Should you take the vegan leap? - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Should you take the vegan leap?

WASHINGTON (WRC/NBC) - More and more people are shunning animal products in favor of the vegan plant-based diet, but some experts warn it's not for everyone.

Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said if former President Bill Clinton can live the vegan life, anyone can.

"He looked terrific when Chelsea got married. He was 24, 26 pounds lighter, but the reason he did it was for a healthy heart," Barnard said. "He didn't want to go back and have heart surgery again. Diet can do the same thing."

Barnard said a plant-based diet can help people lower their cholesterol, blood pressure, and lose weight, but it's not always an easy change to make.

"It is a little bit of a change and whole lot of people know that they want to do it because they know if they do it they can get rid of all the cholesterol, all of the animal fat and they can be slim and healthy," Barnard said.

Bernard, whose committee organizes a 21-day vegan kick start program, admits it requires a lot of meal planning and cooking.

Vegan convenience foods like dairy-free cheeses and fake meats can help make the transition, but dietitians warn just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy.

"If it comes in a package, it's still a processed food," dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield warned, noting it can still be packed with calories, sodium and sugar, so you need to read the label carefully.

Dietitians admit vegan diets can be very healthy. But you do need make sure you're monitoring your vitamins and minerals, because vegans often have Vitamin B12 and protein deficiencies.

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