Are Vegans Smarter? The (Unbelievable) Study Behind The Answer!

eat smart be smart be vegan

We all want to be smarter. But, could it be that vegans have a slight advantage? Are vegans smarter than those who eat animal products?

While there is no definitive answer one way or the other for this question, there is still a great deal of evidence to suggest that people who do not eat meat and food containing animals may indeed trend towards higher intelligence levels when compared to people who do consume animal foods.

When it comes to intelligence, a person’s lifestyle and diet can have a tremendous impact on how well they are able to function, both for simple tasks as well as things that require higher reasoning skills. 

After all, the foods we eat have a direct correlation to the nutrients we receive, which in turns affects how well our bodies function (in this case, how well our brains operate).

Within this article, I will share with you some information about the human brain in general, as well as explain some of the more notable evidence in favor of vegans being smarter. Ultimately, I hope to be able to provide you with an informative and satisfactory answer to the question of “Are vegans smarter?”.

Blueberries can significantly improve cognitive performance within hours of consumption.

- Dr. Michael Greger

About the Human Brain

The human brain is without a doubt the single most complex and intricate organ in the human body.

Not only does it control all senses and functions for your body, but it also interprets information collected from other parts of your body in order to produce the most appropriate physiological response to the stimuli in question.

There are many different sections within the human brain, each with its own purpose and responsibilities. That being said, the brain is most commonly divided into three main parts: the brain stem, the cerebrum, and the cerebellum.


The cerebrum is the largest part, and is responsible for higher functions like speech, reasoning, learning, fine motor control, processing emotions, and more. This part of the brain is also responsible for receiving and processing visual, tactile, and auditory information.

The cerebellum, meanwhile, deals with more basic physical responsibilities; it coordinates muscle movements, and maintains a person’s balance and posture.

The brain-stem essentially functions as a relay center between the other portions of the brain and the spinal cord (which in turn connects to the rest of your body). The brainstem is responsible for many automatic functions, such as breathing, heart rate, wake and sleep cycles, your body temperature, and more.

The brain-stem is also the portion of your brain responsible for reflexive actions like sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing.

Based on this article from Human Brain Facts, scientists and researchers have been trying to understand the intricacies of the human brain for centuries, and while science has made great leaps forward in this regard (particularly when it comes to understanding which parts of the brain are responsible for which bodily functions, as discussed above) there is still much more to learn about how this organ operates.

According to Everyday Health, three of the most critical nutrients for brain health are Omega-3 Fatty Acids (which can help with improving concentration and preventing memory loss), flavonoids (which are good for fighting the effects of aging in the brain, particularly when it comes to preventing memory problems), and vitamin E (which is good for preventing cell damage, and has even been shown in some studies to be helpful for delaying Alzheimer’s disease).

That being said, science has established an understanding about which nutrients are the most important for maintaining a healthy and high-functioning brain.

vegan brain is a smart brain

Vegan Brains vs. Meat-eater’s Brains

There is a lot of heated debate when it comes to whether or not a vegan diet is better for a person’s mental health than a meat-eating diet.

Ultimately, achieving good cognitive health with any diet is dependent upon achieving a good balance of nutrients, something that is confirmed and discussed in this Livestrong article.

Even on a healthy vegan diet, you will need to choose the foods you eat carefully so as to obtain enough of the key nutrients needed to keep your body and brain healthy and fully functional.

That being said, there have been studies done that show evidence that people who are either vegan or vegetarian (even if they adopted such a lifestyle as adults) typically have higher IQs than people who eat meat.

One study done (mentioned in the Psychology Today article which discusses the subject of childhood intelligence in relation to diet choices at length) was geared towards adult vegetarians and confirmed that on average they had higher IQs during childhood than meat-eaters (an average IQ of about 109.1 for the vegetarians compared to an average IQ of 100.9 for the meat-eaters).

Additionally, this article from LifeHacker also discusses the brain-boosting benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet (explaining that in most cases vegans and vegetarians are not only more intelligent but also more empathetic), while also touching on the fact that meat-eaters typically have higher chances for developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.

And while vegan diets are typically stricter than vegetarian diets (and more research still needs to be done to confirm this trend of higher intelligence in vegans and vegetarians in comparison to meat-eaters), there is no denying that the evidence that has been produced so far seems to strongly suggest that the answer to the question of “Are vegans smarter?” is “yes”.

In the next two sections of this article, I will explain some of the different foods that can make the difference between a smart diet and an unintelligent one.

vegan brain vs meat eater brain

Foods Vegans Are Most Likely To Eat That Make You Smarter

As mentioned earlier in this article, there are certain nutrients that are of critical importance when it comes to brain health (such as vitamin E, flavonoids, and Omega-3 fatty acids).

And as it just so happens, vegans can easily get plenty of these beneficial nutrients from the fruits and vegetables that they eat.

Vitamin E, for example, is an important nutrient for brain health that can be found in plenty of plants.

According to this helpful article from Global Healing Center, vitamin E can be found in almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and other raw seeds, as well as leafy greens such as Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, kale, and turnip greens. Olives and papayas are also excellent sources of vitamin E, too.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, meanwhile, can be found in a decent variety of vegan-friendly food as well. While the primary source for most people are animals products like fish and eggs (both not viable options for any true vegan), there are still options for getting enough omega-3s from certain nuts and vegetables.

This article from PETA gives a good explanation for how vegans can obtain enough omega-3s in their diets, suggesting foods such as walnuts and certain leafy greens as good omega-3 sources; they also offer some useful vegan-friendly recipes for meals that have high levels of omega-3s.

Now, moving on to flavonoids, which are important for helping to prevent the effects of aging in your brain (especially when it comes to memory problems).

This article from Livestrong offers an excellent list of food containing good amounts of flavonoids, including (but not limited to) berries (particularly berries with bright and vibrant colors such as blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries), tree fruits (such as bananas, oranges, grapefruits, limes, plums, apples, and peaches), dark colored beans (like kidney beans and black beans), and certain nuts (like walnuts, pistachios, and pecans).

Of course, there are plenty of other vegan-friendly food that can be eaten to boost not just the health of your brain but the health of your entire body as well.

Next, however, we will be discussing food that can have a negative impact on your health, so as to better explain the advantages of a vegan diet over a diet that includes animal products and unhealthy food.

Food Vegans Most Likely Eat

Foods Vegans Are Less Likely To Eat That Make You Less Smart

Just as natural food can help to increase our overall health and raise our intelligence, so too can bad and unhealthy foods have a negative impact on our wellness and how well our minds function.

This article from Colonics Chicago lists several such foods and explains why they are so bad for our bodies and brains.

On this list are junk foods (which are often heavily processed and also high in sugar, salt, and trans-fats), fast foods and take-out foods (particularly fast food hamburgers and hot dogs, which can contain preservatives, additives, and hormones depending upon the types of meat used and where they come from), and processed proteins (which are found in products like sausages, hot dogs, and salamis).

Since vegans will not buy and largely not eat most of these unhealthy foods, they will be avoiding the harmful additives within them (and at the same time avoiding the negative impact these foods can have on their intelligence).

Another type of food that poses a high risk to brain health is fish with a high mercury content; while fish in general can be beneficial thanks to the omega fatty acids it contains, fish that are high in mercury are dangerous to your health because of the damage that mercury can do to your nervous system.

As a result, vegans are by default less likely to suffer from this sort of harm because they do not eat fish at all.

Ultimately, just as there are many food that can benefit brain health, there are also foods that need to be avoided; luckily, a vegan lifestyle will more often than not steer you in the right direction simply due to the kinds of food that can and cannot be eaten in the first place.

Mental Health Concerns Related To Eating Meat

Not only does eating vegan help with brain health by ensuring that you eat enough of the right fruits and vegetables (thereby getting the appropriate amounts of the nutrients that your brain needs to function properly), it can also help you to avoid the potential health concerns that sometimes come with eating meat.

One of the most notable concerns when it comes to eating meat is the potential for an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

According to this article from PETA, there is research that links C disease to the cholesterol and toxins that can be found in certain meat and dairy products, with some additional research showing that (generally speaking) people who eat meat and other animal products are at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s when compared to vegans and vegetarians.

Additionally, many of the important nutrients that can help protect a person from developing Alzheimer’s in the first place can be found in the fruits and vegetables that constitute the core of many vegan diets.

Another health concern that arises in relation to the consumption of meat and other animal products is depression. While the research into the matter is still ongoing, there has been some studies done that show a link between eating meat and an increased risk of depression.

Because depression is such a complex health condition, however, more studies will need to be done in order to better pinpoint the specifics of how eating meat can affect a person’s mental health.

That being said, for many people even just the potential for an increased risk in depression is (understandably) enough of an incentive to reconsider consuming meat and animal products.

Bonus: Check out the video below of a speech from Dr. Neal Barnard where he reveals which are the power foods for the brain.


Ultimately, while more research needs to be done in order to definitively confirm that vegans are more intelligent because they do not consume potentially harmful foods like animal products and processed foods that contain harmful additives, it seems fairly clear thus far that the answer to the question of “Are vegans smarter?” is “Yes, they are”.

After all, vegans are not only avoiding the potential health risks that come along with eating meats and other animal products, but they are consuming high levels of healthy foods that contain the key nutrients that are needed for maintaining a healthy and functioning brain.

Do you think that vegans are smarter? And if you are a vegan, do you feel like you are any smarter than before you were vegan? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform!

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