Is a vegan diet healthy long term?

is a vegan diet healthy long term?  // bring joy

Is a vegan diet healthy long term?

A big question for a lot of folks, after they discover that yes, a vegan diet can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, help you manage diabetes, & so many other lovely immediate things, they wonder–is a vegan diet healthy long term?

The answer is, yes, it can be. With a little attention to detail & planning, a vegan diet can be extremely healthy both now & in the long term.

{Ginny Messina, R.D., offers some tips for keeping a vegan diet healthy & fabulous. For more of the nitty gritty details & fine print, I recommend reading the American Dietetic Association’s paper on vegetarian & vegan diets.}

I’m a long-term vegan.

I’ve been vegan {(mostly)–let’s not talk about the first trimesters of my pregnancies, okay?} for nearly eight years. It’s hard to believe.

{Why I went vegan, here.}

I love being vegan. Love it. I cannot tell you how happy I get when I go to a vegan restaurant, whenever I see a new vegan cookbook is out, or see a new vegan product at the store. Also, I think my fellow vegans are some the most genuine, earnest, best kind of people the world has to offer.

And have you ever been to an all vegan restaurant? There’s seems to be such a great spirit there–I don’t know quite how to explain it. I just love being in a place where I know all the food is wholesome & no animal had to suffer because of it. On the flip side, have you ever been to a Texas barbecue joint? They’re a pretty big deal here. I remember the first time I went into one (long story, I was trying to break some change & it was the only place around). I felt sick. There were huge slabs of dead animals just hanging from the ceilings. I found it disturbing & I wanted to get out of there as quick as I was able.

Not only does being vegan bring me joy (no pun intended), but it helps me feel my best too.

I know there are some ex-vegans out there ranting & raving about the deficiencies or perils of a vegan diet. I’m not speaking to them. I’m speaking to those veg-curious, those who just want to eat more plants, those who are toying with the idea of eating mostly or all vegan.

Any diet can have it’s deficiencies. Eating a balanced, whole foods (plant-based or otherwise) diet does not exempt you from ever having health problems. And just because you may have health issues, does not mean it’s necessarily the fault of your diet.

Diet is super important, but it’s not everything. Environment, genetics, plus throw in the fact that we’re all mortal, we are all aging beings, & you’ve got to realize that no matter how spectacular a diet, 99.9% of us are going to have some health issues at some point.  (And of course, as my dad says, none of us are going to make it out of here alive.)

So, if a vegan diet isn’t a panacea, why go vegan?

Because you will feel better! (And it’s better for the environment, & of course, better for the animals.)

You don’t have to completely cut out meat to enjoy the benefits of eating plant-based. If you’re veg-curious, try to make 90% or more of what you eat be plant foods, ideally unrefined plant foods (so oreos, though vegan, don’t really count I’m afraid).

Pay attention to what you’re eating.

Also it’s important to remember that sure, vegans have to make sure they’re eating enough of this & that, but everyone (omnivores too!) needs to pay attention to what they’re eating.

If you’re vegan, it’s not rocket science, but there are a few things to be sure you’re getting a daily dose of–b-12, zinc (especially if you’re gluten-free), omega-3’s (hello chia/flax/hemp seeds!), calcium (chard & kale are your best friends) are a few key things to keep tabs on. And yes, protein is important too. But you don’t need to stress, because you’re eating a few servings of beans every day, right? (I see you nodding your head.)

Speaking of cookbooks that make me happy (we were talking about how new vegan cookbooks make me a happy weren’t we?)–I went to the library & checked out Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro. (I also checked out the moneysaving mom’s new book, which, what can I say? I judge books by their title & cover & this one caught my attention.)

The cookbook is written by the owner/founder of Plum restaurants–an all-vegan, all-organic chain in the Seattle area. The cookbook is a coffee table book (photos & clean design & layout are breathtaking) as well as a source of inspiration in the kitchen. I could see myself making most of the recipes, which include a great deal of gluten-free & soy-free options.

Side note: As a born & bred Washingtonian, I ♥ Seattle! Especially how veg-friendly they tend to be. + the Puget Sound, the mountains…Seattle peeps, aside from the atrocious cost-of-living & the traffic, ya’ll don’t know how good you have it!

is a vegan diet healthy long term? // bring joy

The author Makini Howell has been a life-long vegan. She’s also African-American, a woman (obviously) & really making her mark in this world. I find her absolutely inspiring.

She writes in the intro:

My intention with this book is to create a complete culinary experience. When I was in New York, even living in Brooklyn I was frustrated by the lack of vegan options. Eating out almost always meant having a salad. Although we do offer salads, at Plum there are no limits on being vegan. Instead we like to think of what we do as expansion–for me vegan food is about flavor first. My recipes are shaped traditions such as butter sauces, chimichurri dressing, & handmade pastas. I also use classic grilling techniques for everything from pizzas to vegetables, & I don’t rely heavily on tofu. I’m really not trying to replace anything because I don’t feel–I have never felt–like I’m “missing” anything. I’m just using other sources of protein. What you’ll find in these pages is a vegan reinterpretation of modern, smart, thoughtful food.

is a vegan diet healthy long term? // bring joy Isn’t that spectacular? That bit really resonates with me.

A vegan diet is about expansion, flavor, options. Yes.

A vegan diet can be extremely health-promoting. It can help you become a more compassionate person. It can help you live with greater intention. It can help you, in a small but significant way, care for our environment & animals.

I can’t think of a better way to eat myself.


Also see…

(Note: Some of these posts are 5 years old! So my current self may not necessarily agree with some of the opinions & perspectives that my prior self shares. But the basic principles remain the same.)

you drink milk & eat eggs, right?
vegan pantry basics
eating out as a vegan
breastfeeding, cow’s milk, & lies
a rebuttal–talking to the naysayers, again
joys of vegan mothering
what a vegan pantry/kitchen looks like
vegan & mormon, an anomaly?
talking to the anti-vegetarian
what I eat in a typical day
4 stages to transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet
my last piece of bacon
how I did it
what types of vegans are there?
on living with an omnivore
why I don’t drink cow’s milk
frugal vegan, part 1 & part 2

Are you vegan? Veg-curious? Plant-based? Just want to eat more plants?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!

FYI: This post contains affiliate links. You know I only promote those things I can only 100% endorse. You purchase anything via these links, I earn a commission. Thanks for supporting bring joy!


  1. Byron
    on May 17, 2014 at 8:23 am said:

    Beautiful post. Have been plant-based for 29 years. Loved the comments about vegan/vegetarian restaurants. You are right, there is always a wonderful spirit/vibe. Wherever we travel, we seek out vegan/vegetarian eateries (Candle 79 in New York, Real Food Daily in LA, Naam in Vancouver, Blind Faith Cafe in Chicago) and have lovely interactions along with healthy, nourishing food. Feeds the body and the spirit …

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  3. Joya
    on April 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm said:

    I love this post, as well as these comments. Once you are educated and know what everything you put in your body is actually doing to you or for you, why would you want to do things any differently? That’s how I feel. I love being vegan; it feels so clean:0)
    And vegan resturants! – we have one in Nashville called The Wild Cow. There are photos (taken by local artists) of animals on the walls, and the vibe is just so great. I know exactly what you are saying there. I take my meat eating friend there, and he loves it. Oh, and they have vegan gluten free desserts from a local bakery to top things off:0)

  4. Kelli
    on April 24, 2014 at 1:05 am said:

    Thanks for a great post, Janae. I get so frustrated when I read the “why I’m no longer vegan” posts. Next month will be my 12-year veganversary, plus 8 years of vegetarian before that, and it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life.

    I hear the same thing from people who take my vegan cooking classes – that it so “hard” to be vegan, especially when traveling. But it’s really not. When we lose the attachment to eating certain kinds of foods, it’s not hard to find fruits & veggies and rice, etc. Everything new is a challenge at the beginning. Just like any new skill, once we take a little time to learn a few things, it just flows from there….

  5. Katie
    on April 23, 2014 at 11:57 pm said:

    What do you do to make sure your children are getting B12?

    • Janae Wise
      on April 24, 2014 at 12:03 am said:

      They take a multi–plus they drink fortified almond or soy milk every day 🙂

  6. Tia
    on April 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm said:

    I feel like the biggest hurdle for me in going vegan is the cooking. It seems that almost everything requires a lot of ingredients and meal prep. I just feel overwhelmed when I think about that. I’ll have to read through some of your other posts for advice about that.

    • Janae Wise
      on April 24, 2014 at 12:12 am said:

      “I feel like the biggest hurdle for me in going vegan is the cooking. It seems that almost everything requires a lot of ingredients and meal prep. I just feel overwhelmed when I think about that. I’ll have to read through some of your other posts for advice about that.”
      Been there, 100%! I think that is the one of the most common struggles people have when contemplating the switch. It’s like big question marks whenever you think about what you’ll cook or eat. Which is why, this blog exists! To show that good (vegan) food doesn’t have to be complicated.

      Some of my simplest & easiest dishes are soups & throw-together salads–check out my quick recipes: for some ideas. Also, do you have my free ebook SIMPLE? There’s a lot of easy, good stuff in there too.

  7. Meredith @ Unexpectedly Magnificent
    on April 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm said:

    I absolutely love being vegan. I’m so much happier and healthier—mentally, emotionally, and physically. It feels like I’ve been vegan for longer than two months, because those two months have been so enriching and rewarding. 🙂

  8. Laurie
    on April 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm said:

    I’m vegetarian and could say I’m vegan but for my sweet tooth–milk chocolate is the last food to release before my transition is complete.

    The last year and a half has been the most varied my diet has ever been. And I’ve never felt so healthy, full of energy, and so in touch with the environment. Just like Emma wrote in her comment, I can’t imagine EVER eating the way I used to. Really, what would be the point!? Or the need!?

  9. Emma (This Kind Choice)
    on April 23, 2014 at 3:28 pm said:

    I’ve had a lot of people say to me, “But aren’t vegans really unhealthy & sick all the time?” when I tell them I’m vegan.
    I always feel like responding in a mock thoughtful voice, “Really? Because I feel like I’ve seen sick omnivores too… You know, diabetes, high blood pressure? I’ve heard there’s a few of those around. Have you ever seen one?”
    You’re so right that any diet can be unhealthy and that even if your diet is balanced, that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick.
    But like you I love the way it makes me feel both physically and about my impact on the world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

  10. Emma
    on April 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm said:

    Yes! Being vegan brings me joy too. I love knowing I’m not taking part in the unnecessary cruelty and killing of animals and reducing my environmental impact and improving my health at the same time. I honestly feel like a happier person now that I’m vegan. I’m sure it’s related to not having that burden of death on my shoulders.
    I’m in my 5th year of being vegan now. Can’t imagine it being any other way anymore 😀

    • Janae Wise
      on April 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm said:

      “Can’t imagine it being any other way anymore :D”
      Completely agree! It’s so hard for me to “get” why people would *want* to eat meat. I know why they do (or at least partly), but the thought of eating meat just seems so foreign to me now.

      “I honestly feel like a happier person now that I’m vegan. I’m sure it’s related to not having that burden of death on my shoulders.”
      Totally. It makes me happy to know I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  11. Adina | Gluten Free Travelette
    on April 23, 2014 at 1:22 pm said:

    YES to the vibe of vegan restaurants. They are my favorite to seek out when I’m on the road because there’s always such a great community feel!