A vegan diet is a type of diet that consists of eating only plants and foods which are made from plants. Basically, vegans do not eat animals or animal products such as milk and eggs. This even includes not eating honey, because it is also an animal product. If you have heard that following a vegan diet may lead to having deficiencies of essential nutrients, think again! Foods included in this diet can provide all the nutrients that any other conventional diet may provide, but with the added effect of lowering the risk for certain diseases. The key point to remember is that the meals should be properly planned to ensure adequate amounts of nutrients are being consumed. You can also consider taking supplementation of certain nutrients, if necessary, after consulting with your dietician and physician. People follow this diet for various reasons from being concerned about their health, being concerned about ethical reasons, and/or being concerned about the environment.
Types of Vegan Diet
There are different diets that are considered vegan. You can find some of them below:
- Raw until 4: This includes eating foods that are low in fat. Raw foods are eaten until four in the evening, followed by a cooked meal for dinner which of course should be plant-based.
- Raw-food: This involves eating raw foods such as raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that are cooked below the temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Starch Solution: This involves eating foods that are low in fat and rich in carbohydrates. Some of the foods which are typically eaten include potatoes, rice, and corn.
- Whole-Food: This type of diet involves eating whole plant foods. Some examples include vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and legumes.
- Junk food: Junk food that meets vegan criteria includes vegan meats and cheeses. These are plant-based but mimic the taste of meat and cheese.
What Are the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
There are a plethora of benefits to following this diet. It has been studied extensively. Below are a few of the benefits which can be reaped if one sticks to this diet.
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease: There have been many studies on the link between this diet and the incidence of heart-related diseases. These studies include findings of a decreased risk of developing high blood pressure. Following this type of diet can also help keep your cholesterol in check and even reduce your cholesterol levels.
- Reduced Symptoms of Arthritis: Following a vegan diet has been shown to reduce symptoms of arthritis such as pain and stiffness in the morning.
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: Studies have been conducted which show that certain aspects of following this type of diet can lead to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Decreased risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Researchers have conducted many studies on the correlation between following a vegan diet and developing type two diabetes mellitus. It has been found that individuals following this diet generally have lower blood glucose levels as well as great sensitivity to insulin. Some studies have found that vegans have a 78% less chance of developing diabetes in comparison to non-vegans.
- Weight Loss: This diet emphasizes consuming whole, fresh foods. Many studies also prove that vegan diets are more effective than other diets for weight loss. A vegan diet helps people lose weight in a conducive way that can be maintained in the long run.
Who Should Not Follow the Vegan Diet?
This diet is considered to be a generally safe diet for one to follow. If it is properly planned, you should be able to consume adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients. However, if you meet any of the criteria below, consult a dietician before following this diet.
- Calcium deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Zinc deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency
What Should One Eat in the Vegan Diet?
As stated previously, there isn’t only one way to follow this diet. It includes many different types of dishes which can be eaten. Below are examples of foods that can be consumed while adhering to this diet:
- Vegetables: cauliflower, onions, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, cucumbers
- Fruits: apples, grapes, dates, strawberries, pears, peaches, oranges
- Nuts, Dry Fruits, and Seeds: almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, macadamia nuts
- Legumes: peas, peanuts, pulses, beans
- Tofu, tempeh
- Algae: spirulina, chlorella
- Plant milk/yogurts
- Whole grains: spelled, quinoa
- Plant-based oils: olive oil, avocado oil
- Tubers: sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes
- Herbs and spices: mint, rosemary, sage, basil, cinnamon
What Should One Not Eat in the Vegan Diet?
Now that we have looked into what one should eat when following the vegan diet, here is a list of items that one should be avoided while following this diet plan:
- Meat: chicken, lamb, pork, beef, turkey, duck
- Eggs: chicken eggs, quail eggs
- Seafood: tuna, salmon, squid, shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels
- Bee products: honey
- Dairy products: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream
- Animal-based products: whey, shellac, fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids
These foods should be avoided whilst following the Vegan diet. A tip is to read the labels of foods carefully to identify if they contain any of the above-mentioned items as ingredients.
Can You Drink Alcohol During the Vegan Diet?
Most alcoholic beverages are considered vegan. However, you should watch out for certain non-vegan ingredients such as honey which can be found in honey beer. You can generally find this out by reading the label on the beverage. If you do plan to drink alcohol, drink moderately.
What Are the Risks Associated with Diet Plan?
The risks of following the vegan diet generally involve having deficiencies of certain nutrients. Generally, this occurs when the meals are not properly planned to include necessary nutrients.
- Calcium deficiency: You may have a deficiency of calcium resulting from no consuming dairy products. You should consult with your physician if there is any need for calcium supplementation.
- Iron deficiency: People following the vegan diet may have lower levels of iron. This may occur due to not eating red meat. However, this can be avoided by consuming adequate amounts of green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
- Vitamin D deficiency: This may occur due to not consuming animals and dairy products. You should consult your physician to see if there is any need for vitamin D supplementation. This is available in the form of tablets.
Before beginning this diet, consult a dietician and provide him or her with details about yourself, eating habits, and health so that they can give you an informed recommendation related to this diet plan.
This diet plan has challenges initially, but once those are overcome, there are many benefits to reap. This type of diet is not only beneficial to your health but also beneficial to the environment. Try out this diet today!