPB vegans too!

“Whole Food Plant Based Diet” is a term coined by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Dr Campbell has written numerous New York Times best selling books, including The China Study and Whole – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and has been at the forefront of nutrition research since the 1970’s. My certification in plant-based nutrition was under his tutelage. His research has been vital for understanding the relationship between food and disease and is one of my personal heroes.

According to Dr. Campbell , a diet filled with a variety of whole fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds is most effective way of preventing, treating, and in some cases, even reversing the most common ailments today, including certain types of cancers, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity. The research is out there to back this up (refer to either of the two books mentioned above). Dr Campbell’s work has been peer reviewed and endorsed by science.

Another great person to follow is Dr Michael Greger – who trawls through scientific research and findings and is not financially motivated to do so. He wrote a great book called “How Not to Die“.

A lot of vegans and plant-based eaters are on the journey toward WFPB. This can be quick, or it can take years and even decades. Which again, is why people who eliminate animal products from their diet may be showing up in the world in various physical forms.

If you found this answer helpful, let me know in the comments below.

If you have a question you’d like to get answered, why not ask it over in the private Facebook community? You’ll connect with other like-minded folks who are all at different stages of their journey to eating more plants.