Why you should be a morning vegan

Eating clean for breakfast and lunch may have serious body benefits.

Thoughts of going vegan—eschewing all animal by-products such as eggs, honey, and cow's milk—can scare off the uninitiated. But doing it for even just part of the day can have serious health (and perhaps some aesthetic) benefits, says Equinox fitness manager and exercise physiologist Michael Olzinski, who has been following the "vegan before 4" meal plan four days a week since the beginning of the year. "It kind of frees up the flow of traffic in your stomach," he explains. And knowing you can chow down on meat for dinner—hence the 4 p.m. cutoff—makes the diet easier to stick with, he says.

Animal proteins and complex carbohydrates can clog arteries and inflame your digestive system. Plant-based proteins, however, don't have the same by-products—the inflammation-causing uric acid, for instance—and don't require as much energy to break down, Olzinski says. So your intestines are better able to absorb nutrients later on, giving you more energy and freeing up space in your digestive tract. What's more, reduced inflammation may play a role in reducing belly (and all-over) bloat.

Try it. Here's a breakfast option to get you started from Equinox Tier 4 coach and registered dietitian Jesse Schwartzman: Mix a smoothie containing 1 1/2 cups of water, a chopped head of romaine lettuce, 3/4 cup of spinach, 3 to 4 chopped celery stalks, plus a cut-up apple, pear, and banana. Accompany with Ezekiel bread and almond butter.