What Happens to Your Body When You Go Plant Based?

Dr. Matthew NagraPlant-based Diet

learn more about the effects of a plant-based diet on your body

More and more people are discovering the benefits of a plant-based diet. Even some of those who once couldn’t imagine a day without meat are getting curious and are making this transition. It’s no wonder why — with proper knowledge and planning, the benefits are undeniable and may occur sooner than you’d expect. What exactly happens to your body when you go plant-based?

A lot.

Few Things to Expect When Switching to A Plant-based Diet

Here are a few things to expect when switching to a plant-based diet.

1. Healthier Blood Sugar Levels

After a meal, blood sugar levels rise and then drop back down to normal. This is completely natural, normal, and healthy. There is a common misconception that normal rises in blood sugar are problematic in people without diabetes, but that has not been demonstrated in the research to date.

When blood sugar rises, insulin, the hormone that helps lower blood sugar levels, is released. Problems begin for people when there is insufficient insulin production (ie. type 1 diabetes) or an inability of insulin to perform its function (ie. insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes).

Insulin resistance occurs when there is a build-up of stored fat — either excess body fat or from a diet high in saturated fat — in the muscle and/or liver cells.1,2,3 This stored fat and its breakdown products prevent insulin from doing its job by blocking the message that insulin sends to the cells. Think of it like this: insulin is the key that unlocks the door to the cells, but fat is gumming up the lock.

Therefore, constant high blood sugar levels and chronic blood sugar imbalance can be indicative of diabetes,4 as well as contributing to heart disease5,6, and increased risk of premature death.5

A plant-based diet high in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit, and healthy fats sources like avocados, nuts, and seeds can help to better regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of the conditions mentioned above.7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15

3. Lower Cholesterol

Cholesterol plays an important role in the body to produce hormones, but research shows that our bodies will make all the hormones we need, even if a person has very little cholesterol stored in their bloodstream.16,17 Maintaining lower levels reduces the risk of heart disease and promotes longevity.18,19

Foods like okra, eggplant, oatmeal, barley, beans, nuts and seeds, and fruit are great sources of soluble fiber and/or polyunsaturated fats and keep cholesterol at levels that reduce long-term disease risk.20

4. Improves Digestion

Speaking of fiber, increased intake also helps a person become regular, correcting conditions like constipation as well as reducing the risk of other digestive issues.21,22 Gut ailments can have repercussions throughout the body that may affect mental and physical health, which is an area of research that is currently being done.23,24

However, it’s good to be aware that temporary gut discomfort may occur if fibre intake is ramped up too quickly, but that should subside with time. This can be avoided or minimized by introducing fiber in moderation, giving one’s body an adjustment period before further increasing.

5. Weight Loss

A balanced plant-based diet often results in weight loss.25,26,27,28,29,30,31 Despite those who say, “I can’t eat only rabbit food, I’ll always be hungry,” plant foods are very filling, while typically having low caloric density due to high fiber and water content. So, a person may eat smaller, more balanced meals that result in long-term and sustainable weight loss.32

6. Disease Prevention

There are many diseases and conditions that may warrant transitioning to a plant-based diet.33,34,35 As mentioned, this includes type 2 diabetes, which is on the rise across populations in North America.35,36 Studies strongly suggest that a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal products can help prevent several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, in people who are at risk, and may help with disease treatment as well.33,34,35,36,37

Remember that replacing meat with highly processed plant-based foods high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat will do little to improve overall health. But a plant-based diet can easily be full of variety, flavor, and new inspiring eating experiences, along with many health benefits.

What’s Next?

The idea of converting to a plant-based diet might at first seem overwhelming. But millions of people have successfully done it, and it’s all the easier with the correct knowledge and support. If you’d like to transition to this type of diet, it is worth a trip to a naturopathic doctor who has knowledge about plant-based diets to ensure that you are getting the nutrients needed.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22385956/
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2018.00007/full
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34132491/
  4. https://guidelines.diabetes.ca/cpg/chapter3
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5642750/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2877338/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19339401/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33252690/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33479499/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33951994/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24871477/
  13. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00080/full#
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853923/
  15. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.103.13.1823
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28295777/
  17. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.307345
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25855712/
  19. https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/38/32/2459/3745109
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29807048/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27170558/
  22. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-00375-4
  23. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949819300122
  24. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33544066/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33479499/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466943/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26138004/
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25620754/
  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25592014/
  32. https://www.nature.com/articles/nutd20173
  33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853923/
  34. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33951994/
  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/
  36. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19339401/
  37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9989963/