Is a Vegan Diet Healthy For You?

By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”™, Dr. Oz’s “home for your health”, is a platform where experts will answer user-generated questions concerning one’s well-being. Explore the site and you’ll get an opportunity to see what people are really thinking, what’s confusing them, as well as what they want more information about. One question I’ve answered on multiple occasions was this: “How’s a vegan diet healthy for me?”

Vegan diets are not innately healthier; it’s possible to be a vegan and still eat processed foods. When I was going to Equinox in the 90s, we used to call these kids “Twinkie Vegetarians.” They wouldn’t eat anything that had ever been alive, but instead were eating spaghetti and Coco Crunches. It’s possible to be a vegan or a vegetarian and still eat a horrible diet. However, the spirit of the vegan diet is something I do agree with.

Fresh fruits and vegetables offer an array of compounds; an encyclopedia of flavonoids, polyphenols, catechins, vitamins, and minerals. These things act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in the body. The fiber in these foods helps control blood-sugar and may protect against cancer. The problem is that humans do better with some animal products in their diet.

The vegan diet does not provide one with a sufficient amount of B12, zinc, or heme iron. There are very few vegetarian sources of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which for the most part, can only be found in animal foods and fish.

What makes a meat-eating diet unhealthy has nothing to do with eating foods that come from animals. However, most of the meat that’s on the market today comes from animals that are sick. Factory feedlot cattle, which are raised in confinement, are fed unhealthy grains, shot full of steroids, growth-hormones, and antibiotics. If this were the only meat available, I would become a vegan. Grass-fed beef is a whole different story.


Animals raised on pasture, eating their natural diet of grass, are rarely injected with antibiotics or hormones and pose no threat to one’s health. While some people clearly seem to thrive on a leafy diet, there have been many anecdotal stories regarding the longterm health problems with the vegan orthodoxy.

Loss of energy, brittle hair, and nutrient-insufficiency are three I’ve seen frequently reported. My personal opinion is that one’s diet should be loaded with plant-based foods. However, some healthy sources of animal protein, such as grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and wild salmon will do a body good. Remember, everyone’s different and no diet philosophy is going to be equally valid for everybody.

By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”™