Veganism is a diet trend that is being embraced by many people today. Most people do it for health reasons, to reduce the environmental impact of meat on earth, and to prevent animal cruelty.
Whatever your reasons are for going vegan, you will agree with me that it is important to understand what a vegan diet is, why you are adopting it and its benefits before embracing it.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a way of eating that is exclusively plant-based. Which means it eliminates or excludes all animal products such as meat, dairy, fish, poultry, additives, and supplements.
According to the vegan society, this way of life also excludes the use of any items made wholly or partly from animal byproducts such as clothes, leather items, and accessories.
A vegan diet is often confused with a vegetarian diet, although they are entirely different.
Vegans try to get rid of all animal products from their diet. On the contrary, vegetarians eat some animal products such as eggs, fish, cheese or yogurt but may only exclude red meat.
What do vegans eat?
A vegan diet comprises mainly of fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils.
In addition to this, vegans also eat meat and dairy milk analogs or substitutes such as tofu, veggie burgers, vegan butter, mayonnaise, and plant milk such as soy, almond cashew or oat.
All these food choices are good alternatives to animal meat. Unfortunately, you may need to eat some in high quantities or add some supplements to meet your body’s daily requirements.
What Foods items should you avoid on a vegan diet?
Vegans should eliminate all dairy and poultry products such as meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, and protein powders from your diet.
Remove all types of fish from fresh or salty waters and their products.
Avoid any food additives and supplements from animal products such as gelatin,l.cysteine in bread, and whey unless they are vegan.
You can also avoid honey and any bee products such as wax.
Look for or make vegan alternatives to animal products. Each time you go shopping, take time to read the product labels to avoid buying items with ingredients containing animal products.
Read more: Homemade almond milk.
Types of a vegan diet
In my research, I discovered many examples of veganism, which, in my opinion, fall under two primary categories.
Here are the two main types of a vegan diet.
Whole food plant-based diet.
A whole food plant-based diet comprises the whole and minimally processed plant-based foods while avoiding animal products or ingredients.
People on this diet try to eliminate all refined or processed foods such as refined sugars, grains, and oils or fats.
Proponents of this diet, such as forks over knives, put more emphasis on eating organic or minimally refined foods from plants as much as possible. With this plan, you can eat both cooked and raw plant foods.
Raw food diet
Raw food diet is plant-based but emphasizes eating mainly raw uncooked, or unprocessed foods.
This diet emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts not cooked or heated at a temperature higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Proponents of this diet claim that cooking destroys the vital nutrients in food even though there is no scientific evidence supporting this.
A raw food diet emphasizes juicing, dehydration, sprouting, pickling, fermentation, and blending as the main methods of preparing food.
No matter what diet type you wish to follow, the key is to make sure you eat a healthy diet that meets your nutritional requirements.
Benefits of a vegan diet
I think a vegan diet is the most virtuous diet on the planet today because of its many benefits to health, animals, and the environment.
Several studies link eating animal products to most health problems. Constant health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes increase with excessive consumption of meat. Plant foods, on the other hand, can help prevent, reverse or manage these diseases.
Here are the benefits of a vegan diet.
Helps with weight loss
Plant-based foods are low in calories and high in fiber. You do not have to really on counting calories to lose weight on a vegan diet.
You can eat large portions of fruits, grains, and vegetables without packing extra calories. Additionally, the high fiber content in these foods increases satiety and metabolism, which can prevent overeating.
A 2019 study compared the satiety level of three population groups of men. Men with type 2 diabetes, obese men and healthy men all placed on a tofu burger meal and a cheeseburger alternatively compared differently.
The researchers found that all three men experienced a more significant increase in satiety on a plant-based burger meal than on the meat cheeseburger meal.
Read more: 40 Best Foods for Weight loss.
A vegan diet may prevent, reverse, or improve some chronic diseases.
Many deaths in the world today are as a result of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These diseases are due to poor diet choices high in animal products, and lifestyle.
Research has shown that the excessive consumption of animal products could lead to an early onset of chronic diseases.
A vegan diet has been found to prevent, lower, and even reverse these conditions. For instance, one study by the national institutes of health found that a plant-based diet can prevent heart disease and diabetes.
Can prevent Alzheimer’s disease
A diet rich in organic fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Plant foods have high contents of phytochemicals and antioxidants, which helps to reduce cell damage and a decline in memory.
For instance, older adults on a Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods have a lower chance of developing cognitive decline.
Improve skin conditions
Highly processed animal products and dairy high in saturated fats and synthetic additives contribute to most skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.
Most dairy and animal meat contain inflammatory proteins which can cause inflammation of the skin. Eliminating dairy from your diet can significantly improve your skin.
Most organic plant-based foods contain anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. These compounds help to clear the skin and protect it from the effects of free radicals.
Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits, seeds, and nuts can make your skin supple and youthful.
Read more: Foods causing acne breakouts.
A vegan diet is good for the environment.
Relying on a plant-based diet can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases on the environment. A reduction in greenhouse emission can save the planet as well as the endangered species from extinction.
The degradation of forests to clear land for animal agriculture increases carbon emissions and the destruction of natural resources such as the forest ecosystems, and natural water bodies such as rivers.
Additionally growing food to feed animals is also causing food starvation to the human population. A small piece of land can supply food to a large population of people than feed animals.
Plants require low amounts of water and land to grow. They are also very easy to maintain compared to animals.
A vegan diet is sustainable and sustainable for the environment. In addition to that, adopting a plant-based diet can also help provide food security to the populations. This can reduce starvation around the globe.
Several studies show that vegans live longer than people on a flesh diet. Overconsumption of meat can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease which can shorten life.
These conditions are rare or very minimal on people who are not meat-eaters. A review of six diet studies by The American Journal of Nutrition found that a vegetarian diet low in meat can increase life expectancy in humans.
To be healthier on a vegetarian diet, try to exercise regularly, ditch smoking, and drink less alcohol.
Can reduce animal cruelty
Animals grow under filthy overcrowded conditions; they suffer injuries and maltreatment in the hands of people who exploit them to make a profit.
Adopting a plant-based diet can put less demand and supply of animal products which can reduce the mistreatment.
Do you need to take any supplements on a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is indeed healthier, but unfortunately, it lacks or has low amounts of certain vital nutrients needed by the body.
You may be required to take a supplement to meet your body’s nutritional needs.
Here are the essential nutrients needed by vegans.
Vitamin B 12 is low in the vegan diet though it can be present in lesser amounts in some plant. Foods such as mushrooms grown on soils rich in B12, and fortified foods such as nutritional yeast, and soy milk may have it but in minimal amounts.
Therefore, it is safer to supplement it even when you add these foods to your diet to ensure that you get adequate amounts. You can either take a 2500mg of B12 once a week or 250g daily. I do take mine once a week but feel free to pick your preference.
Iron stimulates the synthesis and production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin helps to carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Iron deficiency can cause anemia; thus, it is essential to get adequate amounts.
Iron is present in some plant-based foods such as legumes and green leafy vegetables. Unfortunately, the iron in plants is not readily absorbed by the body, but it can still be sufficient according to Dr. Neal Bernard unless you are deficient.
Talk to your physician to see if you have a deficiency that may require supplementation.
Zinc is crucial for boosting your immune system. It is necessary for healing wounds and the proper growth of cells. Deficiency in zinc can lead to a compromised immune system.
Though zinc is present in legumes, nuts, and seeds, unfortunately, it is not easily absorbed by the body. As a result of this, it is easy for vegans to be deficient in it. Check with your doctor to get your required daily supplementation dose requirement.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the body and the formation of healthy bones. Sunshine and some fish liver oils, and some fortified dairy products contain Vitamin D3.
Unfortunately, vegans may not get adequate amounts of vitamin D3 from the sun alone; hence, it is essential to try and take a supplement for it. The recommended amount is 10mcg for adults and 8.5-10 mcg for infants less than a year old daily.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega-three fatty acids are excellent for reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol in the body.
Omega threes are abundant in chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, brussels sprouts, and walnuts. Eating these foods can adequately help meet your nutritional requirements. However, if you are unable to get these nutrients from your diet, please consider taking a supplement.
Iodine is necessary for the release of thyroid hormones. Plants, including seaweed, do have iodine, but they may not have the right amount needed by the body.
Vegans can meet their daily requirements by supplementing or adding fortified foods containing iodine in their diet.
How to adopt a vegan diet easily
Please remember to seek your doctor’s advise before taking any supplements.
Starting a new diet requires some planning and preparation. Jumping into the bandwagon on the first day may be difficult if you did not prepare adequately. You ought to plan and prepare yourself psychologically.
Talk to your family or anybody else who might be affected by your new lifestyle before transitioning. Let them know about your new diet and how they can support you.
Understand the reason why you are adopting this diet and choose a plan that will work best for you. Decide when you are going to start your transition and what foods you need to stock up. Stock up foods that will meet your nutritional requirements.
Start slowly and progress gradually.
Do not be too restrictive with what you eat when you are just starting since it can be so overwhelming and frustrating. Slowly cut out meat and dairy products from your diet by first phasing out those that you can easily forgo without feeling deprived.
Substitute those foods with plant-based alternatives such as legumes, nuts, and plant milk. Remove all the animal products when you are comfortable with your new diet.
You can as well plan your meals by making one of your day’s meal such as breakfast or lunch vegan then progress gradually.
Another alternative is to add vegan ingredients in your dishes to help you transition. For instance, instead of using eggs, milk, and dairy butter in your recipes; you can use ground flaxseed, plant milk, or vegan butter.
Experiment with simple vegan recipes
Try different vegan recipes that you find to be appealing and easy to prepare. Do not go for recipes that are too complex and require a tone of ingredients that are not familiar to you. Get inspirations from vegan cookbooks, magazines, YouTube, and even blogs on making simple vegan meals.
You may also like: Crispy Fried tofu
Have different varieties and colors
Many people transitioning to a vegan diet find the food to be boring and tasteless simply because they haven’t explored the full range of plant-based foods out there. Make your vegan diet fun and enjoyable by adding a variety of different food types, color, and textures.
Spice your dishes by adding different flavors and spices. For instance, do not serve the same salad every day, try making different types or add other ingredients to your meals more appealing and enjoyable.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed with the new diet requirements, don’t hesitate to seek advice. There are many vegan forums and groups on social media which you can join.
Make friends with like-minded people who can inspire and help you transition.
Understand your food labels and ingredients
Learn to read and understand the ingredient label of vegan products. Make sure the products you buy are healthy and do not contain animal ingredients.
Try to avoid processed foods high in refined sugar and fats. Focus on buying whole foods rich in nutrients and fiber such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
Transitioning to a vegan diet can prove to be challenging at the beginning, try to take it slow. You will gradually embrace it.
Keep learning to understand your new diet. Do not be discouraged, or too hard on yourself especially when you experience setbacks or crave animal foods. It is normal; be optimistic, you will get over it.
Please do not pay attention to the critics; they will only discourage you from achieving your goal. Remember you are doing this for your health, the animals, and the environment.