Do Jay Z and Beyoncé Know Going Vegan is a Lifestyle, Not a Fad?

New vegans Jay Z and Beyoncé. Photo: Getty ImagesThe world collectively dropped its Chobani yogurt this week when Jay Z and Beyoncé announced, through Jay Z’s website, that they would go vegan for 22 days, aiming for a “spiritual and physical cleanse.” The declaration was brief, redirecting readers to the site of friend and vegan meal-bar maker Marco Borges for details about “the benefits of a plant based diet,” and implying that the decision is about health and fitness over animal rights. But does simply sticking to vegan foods automatically equal healthfulness and weight loss?

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As an ethical vegan for the better part of the last decade (as well as someone with a lifelong sweet tooth), I, for one, am fairly certain it doesn’t. Vegans, after all, can choose to subsist on Oreos and Ritz crackers topped with Jif peanut butter. And while those choices might help the health of the planet, the staggering amount of salt, sugar and hydrogenated oils won’t do much for our figure — not to mention blood pressure or cholesterol.

Still, while I’d bet my hemp-seed shake that J and B have already assembled a team of vegan gurus to make sure they do it right, I’m a little concerned about the omnivorous fans who might want to follow in their footsteps, especially for the long-term. And some experts agree.

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“You can cut out animal products, and technically be vegan, and eat Twizzlers and other processed foods, and you’re not going to be any healthier, although your cholesterol might go down,” Victoria Moran, best-selling author of “Main Street Vegan,” tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s a great idea to eat plants instead of animals, but you need to eat plants, not cupcakes.” Although, she adds with a laugh, “You can eat some cupcakes.” Moran also noted the plethora of vegan donuts, cheeses and cookies that can have the same effect on your weight as junk food.

There’s no doubt that vegans can be healthier in many ways — with lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and incidents of type-2 diabetes, notes Jack Norris, registered dietician and coauthor of “Vegan for Life.” But details to be mindful of, for those who want to follow the pop duo’s lead, include getting enough vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

“For just 22 days there’s not much to worry about except getting enough protein,” Norris tells Shine. Skimping on protein—which, in vegan forms, tends to revolve around legumes and legume products, like lentils, peanut butter, tofu and hummus, or the grain-like quinoa — may lead to lethargy, frequent colds or a loss of muscle mass, he explains. Although Moran believes that people’s perceived need for protein is largely a placebo, stating, “If you’re eating a varied diet of whole plant foods, you cannot be deficient in protein.”

Meanwhile, if J and B or any of their minions decide to stick with the diet longer, there are various details to be mindful of—particularly getting a daily dose of vitamin B-12 and enough calcium, through supplements or fortified foods. “You can theoretically get calcium from greens,” Norris says, “but you have to eat a lot of greens.”  (For his 22-day reasoning, by the way, Jay Z borrows from Borges, who notes, “Psychologists have discovered that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit,” even though that popular theory has largely been realized to be a myth.)

But perhaps one of the biggest dangers of celebrity-influenced veganism is when it’s sold solely as a trendy cure-all—and not attached, in any way, to ethics. “I don’t know if veganism is the healthiest diet out there. But I believe it is the only responsible diet,” notes Gena Hamshaw, certified clinical nutritionist, “Choosing Raw” blogger and creator of the suggested meal plans that appear on Borges’s website, tailored specifically for the big Jay-Z announcement. 

“[Jay-Z] definitely calls it a ‘spiritual quest,’ so he’s gesturing at something that makes good in the world,” Hamshaw notes, adding that, too often, discussions of veganism as a trend fail to leave out perhaps the most important aspect of all: the ethics of saving animals and improving the planet, without which a new convert may be easily lost. “When the diet is sold as a health panacea and nobody mentions animals, and then it doesn’t work out for whatever reason," she says, "that person has no reason to remain vegan whatsoever.”

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