10 things that happen to your body when you’re a vegetarian

As Veganuary continues throughout January, more people are taking to a vegetarian diet for the first time, but how could it affect your body?

Eating a lot of meat, chicken, cheese and all dairy at all can shock the system in more ways than one.

It’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrition while following a plant-based diet — whether it’s through meat replacements, larger portions of leafy greens, or vitamins and supplements.

NHS England explains how vegetarians eat only those plants which extends to vegetables, grains, fruits and any foods made from plants – which is a lot nowadays. But what effect does it have on the body?

It’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrition while following a plant-based diet.

better skin

One of the main, popular benefits of going vegan is the improvement in your skin.

When I first went vegan, I noticed that my skin cleared up quickly due to the lack of dairy. This gave way to a shiny and smooth texture, which is promoted by drinking more fluids such as water and getting it from plant-based foods during a vegetarian diet.

weight fluctuations

Most people find that they lose weight when they are vegetarian.

One reason for this could be that you are still figuring out what you can and cannot eat and so in the end you end up thinking more about your food than anything else.

Another reason could be if you are eating only leafy salads and fruits, and avoiding starchy carbohydrates. The problem with this is that you will quickly lose energy and start feeling faint and dizzy, which can result from other issues such as low iron. The NHS recommends that vegetarians eat a diet based on starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, bread or pasta.

feeling tired or foggy

As mentioned above, if you do not follow a balanced diet while being a vegetarian, you may start feeling light-headed and dizzy.

Eating small portions of the same types of foods here and there will see you lose the electrolytes you need to boost your energy and keep you going through the day. You may also feel foggy from a lack of iodine and choline from a lack of eggs in your diet. Choline supports your brain and iodine keeps your thyroid healthy, also regulating your energy and metabolism.

Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes can provide choline, and you can get iodine from fortified table salt. To up your iron intake — a deficiency of which will have a similar effect — you can look to foods such as nuts, fortified cereals, wholemeal breads, dried fruits and leafy vegetables.

A lack of eggs in your diet can lead to a lack of iodine and choline.
A lack of eggs in your diet can lead to a lack of iodine and choline.

Reduces the risk of heart disease and improves heart health

On a vegetarian diet, your cholesterol intake will be much lower and therefore your risk of heart disease will be reduced.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains lowers your cholesterol. For example, foods like tofu and tempeh contain zero cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that only comes from animal products – so vegetarians are already in good shape for heart health after an infection.

better blood sugar control

Foods such as nuts, quinoa, whole grains and legumes have a low glycemic index that keeps your blood sugar stable over time.

In the long run, this good blood sugar level will help you avoid an energy crash because a light plant-based diet will keep you energized. Controlled blood sugar also helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

less joint pain

Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients that have an anti-inflammatory effect on cells.

These antioxidants may help reduce joint pain, swelling, and tenderness. Losing weight also helps reduce the stress placed on the joints, and the fluctuations in weight that can come from a vegetarian diet mean that any joint pain is less likely to occur.

better bowel health

As a vegetarian, your digestive system will function much better as most of your meals will be high in fiber.

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are all high in fiber and are emphasized for vegetarian consumption. Whole grains contain prebiotics that promote good gut health because prebiotics make up probiotics which are beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics can be found in sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha as well as yogurt. These good bacteria will accumulate in the digestive tract and bring you better bowel health.

When I went vegan for the first time, I noticed that my skin cleared up quickly
When I went vegan for the first time, I noticed that my skin cleared up quickly

Vitamin B12 deficiency

They are needed to make red blood cells and keep energy levels stable, but you may find yourself deficient in them at some point as a vegetarian.

Without meat, you should turn to algae, mushrooms and fermented soy products that contain B12. Even nut milks such as almond milk, and fortified cereals contain small doses of B12.

calcium deficiency

Calcium is needed for strong bones but you may feel deficient even after giving up dairy products.

If you do not take care of a balanced vegetarian diet, you may end up with some deficiencies. I take vitamin D and calcium supplements all at once to make sure I don’t get deficient again. This type of vitamin needs to be taken only once a day for a few months before restarting it if needed.

sleep better

Sleepiness usually occurs after animal-based diets that take up a lot of energy from their high fat and protein content.

Once you switch to a vegetarian diet, you may feel more energized if you’re eating lots of nuts, quinoa, whole grains and other healthy fats, complex carbs, and still the right amount of protein.