Vegan Diets : All animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs, are prohibited in a vegan or plant-based diet. A vegan diet, when followed correctly, can be highly nutritious, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and aid in weight loss.
Vegan diets are becoming more popular as a result of health, animal welfare, and environmental concerns. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, approximately 3% of people in the United States are fully vegan, and sales of plant-based foods are increasing.
Vegan diets are typically high in nutrients and low in saturated fat. According to research, the diet can improve heart health, protect against cancer, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
People who eat only plant-based foods, on the other hand, must be more aware of how to obtain certain nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin B-12, that are normally obtained from an omnivorous diet.
In this article, we examine the vegan diet in depth, including its health benefits and risks, as well as important factors to consider before embarking on it. We also offer recipe ideas and advice on how to eat a vegan diet.
What exactly is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet consists solely of plant-based foods. This diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Some people avoid eating honey as well. Veganism is a dietary choice for some, while it is a lifestyle choice for others.
Vegans may also avoid wearing clothing, soaps, and other products that use or contain animal parts, such as leather and animal fur. Some people choose this way of life because of the environmental benefits it provides as a sustainable diet.
Vegan diets typically include an abundance of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Consuming a variety of these foods will provide a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein.
People who follow this diet should, however, take care to get key nutrients that they normally get from animal products. Iron, protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D are among these nutrients.
Vegetarian vs. vegan
The primary distinction between vegetarians and vegans is that vegetarians do not consume meat (including cows, pigs, chicken, and fish), but they do consume dairy products, eggs, or both. The vegan diet forbids the consumption of any products containing animal-derived ingredients.
Because the vegan diet is more restrictive, people will need to think more about where their nutrients are coming from in order to meet their daily dietary requirements.
Vegan diets can provide all of the nutrients that a person requires while also avoiding some of the risks that research has linked to harmful animal fats. The vegan diet has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including those listed below.
1 Improved cardiovascular health
Vegan diets can improve heart health in a variety of ways.
A large-scale 2019 study found that eating more plant-based foods and less animal foods reduced the risk of heart disease and death in adults.
Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products such as meat, cheese, and butter. Consuming foods containing these fats raises cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). High cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Plant foods are also high in fibre, which the American Heart Association associates with better heart health. Animal products have little to no fibre, whereas plant-based vegetables and grains have the most.
Furthermore, people who follow a vegan diet often consume fewer calories than those who follow a standard Western diet. A moderate calorie intake can result in a lower BMI and a lower risk of obesity, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
2 Reduced cancer risk
A vegan diet may reduce a person’s risk of cancer by 15%, according to a 2017 study. This health benefit could be attributed to plant foods’ high levels of fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals, which are biologically active compounds found in plants that protect against cancer.
Dietary research on the risk of specific cancers has yielded conflicting results.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, on the other hand, declares red meat to be “probably carcinogenic,” noting that research has linked it primarily to colorectal cancer but also to prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.
According to the agency, processed meat is carcinogenic and may cause colorectal cancer.
The elimination of red and processed meats from the diet eliminates these potential risks.
3 Loss of weight
People who follow a vegan diet have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who follow other diets.
A 2015 study found that vegan diets were more effective for weight loss than omnivorous, semi-vegetarian, and pesco-vegetarian diets, as well as providing more macronutrients.
Many animal foods are high in fat and calories, so substituting low calorie plant-based foods can help people lose weight.
It is important to note, however, that eating a lot of processed or high fat plant-based foods — what some call a junk food vegan diet — can lead to unhealthful weight gain.
4 Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
A plant-based diet can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a large 2019 review. This effect was linked to eating healthy plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, according to the study.
Consider these nutrients when following a vegan diet
Because the vegan diet eliminates some nutrient sources, people must carefully plan their meals to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Before embarking on a vegan diet, people should consult with a doctor or a dietitian, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions.
The following nutrients may be deficient in a vegan diet:
Vitamin B-12: The majority of vitamin B-12 is found in animal products. It safeguards nerves and red blood cells. Fortified cereals and plant milks, nutritional yeast, and yeast spreads are all plant-based sources of this vitamin. Learn more about vegan vitamin B-12 sources.
Iron: Iron is necessary for good blood circulation. Beans and dark leafy greens are high in this nutrient. Learn more about vegan iron-rich foods.
Calcium is essential for bone health. Calcium levels can be maintained by eating tofu, tahini, and leafy greens. Discover calcium-rich plant-based foods.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps to strengthen bones and teeth and protects against cancer and other chronic health conditions. Vitamin D levels can be increased by eating vitamin D-fortified foods and spending time in the sun on a regular basis.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fatty acid There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids that are important for heart, eye, and brain function: EPA, DHA, and ALA. Walnuts and flaxseeds are good sources of ALA, but the only plant sources of EPA and DHA are seaweeds and algae. Learn how to get omega-3 fatty acids as a vegan.
Zinc: Zinc is essential for the immune system and DNA repair. Zinc is abundant in beans, nutritional yeast, nuts, and oats. Learn about vegan foods that are high in zinc.
Iodine is necessary for thyroid function. Seaweeds and fortified foods are examples of plant-based sources.
A person may want to consult their doctor about whether to take supplements or eat more fortified foods.
Ideas for plant-based meals
The transition from an unrestricted diet can be daunting, but there are many simple, tasty, and nutritious ways to pack key vitamins and minerals into a vegan diet.
Plant-based alternatives to cow milk are available. Plant milks are lower in calories and contain less saturated fat than cow’s milk. Vitamins and minerals are frequently added by manufacturers.
People can also buy or make their own plant-based cheeses, yoghurts, and butters. Learn more about dairy alternatives by clicking here.
Some people may be concerned about meeting their protein requirements on a vegan diet, but many plant foods are high in protein. Learn about the best plant-based protein sources.
Soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, and seitan, provide protein while also imparting a meat-like texture to a variety of dishes. Learn more about meat substitutes by clicking here.
Vegan recipes frequently substitute the following nutritious foods for animal products:
- beans and legumes
- peanut butter and other nut butters
Vegan recipes can be found in a wide variety online. Here are some examples:
- vegan mac ‘n’ cheese
- sweet potato chickpea Buddha bowl
- southwest tofu scramble
- vegan falafel burgers
- butternut, sweet potato, and red lentil stew
- coconut cauliflower curry
- quinoa black bean tacos
- healthy pasta salad
There are also a plethora of sweet vegan recipes available online:
- vegan cinnamon rolls
- apple buckwheat pancakes
- vegan avocado brownies
- peanut butter cookies
- vegan ice cream
It may take some trial and error, but most people will be able to find a vegan meal plan that suits their tastes.
Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular. A vegan diet can provide numerous health benefits, such as improved heart health, weight loss, and a lower risk of chronic diseases.
Vegan diets may also be better for the environment, according to research.
People who want to follow a vegan diet must carefully plan their meals to ensure that they are getting enough key nutrients to avoid deficiencies.