What Is A Vegan Diet?
More and more people are choosing vegan diets for ethical, environmental or health reasons. When done correctly, a vegan diet helps with weight loss and blood sugar levels among other benefits. Even so, there are risks associated with such a diet, including risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Veganism is a term used to define a way of eating that removes all types of animal exploitation and cruelty. This is why the vegan diet doesn’t include animal products.
Types of Vegan Diets
There are many types of vegan diets. The most common are:
Whole Food Vegan Diet: This is based on a wide variety of whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc.
Raw-Food Vegan Diet: This is based on cooking raw vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, or plant foods at temperatures below 118 degrees F (48 degrees C)
80/10/10: This is a type of raw food vegan diet that limits fat-rich plants (like nuts and avocados) and mainly depends on raw fruits and soft green. It’s also called the low-fat, raw food vegan diet or fruitarian diet.
The Starch Solution: This is a low-fat, high carb vegan diet tat’s similar to the 80/10/10. However, it focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruit.
Raw til 4: This is a low-fat vegan diet. It’s inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution diets. In this vegan diet, raw foods are consumed until 4pm. A cooked plant-based meal may be consumed for dinner.
The Thrive Diet: This is a raw-food vegan diet. Thrive dieters eat raw plant-based whole foods or cook them minimally at low temperatures.
Junk Food Vegan Diet: This relies heavily on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts and other heavily processed vegan foods.
Benefits of Vegan Diets
There are several benefits of following a vegan diet including:
Vegans typically have a lower body mass index and are thinner than non-vegans
May Stabilize Blood Sugar:
A vegan diet may help to regulate blood sugar levels and keep Type 2 diabetes at bay. Studies have shown that vegans have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to 78% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when compared to non-vegans.
Promotes Heart Health:
Observational studies show that vegans may have up to a 75% lower risk of having high blood pressure. They also have a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Many randomized controlled studies, the global standard in research, shows that vegan diets help to reduce blood sugar, LDL and total cholesterol when compared to other diets. Having lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can reduce the risk of heart disease risk by up to 46%.
Other benefits a vegan diet can help with:
- Lowering the risk of getting or dying from cancer by 15%
- Reducing the symptoms of arthritis
- Reducing the risk of kidney disease in diabetics when they consume plant protein instead of meat
- Reducing the risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease
Disadvantages of Vegan Diet
Despite its many benefits, a vegan diet has the following disadvantages:
Excessive weight loss can become weight gain: A sudden and rapid decrease in weight that some vegans experience could backfire. This usually happens with first-time vegans. They find themselves being hungrier than usual and tend to reach for unhealthy foods that include highly processed carbs, sugar, fatty foods and vegan formulated snacks. It’s recommended that first-timers make a gradual change to a vegan diet instead of a radical change overnight.
Foods To Eat With a Vegan Diet
The following plant-based foods are good alternatives to animal products:
- Tofu, tempeh and seitan provide versatile alternatives which are rich in proteins to meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
- Beans, lentils, and peas provide many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Sprouting, fermenting and cooking these legumes properly can increase nutrient absorption.
- Unblanched and roasted nuts and nut butters are good sources of iron, fibre, magnesium, zinc, selenium and Vitamin E.
- Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are good sources of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Calcium-fortified plant milk and yogurts help vegans to achieve their recommended dietary calcium intakes. Vegans should opt for varieties that have been fortified with Vitamins B12 and D whenever possible.
- Algae, such as spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein. Other varieties of algae are great sources of iodine.
- Nutritional yeast is an easy way to increase the protein intake for vegan dishes. Vitamin B12 fortified types should be consumed whenever possible.
- Whole grain, cereals and pseudocereals are great sources of complex carbohydrates, fibre, iron, B-vitamins and several minerals.
- Ezekiel bread, tempeh miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha generally have probiotics and Vitamin K2. They also help improve mineral absorption.
- Fruits and vegetables help to increase a vegan’s nutrient intake. Leafy greens like bok choy, spinach, kale, water cress, and mustard greens are very high in iron and calcium.
Foods To Avoid on a Vegan Diet
The following foods should be avoided on a vegan diet:
Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
All types of fish and seafood.
Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
All animal eggs
Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatine, cochineal, or carmine, isinglass, shellac, l-cysteine, Vitamin D3 when sourced from animals and Omega 3 fatty acids when sourced from fish.