Vegan Diet 101

In this day and age, everyone is looking for the best new diet, or a diet they just haven’t tried yet. One of the diets that people have been using for quite a while now is the vegan diet. Don’t know what that is? Then let’s talk about the vegan diet! What is it? What can you eat while on this diet? What are the advantages and risks of going vegan?

The Vegan Diet: What is it?

The vegan diet excludes all animal by-products, including dairy, eggs, and meat (Petre, 2016). The diet is primarily plant and nut based, though there are many types of vegan diets that people choose instead. In an article by Katrina Nerisse from mindfullybliss.com, they categorize vegans into 4 types:

  • Ethical Vegan: An ethical vegan is someone who chooses to go vegan for ethical reasons, meaning they care for animals and the environment. In addition to their diet, they also do not wear any clothes that are made from animals, such as leather, fur and silk, or use any cosmetic products tested on animals.
  • Plant Based Vegans: Being a plant based vegan, according to Nerisse, means they chose this diet for ethical reasons first and then found plant based living, or vice-versa. They choose it for both ethical and health reasons, but may not be as strict about it as an ethical vegan may be.
  • Raw-Vegans: Raw-vegans are usually choosing this diet for health reasons. In addition to not eating animal by-products, they do not consume anything cooked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) because they believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and nutrients. Also, they do not eat anything processed, such as refined sugars and breads.
  • Junk Food Vegan: A junk food vegan usually chooses this diet for ethical reasons and are fine eating whatever they want, as long as no animals were harmed in the process of making the food. This type of vegan does not have health in mind when they are eating, and will consume any vegan treats or junk foods that are out there. It is possible that they never consume a plant, even though they are vegan. (Vegan does not necessarily equal healthy.)

What foods are okay to eat on a vegan diet?food_pyramid_vegetarian_food_guide

Anything that doesn’t have animal by-products is okay! On the healthy side, this is primarily any plants or nuts. On the other hand, there are a lot of foods out there that are vegan but very unhealthy for you, such as some candy, white bread, fries, faux meat and cheese. It’s important to eat the unhealthy vegan foods in moderation, if you choose to eat them and want to stay healthy, and pair them with a healthy lifestyle. Chooseveg.com provides a great visual of a balanced meal for a vegan diet in the picture shown above (Chooseveg, n.d.).

Advantages and Risks of a [Healthy] Vegan Diet

Let’s look at some of the health advantages and risks associated with going on a healthy vegan diet, not a junk food based vegan diet.

Potential Advantages:

  • Heart Health: A vegan diet can keep your heart healthy. The article written by Petre cites an observational and a randomized controlled study that provides evidence that vegans, “may have up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease,” though more high-quality studies are necessary to draw any strong conclusions (Petre, 2016).
  • Lower Risk of Cancer
  • Kidney Function: Poor kidney function, especially in diabetics, may be reduced by a vegan diet when meats are substituted for plant protein.
  • Weight Loss: Vegans tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who are non-vegan, though this may have something to do with other lifestyle choices, such as physical activity.
  • Lower Blood Sugar

Potential Risks:

  • Nutrient Deficiencies: Vegans are at a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and others that are primarily found in animal by-products. If planned correctly, a vegan diet can include all of these through fortified foods and supplements, but should be discussed with a health professional.
  • Weight Gain: It is a possibility, though primarily with the junk food based vegan diet. Though these lists are not about that type, it’s a good reminder!

While every diet comes with its own advantages and risks, the vegan diet seems to be a great choice, especially if you are passionate about saving animals. With careful planning, consulting your health professional, and a healthy lifestyle, a vegan diet can be healthy and delicious!


References

ChooseVeg. (n.d.). Vegan Food Plate [Digital Image]. Retrieved July 3, 2017 from: http://www.chooseveg.com/foodplate 

Nerisse, K. (2014, May 16). The Types of Vegans. Mindfullybliss.com. Retrieved July 3, 2017 from: http://mindfullybliss.com/the-types-of-vegans/

Petre, A. (2016, November 1). The Vegan Diet – A Complete Guide for Beginners. Authoritynutrition.com. Retrieved July 3, 2017 from: https://authoritynutrition.com/vegan-diet-guide/

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