When you search for the word diet, you will end up reading hundreds of articles, but nothing will tell you what is best for you. All claim the same and you will be left thinking what is right and wrong.
Donald Watson, a co-founder of the British Vegan Society, coined the term “vegan”. The popularity of the Vegan (ism) has grown considerably with the rise of understanding of nutrition and benefits of eating a plant rich diet.
Vegans are usually animal rights activists who do not believe in using animal products for any purpose. They usually turn vegan due to ethical reasons, environmental and personal health reasons. Ethical vegans usually abstain from using animal-based products in their clothes, cosmetics and medicines. They also avoid wearing leather, wool, fur and silk.
The vegan diet claims to help shed pounds and stave off the chronic diseases like heart diseases and diabetes.
According to the theory of the Vegan diet, you can cook healthy and delicious foods without using meat and dairy products. The meals will support healthy weight loss and reduce the risk of heart diseases, cancer and diabetes.
How Does the Vegan Diet Work?
Vegan diet is different from the vegetarian diet. It is more of a lifestyle change than a diet plan. A vegan diet excludes the consumption of meat, eggs, dairy and other products derived from animals. The dieters are also prohibited to eat processed foods using animal products like refined sugar and wine. So while following the diet, you have to bid goodbye to all the dairy products. You will be on fruits, grains, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds as the staple in this diet.
Types of the Vegan Diet
There are two types of the vegan diet – Raw Veganism and Macrobiotic Veganism
- Raw Veganism – This type combines the concept of Veganism and raw food diet. It excludes the foods and all the products of animal origin. The foods are also cooked at a temperature above 48 degrees. The different variations of this diet are juicearianism, fruitarianism and sproutarianism.
- Macrobiotic Veganism– This type involves eating grains as a staple food. You can supplement it with vegetables, but avoid using refined foods.
There are a limitless number of vegan magazines, books and websites which give suggestions for each meal and cuisines. Steamed vegetables, entrée salads and green soup will make excellent appetizers. You can have a serving of fruit for the desserts.
Not all types of alcohol are vegan friendly. Some wines are filtered through egg whites and gelatin, while some are made from fish bladders. Check the labels before consuming alcohol.
You are unlikely to feel hungry while following this diet. A vegan diet incorporates fiber packed vegetables, fruits, and whole grain, which will keep you full in between the meals.
Veganism gives recommendation on what you can eat and what you cannot. However, this does not imply that you do not have to work out at all. The more you move, the quicker the pounds come off. Regular exercising will also reduce the risk of heart problems, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Go for 2 ½ hours of moderately intense exercise along with muscle strengthening activities.
Vegan diets are higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals and lower in calories than a standard American diet. You can get most of the nutrients by eating a varied and balanced vegan diet. A healthy vegan diet usually contains:
- 6 servings of grains
- 5 servings of legumes, nuts and other plant sources of protein
- 3 servings of vegetables
- 2 servings of fruits
- 2 servings of healthy fat.
The key to a sound and nutritious vegan diet lies in the variety. You can get your daily value of several nutrients by eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and green leafy vegetables.
Calcium is required for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Non-vegans get their daily calcium source from milk and milk products like cheese and yogurt, which are forbidden in the vegan diet. Some good sources of calcium for the vegans are fortified soya, tofu, cereals, oat milk, sesame seeds, tahini and pulses. Dried fruits such as prunes, figs and dried products can also improve your calcium levels.
Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. However, vitamin D is not found easily in a vegan diet. The vegans can get their daily dose of vitamin D by exposing the body to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not forget to apply sunscreen before stepping out in the sun. Vitamin D fortified orange juice, soy drinks, soy milk and cereals and supplements can be consumed. Read the label to ensure that the product is not of animal origin.
Iron is required for the production of red blood cells. A vegan diet can also help you get your daily dose of iron, but iron from plant-based sources is not very well absorbed by the body. Some sources of iron for the vegans are pulses, whole wheat bread and flour, cereal fortified with iron, dark green leafy vegetables like watercress, broccoli and spring greens. Dried fruits like figs, apricots and prunes are also good sources of iron. The iron absorption can be increased by eating foods containing high levels of vitamin C.
Our body requires vitamin B 12 to maintain a healthy blood and nervous system. It is especially important for infants, children, pregnant and lactating women to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diet. Vitamin B 12 is present in only foods from the animal sources. Therefore, the sources are limited for people following the vegan diet. Some possible options for vitamin B 12 rich foods for the vegans are yeast extract and cereals fortified with vitamin B12. Tempeh, miso and seaweed can also be considered. You can also opt for vitamin B12 supplements, but make sure they do not contain animal products.
Omega-3 fatty Acids:
Omega 3 fatty acids, found abundantly in oily fish, help to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Some vegan sources of omega 3 fatty acids are flaxseeds or linseed oil, soybean oil and soy based foods like tofu and walnuts. However, the plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits in preventing heart diseases as provided by the oily fish.
A vegan diet is practically free of cholesterol and saturated fat. High fat foods like oil, margarines, nuts, seed butter, avocado and coconut should be used sparingly.
It is not very difficult for the vegans to meet their daily recommendation of protein. Almost all the foods, except alcohol, fat and sugar provide some level of protein. Vegan sources of protein include lentils, peas, peanut butter, almonds, rice, whole wheat bread, broccoli kale and soy milk.
You can easily get your daily-recommended amount of zinc and even higher by eating foods prescribed in the vegan diet. Zinc is usually found in nuts, legumes and grains.
Pros of the Vegan Diet:
According to several researches, vegan dieters eat fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body mass index. A combination of calorie deficit and physical activity will easily help you shed pounds. According to a study in the American Diabetes Association, the people following the vegan diet lost an average of 13 pounds after following it for 22 weeks.
The vegan diet emphasizes on the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain that will keep you fuller on fewer calories. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber. They take a little room in the stomach, preventing you from overeating.
A diet heavy in fruits and vegetables and light in saturated fat will keep the cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Studies have found that vegans have a 57% lower risk of heart diseases than the meat eaters do. Vegans also have lower levels of bad cholesterol in their blood.
Vegan diet is very helpful in controlling diabetes. The diet conforms to no rigid meal plans or prepackaged meals, thereby ensuring that it does not go against the doctor’s advice. The vegan diet improves the control of blood sugar levels. Vegan diet has a beneficial effect on the hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of blood sugar. It decreases the hemoglobin A1C levels by 0.96% points after 22 weeks.
Easy on the Pocket:
Following a vegan diet will be quite easy on the pocket. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and soy products are less expensive than meat and dairy products.
Vegans have to quit dairy products, which reduces the levels of calcium in the body. This often leads to weak bones.
People following a vegan diet have a deficiency in vitamin D, vitamin B12 and zinc. They also suffer from low levels of essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which are extremely essential for the eyes, brain and cardiovascular health.
Remember, following a healthy vegan diet requires planning, especially if you are a newbie. The successful way to become a vegan is by doing it gradually. Try to turn into a vegetarian first, and then make the transition into Veganism.
A Sample Diet Chart for the Vegan Diet:
Early morning: 8 am
1 cup of green tea without sugar
Breakfast: 9 am
One bowl of oatmeal or two slices of whole wheat bread with peanut butter
One glass of orange juice
Lunch: 1 pm
Two homemade pumpkin pancakes
One bowl of lentil soup
Evening snack: 4 pm
Hummus with carrot sticks
Dinner: 9 pm
Sweet potato casserole with brown rice
A small bowl of fruit salad
Try something new only after you are sure of the longevity and the drive to stick to it. Diets like this are a way to change in lifestyle and are also the best. There is no doubt on the health benefits while following this diet, but stick to your plans and you will see wonders happening. If you have tried your hand at this, share your thoughts with us and it will help many like you to adopt this plan easily.