What Is A Vegan Diet?

A vegan dinner with hummus, falafels, and vegetables.
A vegan dinner with hummus, falafels, and vegetables.

A vegan diet is a diet that excludes all forms of animal products. The vegan diet has became popular in recent years with 6% of people in the U.S. identifying as vegan in 2017. People choose to follow a vegan diet for reasons that could be health, environmental or ethics related.

Vegans avoid foods such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, beef products, and animal-based ingredients such as gelatin, whey, casein, egg white albumen, lactose, and animal-derived vitamins and fatty acids.

Instead, vegans eat plant products like whole grains, tofu, tempeh, seitan, legumes, nuts, nut butter, calcium-fortified plant milk and yogurts, seeds, nutritional yeast, algae, cereals and pseudocereals, sprouted and fermented plant foods, fruits and vegetables.

Several variations of vegan diets exist. There is the whole-food vegan diet, the raw-food vegan diet, 80/10/10, the starch solution, raw till 4, the thrive diet, and junk-food vegan diet, etc. Most scientific research rarely differentiates between these variations of the vegan diet.

Benefits Of A Vegan Diet

A vegan diet can help lose weight. Many people turn to a vegan diet to lose weight. Vegans have a lower BMI compared to non-vegans. Vegans also tend to be thinner. Several weight loss studies have shown that participants in vegan diets lost more weight compared to their counterparts in calorie-restricted diets. A vegan diet contains higher dietary fiber intake which makes you feel fuller and therefore eats fewer calories.

A vegan diet helps in blood sugar control and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. A vegan diet has been attributed to lower blood sugar levels, probably due to a lower intake of calories. A vegan diet has also been linked to higher insulin sensitivity and up to 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

A vegan diet leads to improved heart health. The diet lowers the risk of developing high blood pressure by 75%. It also keeps your blood sugar in check, reduces LDLs and total cholesterol which are some of the risk factors of heart diseases.

Several other health benefits have been linked to a vegan diet. Studies have demonstrated that a vegan diet reduces the risk of some cancers, arthritis, Alzheimer’s diseases as well as poor kidney function in diabetics.

Risks Associated With A Vegan Diet

A vegan diet involves a lot of work. A poorly planned vegan diet can increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies such as calcium, zinc, iron, and iodine, vitamins D and B12, and long-chain omega 3s. These deficiencies can be particularly dangerous in children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Such nutritional deficiencies can be avoided by vegans opting for rich plant foods and minimizing the quantity of processed food in their diet. Vegans can also go for foods that are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Besides, consumption of fermenting, sprouting and cooked foods can improve their absorption. Iodine deficiency can be controlled by consuming seaweed or iodinated salt. Vegans can also consider nutritional supplements such as zinc, calcium, iodine, iron, and vitamins B12 and D.


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