Vegans abstain from all animal products, for example, meat, fish, milk and dairy products, honey and other substances from animal origin, like milk powder. Nevertheless, countless foods remain that are “vegan” by nature: vegetables, fruits, cereals, legumes, rice, nuts, pasta (if made without eggs, of course), and so on. By contrast, vegetarians eat products made of meat but don’t eat meat and fish itself.
Positive results on (mental) health:
- A raw vegan diet brought a positive change in quality of life, and a decrease of anxiety and stress (3)
- A low-fat vegan diet for people with diabetes or BMI >=25 over 22 weeks showed that general health, physical functioning, mental health, and vitality improved in the vegan group (4)
- In the vegan group, lower stress and anxiety were observed. In men, lower anxiety was related to vegan diet; in females, lower stress was related to vegan diet, and a lower daily intake of sweets (5)
- Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, which is reducing their risk of heart disease (6)
- Vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated (6)
But is the only difference the food intake? (7)
- smoke or drink less than average
- exercise more
- care more about the ethics and quality of their food
- are less likely to eat fast food
And there are also negative results:
On the contrary there are studies stating that a strictly vegan/vegetarian diet may be a risk factor for mental health; e.g. higher anxiety and depression levels compared to people who also ate meat and other animal products (8, 9).
But this might be explained by a key bias, because the majority of vegan / vegetarian eaters are female, unmarried, younger, and highly educated. These are all characteristics which are associated with a higher prevalence of mental disorders (10).
So, more research is needed until we can state whether a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle might be beneficial for our mental health or not. Generally speaking, enhancing the fruit, vegetable, and legume content of our everyday food will lead to increased uptake of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and fibers. These are necessary for a physically healthy lifestyle – and most likely for your mental health status, too.
- Healthy food is key to a healthy mind (2017, October 9) retrieved 3 February 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-healthy-food-key-mind.html
- Skopos (2016): 1,3 Millionen Deutsche leben vegan.
Online unter: https://www.skopos-group.de/news/13-millionen-deutsche-leben-vegan.html [11.06.2019]
- Link, L. B., & Jacobson, J. S. (2008). Factors affecting adherence to a raw vegan diet. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 14(1), 53–59. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2006.12.005
- Katcher, H. I., Ferdowsian, H. R., Hoover, V. J., Cohen, J. L., & Barnard, N. D. (2010). A worksite vegan nutrition program is well-accepted and improves health-related quality of life and work productivity. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 56(4), 245-252.
- Beezhold, B., Radnitz, C., Rinne, A., & DiMatteo, J. (2015). Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores. Nutritional neuroscience, 18(7), 289-296.
- Winston J Craig, Health effects of vegan diets, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 1627S–1633S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736N
- Veganism and Vegetarian Effects on Mental Health, retrieved 3 February 2020 from (https://www.serenitymaliburehab.com/veganism-vegetarian-effects-mental-health/
- Lavallee, K., Zhang, X. C., Michalak, J., Schneider, S., & Margraf, J. (2019). Vegetarian diet and mental health: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in culturally diverse samples. Journal of affective disorders, 248, 147-154.
- Hibbeln, J. R., Northstone, K., Evans, J., & Golding, J. (2018). Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men. Journal of affective disorders, 225, 13-17.
- Sind Veganer eigentlich Veganerinnen?, retrieved 3 February 2020 from