Last Updated: 15th December, 2020
Vegan Diet, the current diet trend that is not only popular among celebrities, but also gained popularity in today’s youth. Of late, two of my friends have turned a vegan, and they are in awe with the diet and its benefits. And the curious bee I am, I thought of divulging into the details to know more about this diet and what makes it a healthy option for everyone in the family.
Even research has backed vegan diet, thanks to its wide range of benefits such as controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease, managing type 2 diabetes and protecting from certain cancers. Hence, in this article, we will be shedding light on what exactly is a vegan diet, its pros and cons and tips for a healthy vegan diet.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
When I heard the word vegan diet for the first time, I thought it to be the same as a vegetarian diet. Little did I know that both these diets are not the same.
There is a very thin line between a vegan diet and a vegetarian diet. Vegans do not eat any animal products, while vegetarians do consume animal products like dairy and eggs. Confused? Simply put, a vegan diet contains only plant foods (nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses) and do not include animal products and by-products such as eggs, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products including milk, cheese and butter.
Apart from this, vegans don’t even use animal products such as honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps. Whereas vegetarians do use products obtained from animals such as dairy products, honey, etc.
Vegan Nutrition Guide
PROTEIN: Protein recommendation can easily be met in a vegan diet by consuming a balanced diet as long as calorie intake is adequate. With the exception of liquor, carbohydrates and fats, nearly all foods include some protein. Vegan protein sources include lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, and broccoli.
FATS: Vegan diet excludes cholesterol (like refined oils, butter) and is low in saturated fats (like ghee, margarine, coconut oil) which make it even healthier. This is because the vegan diet comprises of foods from plant sources and not animal sources.
VITAMIN D: Vegan diet lacks Vitamin D but can be obtained through foods fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D-fortified soy milk and rice milk are some of the common food sources of Vitamin D for vegans. Alternatively, it can be obtained through sun exposure. A mere 10-15 minutes of summer sun on hands and face two to three times a week can help to reap the benefits of Vitamin D.
CALCIUM: Milk is one of the major sources of calcium, but as it is restricted in the vegan diet, vegans are mostly deficits in calcium. Hence, calcium supplementation should be considered to meet the dietary needs of this mineral. Vegan calcium sources include okra, turnip greens, soybeans, tempeh, broccoli, bok choy and commercial soy yogurt.
ZINC: Vegan diet provides zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA as it can be found in grains, legumes, and nuts, which form the core items of a vegan diet.
IRON: Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, peas, raisins, millet are good sources of iron. These foods are considered to be better on a per calorie basis than meat. Also, vegan diet consists of good sources of Vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, capsicum, and cauliflower) which markedly increases the iron absorption.
VITAMIN B12: Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal food sources which are required by the body for a healthy blood and a healthy nervous system. Hence, Vitamin B12 supplement may be needed. Sources of Vitamin B12 for vegans include breakfast cereals fortified with Vitamin B12 and unsweetened soya drinks with.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: To maximize the production of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are essential fatty acids, vegans should include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in their diets such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts.
Tips For A Healthy Vegan Diet
- Make sure that your diet contains a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Choose high fiber starchy foods, such as oats, sweet potato, whole-meal bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
- -Involve the good source of protein examples across most breakfast and lunch, like those of chick peas, tofus, green beans, lentils, yogurt and milk soy substitutes, or peanut butter.
- Enjoy seeds and nuts day in and day out, specifically all such abundant in omega-3 fats like almonds and walnuts.
- Consume calcium-rich foods each and every day, like those of products enriched with calcium and tofu packed with the vitamin D.
- Make absolutely sure your eating habits include an adequate amount of the vitamin B12 (fortified diets or perhaps a supplement).
- Season food with herbs and spices instead of salt to keep away the effects of the high salt intake like high blood pressure, CVD and increased weight.
- Choose unsaturated oils MUFA/PUFA like a combination of sunflower/safflower/rice bran oil with soybean/mustard/canola oil.
- Drink about six to eight glasses of fluids per day to make sure you are hydrated.
Pros And Cons Of Vegan Diet
Vegan diets are usually higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron, and phytochemicals, and lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. In general, vegans have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Lack of folate, Vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and Vitamin B12 can negatively impact the body’s system. Over time, inadequate consumption of these nutrients can result in a host of problems, including bone loss, muscle mass, weakness, fatigue, constipation, and lack of appetite. Above all, a deficiency of these vitamins and minerals can impair smooth running of the central nervous system and other metabolic functions.
Vegan diets can be followed by most individual keeping health condition in consideration as it helps to combat many lifestyle related disorders. However, due to the risk of mineral and vitamin deficiencies which come with the diet, one should regularly monitor their diet intake and take necessary supplements.