A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition seems to support the notion that vegans are healthier, showing that they had higher levels of unsaturated fats and antioxidants in their blood and lower levels of saturated fats.

University of Alabama at Birmingham Registered Dietitian Riley Thornton, RDN, is available to answer questions about the vegan and vegetarian diets, and whether or not they are right for everyone.

"Whether you are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, all people can benefit from incorporating more plant-based foods in the diet," Thornton said. "Including more plant foods in your eating pattern such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds can be beneficial in reducing your risk for different diseases like diabetes or heart disease."

Thornton said plant foods include a variety of different nutrients that are important in nourishing and protecting us from disease. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Many of these foods also contain fiber, which can help with digestion and can increase fullness (satiety) of meals as well as important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function.

"The bolder the color typically means the more nutrients it contains, especially for red, orange and green items," she said.

She added that people can also be vegetarians and/or vegans and be terribly unhealthy if they don’t carefully include and plan for non-animal sources of protein.