As we learned while testing the insanely popular Taco Cleanse, crash-dieting with vegan restrictions is not a good idea. And neither is subsisting solely on juice. But if you’re thinking about switching to a vegetarian diet, there are still a lot of factors to take into consideration. We talked to nutrition experts, including Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N and founder of Essence Nutrition, to give you the full story on an all-veggie lifestyle.
1. Your skin will brighten up.
Eating more fruits and vegetables means you’ll be consuming more vitamin C and water, which collagen needs to improve skin elasticity, Auslander says. And while there haven’t been direct studies on the effects of animal proteins, cutting out processed deli meats—which have been linked to inflammation—will result in less puffy, prettier skin.
2. Your hair could get shinier.
“A diet that revolves around fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans could improve the lustrousness of your hair and nails,” Auslander says. “But not always.” That being said, your hair and nail strength is largely hereditary so any effects would be minimal.
3. Your metabolism will stay the same.
“Metabolism is a very complicated animal,” Auslander says. You can manipulate it with exercise and reducing your intake of of processed foods and refined carbohydrates, but those foods (i.e. pretzels, pita bread) could still technically be part of a vegetarian diet.
4. Your energy levels might spike.
When you increase how much fruit and vegetables you’re eating, you get more hydrated in the process. This instantly improves energy levels, Auslander says. However, this also depends on whether you’re consuming complete proteins. That means you’ve got to pair up foods like brown rice and beans, which by themselves are incomplete proteins.
5. You won’t necessarily lose weight.
Eating processed carbohydrates like white rice and white bread will spike your blood sugar and then it will crash. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, if you’re eating refined carbs you’re going to suffer. As Auslander points out, you can still be overweight or even obsese while on a vegetarian diet. “Sometimes I wish I could tell my clients that they’d get a lot more out of eating a piece of fish than a gluten-free granola bar,” she says.
Like anything, you have to take most of these benefits with a grain of salt. As Auslander points out, choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is really more of an ethical decision, not a health one: “If it were universally accepted to improve your health, skin, or metabolism, wouldn’t all dietitians be vegetarian?” Touché.