Natural health nutritionist, author and health coach Laura Wilson explains whether a vegan diet could be for you

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Veganism is on the rise. It’s embraced by many a celebrity such as Jared Leto, Beyoncé , Alicia Silverstone and a plethora of celebrity athletes, like Serena and Venus Williams – all of whom are thriving on it and look great.

Veganism for many people may sound extreme – no meat, fish, dairy, eggs. It might beg the question – what is there left to eat?!

But actually being vegan is incredibly simple and can open up a whole new world of delicious meals and foods. My book The Alkaline 5 Diet  gives a 21-day meal plan with tasty recipes that can help you kickstart it or simply try out a vegan diet and lifestyle.

So, how do you know if a vegan diet is for you? Here are 5 signs that you should try it out…

1. You want to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes or heart disease

A vegan diet has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of the big three western diseases. The China Study (the largest study on human nutrition ever conducted) pointed to a plant-based diet as being the optimum diet for healthfulness and a diet that includes animal products as the root of these three common diseases.

Gerson Therapy, which is an intensive course of vegan and alkaline juices, is used with great success to help terminal cancer patients in many countries such as Mexico and the Nordics.

2. You have low energy

If you find yourself fatigued in the afternoons and need that hit of caffeine as a pick-me-up throughout the day, you should try a low fat vegan diet.

The combination of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, combined with keeping your fat intake low (high fat can ‘clog up’ your body’s cells and make you feel sluggish), means that you’ll have great energy sustained throughout the day.

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3. You have a hormonal or skin problem

Dairy products are packed full of hormones. If you think about it, milk is a hormone-delivery product, used to make a baby cow grow into a huge animal in the space of a few months.

This intensive amount of hormones plays havoc with our own hormone levels and can cause all manner of negative health effects – from acne to breast cancer to heavy and painful periods.

Do yourself a favour and switch dairy milk with almond or coconut milk and ditch the cheese. There are plenty of great-tasting vegan nut cheeses around, if cheese is your thing.

4. You love animals

The meat and dairy industries are brutal places these days. Factory farms and tight profit margins mean that animals have been commoditised more than ever before.

We see the end product of animal slaughter in nicely-packaged containers in supermarket fridges and in happy-looking adverts and media images, but this is far from the reality of what the poor animals have to go through at our expense.

If you are a real animal person – love dogs or cats and hold our furry friends dear to your heart but still eat meat and dairy, you should definitely consider going vegan to be fully-congruent with your beliefs.

5. You want to lose weight and keep it off for good

Quite simply, vegans are thinner than non-vegans. There are a number of studies that show this. It makes sense when you think that all animal products contain cholesterol and saturated fat.

Dr Neal Barnard’s studies show that a vegan diet can actually turn off your fat genes…yes, we have fat genes!

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3 tips for starting a vegan diet successfully

If you fancy trying veganism out, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

1. Firstly, don't go mad on the ‘gourmet vegan’ front. It is tempting to eat lots of rich vegan cakes and fake meat substitutes and vegan cheeses. However, these are all high in fat and tend to be processed and dense in calories and will likely make you feel tired and slow; so eat these things in moderation.

Instead, focus on eating lots of fresh ripe fruits and vegetables – lots of leafy greens, which are the best sort of vegan protein and indeed the best source of protein for humans overall.

2. Secondly, add wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and spelt pasta into your diet.

3. Thirdly, green smoothies are the vegan’s secret weapon – they are packed full of nutrients, deliciously sweet and filling and can be made in 5 minutes. Combine your favourite ripe fruits with some spinach, kale or romaine lettuce for an alkaline green smoothie that delivers an optimum amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat to fuel your body and leave you feeling satisfied.

The Alkaline 5 Diet by Laura Wilson (Hay House UK, £10.99) is available to buy online from .