Dr. Mehmet Oz, director of New York Presbyterian Hospital's Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program and award-winning host of "The Dr. Oz Show" says becoming a vegan -- eliminating all animal products from your diet -- will lower your risk of heart attack, obesity and diabetes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics agrees, as long as people follow an eating plan that provides adequate amounts of all essential nutrients. Dr. Oz's 28-Day Vegan Challenge diet claims to help introduce followers to the basics of plant-based eating.
Dr. Oz's 28-Day Vegan Challenge consists of four phases, each lasting one week. The phases -- Detox, Go Faux, Smart Snacking, Veganism Meets Reality -- teach followers to gradually substitute animal-based proteins with plant-based sources like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy, to eliminate refined sugar and to increase intake of whole-grains. The plan does not require elimination of all animal products immediately; instead, it suggests ways you can swap your normal food choices for ones Oz says are better for you. It does not include instructions for developing an exercise regimen.
During the initial Detox phase of Dr. Oz's plan, dieters eat less meat, poultry and seafood and work beans, nuts and seeds regularly into their meals. Go Faux, the second week of the program, adds soy products like tofu, seitan and tempeh to the menu as other heart-healthy meat alternatives. The third phase, Smart Snacking, focuses on building a habit of eating low-sugar, nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, soy nuts, nuts and soy chips instead of cookies, regular potato chips or other commercial snack items. In the plan's final week, Veganism Meets Reality, Oz encourages incorporating the vegan-friendly foods eaten during the first three weeks of the program into your regular diet, focusing on exchanging low-nutrient items for healthier ones, such as quinoa for french fries.
People taking his 28-day vegan diet challenge should avoid using highly processed commercial vegan products like veggie burgers or imitation meat strips as a substitute for animal protein in their meals, advises Oz. These products are often high in sodium -- a typical veggie burger patty contains almost 400 milligrams of sodium, or 17 percent of an adult's recommended daily limit -- and are prepared with artificial ingredients. Oz also suggests avoiding raw veganism, a subset of vegans who only eat uncooked foods. A diet containing a mixture of raw and cooked vegan foods enables you to obtain the most nutrients.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Oz's plan may make it easier for people to adjust to a vegan lifestyle. An "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" article published in 2009 concluded that becoming a vegan will likely increase a person's chance of having low cholesterol levels and blood pressure and of being thinner. However, following a strict vegan diet requires lifelong supplementation with vitamin B-12, a nutrient found only in animal products. It may also result in zinc and iron deficiencies. While Oz's site provides vegan recipes, some may want a more structured approach to changing their eating habits.