Do vegans consume more vitamins and minerals?
Consider nutrients: Do plant-based eaters get more than meat eaters? One cohort study looked at 65,429 men and women between 20 and 97 with various dietary habits and backgrounds, including many non-meat eaters and meat eaters. Researchers compared overall nutrient intake and found vegetarians and vegans had the highest intakes of fiber, vitamin B1, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium. But they had the lowest intakes of retinol, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. Meat eaters got some of these nutrients, but they also consumed less fiber (bad) and more saturated fat (good or bad, depending on the source).
Another study found that in general, vegans and vegetarians ate more vegetables and legumes and less junk food than meat eaters. (They also took more supplements.) In other words, it might not be eliminating meat that creates longevity; it could be increased intake of nutrient-dense plant foods
What role do lifestyle factors play here?
One study looked at the effects of lifestyle and food on chronic disease among vegetarians and vegans compared with meat eaters. Researchers found meat eaters had more chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Unfairly, higher saturated fat and cholesterol intake got the blame for this increased disease risk. But interestingly, meat eaters who practiced healthy lifestyle factors—meaning they didn’t smoke or drink excessive alcohol, they exercised regularly, and they consumed plenty of fruits and vegetables—had results similar to those of vegetarians and vegans who also practiced healthy lifestyle factors.
From these and other studies, we can put together a more accurate picture on longevity. Research generally finds that vegetarians and vegans engage in healthier lifestyle practices than other groups, including meat eaters. (But that doesn’t mean they all do.) From that perspective, one study found little difference in death rates between vegetarians and vegans and those who consume meat. Meat eaters who consumed more fruits and vegetables, didn’t smoke, and exercised regularly had lower mortality rates than those who didn’t maintain these and other lifestyle factors.