Although we might have a vague idea what vegans eat when we hear the word ‘vegan’, but vegan diet is more than that.
It is often confused with vegetarianism.
As I said, vegan diet is more than that.
Vegans avoid anything that has to do with animal food and even animal products such as wool, lanolin, silk, leather, fur and suede.
You could say that vegans are also advocates of animal rights.
What is Vegan Diet?
Vegan diet is a strict diet that excludes all animal products, including milk, eggs, honey, dairy, etc.
Vegan diet consists of only plant-derived foods.
This diet is different from vegetarians who still consume dairy and eggs.
Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products like sardines, corned beef, and hotdogs.
Typical Vegan Diet and Nutrition
Vegans’ food choices are centered on plant-based foods.
Some of them are grains, vegetables beans, nuts, and fruits.
While meat-eaters may mistake a vegan diet as a boring lifestyle, it is actually far from it.
They have an array of food choices.
Many dairy and meat analogs are even available now.
These include burgers, sausages, milk, hot dogs, “chicken” nuggets, cheese, and ice cream.
All of these are made without any animal product ingredients.
Some vegan choose a repast that can be quite humble and simple but not any less nutritious.
Vegan dieters are always questioned whether they are getting enough nutrients with just plant-based food choice available to them.
The answer to that would be a resounding “Yes”.
Here are common nutrients that meat eaters claim than vegans do not have enough of.
No need to guzzle meat for protein.
People are at risk of over-consumption of protein than they are of consuming too little.
Men and women only need 55 and 45 grams of protein a day respectively.
A cup of tofu already has around 20 grams of necessary protein.
So if you consume that much tofu in one sitting, you’re almost halfway of your requirement.
Plant-based protein is enough to supply our body with sufficient quantity of both nonessential and essential amino acids.
The trick here is to consume them in a wide variety and meet your calorie daily requirement.
In addition, soya protein has proven to be equivalent to that of animal protein.
Soya alone can meet protein requirement if you so desires.
Unlike meat-eater, there has never been an issue of over consumption of protein with vegans.
This healthy dose of protein intake would mean better retention of calcium and better function of the kidney (especially for those who have a history of kidney disease).
Furthermore, protein from meat are frequently also accompanied with unhealthy fat and bad cholesterol.
This dilemma is not a concern at all when in a vegan diet.
Kids are not the only one who needs lots of calcium for their growth.
Adults need calcium (and exercise) too to ensure strong bones throughout their lifetime.
The common misconception is that milk is the only reliable source of calcium. Not quite true, of course.
Here are some plant-based food that are naturally rich in calcium:
Collard greens, spinach, soy milk, kale, sesame seeds, orange juice fortified, broccoli, carrots, tahini, rice milk, and almonds.
Calcium tends to settle at the bottom of the bottle so be sure to shake the bottle before drinking soy milk or orange juice.
The British Journal of Nutrition published that vegans and vegetarians’ iron level are higher compared to the general population.
This only proves that vegan diet is not deprived of iron as the usual misconception is.
The trick, again, is to consume a varied and balance meal.
It’s worth remembering that tea and coffee can delimit the absorption of iron.
It is advisable that drinking these beverages should be at least three hours from your meal.
Furthermore, Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of iron.
You can down some citrus juice for your daily dose of Vitamin C instead of an unhealthy soda.
4- Vitamin B12:
Vegetarians don’t need to worry about vitamin B12.
First, there a few of things that vegans need to know regarding B12.
Here are a few things vegans should know about B12.
- B12 can be stored in our body for years. If you’ve just started your vegan diet, you may have a reservoir of B12 that can last you for the next decade.
- Nutritional yeast is the most excellent source for B12.
- If you have not quit smoking yet, you need extra B12 because smoking makes you lost a lot of nutrients.
- Infants and expectant mothers have extra B12 requirement. Doctors usually would prescribe a B12 supplement every day.
As I mentioned above, unless you are an expectant mother ( or you’re concerned for your baby) there’s no need to take an extra dose of B12 supplement.
But like everything else, it’s really up to the concerned vegan if s/he is up to it.
Benefits of Vegan
Not only is vegan diet greater for nutrition, weight loss, and overall health, it is also superior in stopping, preventing, and reversing diseases.
Let me briefly discuss why it is greater for nutrition, weight loss, and overall health.
1- Weight loss:
Trying to measure caloric intake to prevent over-eating is next to impossibility.
Fortunately, we have natural measuring built-in tool.
Humans have stretch receptors in the stomach that easily detects if it is filled with food.
It also has receptors that naturally detect the nutrient density of the food ingested.
The trick to satiety is eating foods that are fiber-rich that indulges the nutrient receptors and create the feeling of ‘fullness’ to satisfy the stretch receptors.
Brown rice, beans, and vegetables fill the stomach providing us with 400-500 calories and satiate the nutrient receptors at the same time.
This natural built-in mechanism malfunctions when we consume calorie dense food like cheese and chicken.
To satisfy our stomach, it needs at least 3000 calories from these foods.
In America, even with the fad of a low-carb diet, there are still staggering numbers of adults (in fact 2/3 of the population) who are obese and children diagnosed with Type II diabetes.
If cutting the carbs is enough, why are Americans still at risk with heart diseases as much as 25 years ago?
The University of Oxford in England published a research result that says those who follow a plant-based diet, be they vegetarians or vegans, had lower cholesterol level compared to meat-eater.
Body mass index of the same people are also lower compared to meat-eaters.
Here are two obvious reasons why vegans are healthier than meat-eaters.
- Cholesterol : Elimination of meat in their diet eliminates the high cholesterol source. Humans need only produce 1 gram of cholesterol per day. If we consume meat, we are likely to be providing more cholesterol than our body needs.
- Triglyceride : Vegans are less likely to eat more calorie than they need. Thus, they are less likely to store triglycerides. Triglycerides are produced automatically when there is an excess calorie during digestion. These triglycerides are then stored in the fats and released only when there is a need for energy. Overproduction of triglyceride increases the risk of obesity and heart diseases.
3- Overall Health:
Vegans naturally support the body’s need to maintain a slightly alkaline blood pH.
Alkalinity in the blood prevents pathogens such as parasites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
It is also worth remembering that plant-based foods are also foods that are not depleted of their natural enzymes.
The enzymes are responsible for the 75% of our digestion.
Vegan diets are ensured of these natural occurring enzymes in plants.
Meat-eaters however need to tap on their reserves of enzymes from organs and body tissues.
This deprivation of enzymes from organs and tissues can weaken our immune system over time.
And this is just a sneak peek to the numerous differences of a meat-eater and vegan-dieters.
One cannot exhaust all the innumerable benefits of going on a vegan diet.
Those benefits can only be fully understood once a person have really gone into a vegan diet.