A Vegan or plant-based diet excludes all animal products, including beef, dairy products, and eggs. When people follow it properly, a vegan diet can be extremely healthy. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases and helps with weight loss.
Many people are shifting towards vegan diets due to health, animal rights, or environmental issues. A 2018 Gallup poll estimates that only 3% of people in the United States are entirely vegan. And notes that sales of plant-based foods are on the increase.
Vegan foods tend to be high in nutrients and low in saturated fat. Study shows that the vegan diet will:
- Boost heart health
- Protect against cancer
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
However, people who consume only plant-based diets need to be more conscious of obtaining some nutrients. Which is including iron, calcium, and vitamin B-12, usually derived from an omnivorous diet.
What’s the vegan diet?
A vegan diet means consuming only plant-based foods. Many others who follow this diet avoid all animal products, including beef, milk, and eggs. Some people also are avoiding eating honey. For others, being vegan is a food choice, and for some, it’s a lifestyle choice.
People who prefer to follow a vegan lifestyle may also avoid clothing, soaps, and other items. They also avoid things that use or include parts of animals, such as leather and animal hair. Some people take this lifestyle as a healthy diet with its environmental benefits.
Vegan diets tend to contain lots of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Eating various foods would have a wide range of essential vitamins, nutrients, good fats, and proteins.
However, people following this diet should be careful to get the main nutrients that people normally eat in animal products. These nutrients include iron, proteins, calcium, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D.
What does the study say about the vegan diet?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegan food can be a healthy diet for people of all ages, including:
- Lactating mothers
- And athletes
The diet can help:
- Lose weight and maintain a good BMI
- Promoting general health
- Preventing or controlling diabetes
- Boost heart health by lowering cholesterol and preventing elevated blood pressure
- Enhance your mood
Research has found that people who eat a vegan diet have lost more than three times as much weight after two years compared to eating a low-fat diet.
The study also found that in people with type 2 diabetes, eating vegan may help them better manage their health. It also greatly improves mood and weight loss and lower cholesterol levels. And as you cut off food linked to poor health when eaten in excesses, such as meat, butter, and cheese, a vegan diet will promote your health.
Studies have found that people who eat vegan tend to have lower BMIs on average. They are less likely to experience asthma, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Is a vegan diet “healthy”?
One of the main factors pushing people towards a vegan diet is that it is supposedly “healthier.” A new study showed that 50% of the meat-eaters surveyed considered veganism healthy. The problem with this term is that “healthy” means different things to different people. And from a medical viewpoint, what constitutes a healthy diet is unique to the individual.
There are balanced and optimal ways to practice vegan and suboptimal diets. Ideally, when following a vegan diet, we want to ensure the balance remains on the plate to optimize food variety and nutritional intake. This means incorporating plant-based foods that contain protein, nutrition, healthier fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), and fortified nutrients that are considered to be lacking in the vegan diet.
So, what kind of food is an ideal vegan diet? Romano suggests a range of fruits and vegetables. Also, he suggests legumes, nuts and beans, soy products, and grains. This diet is less nutritious or optimal because the bulk of the diet includes:
- Highly processed vegan foods
- Processed frozen foods
- Canned foods, margarine
Vegan foods also include higher amounts of saturated fats (such as palm oil). Also, it includes sodium and carbohydrates, and a variety of other preservatives.
As everyone was taught about the “Eat Well Plate” at kindergarten, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Our impressionable young minds were struck by the fact that a healthy diet consisted of more fresh food than processed food. However, it is easy to see how, like every other diet, the vegan can still be unbalanced. Particularly without understanding how to eat in a balanced way.
Is a vegan diet healthier while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Plant-based diets can be low in certain nutrients. Data shows that well-planned vegan diets are known to be safer during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Choline, which is richest in animal food, such as egg yolks. It is one of the most significant nutrients to be considered during pregnancy. Choline is important for brain acetylcholine. It helps to sharpen our memory and plays a major role in the development of liver function, muscle growth and even cholesterol. Expectant moms are believed to have a higher need for this nutrient. And it could be vital to the brain development of the infant.
Mums will need it for their own liver and placental work. Vegans will not be short of this nutrient as long as their diet contains a large variety of foods. These include rice, soybeans, and quinoa, as well as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. It’s important to remember that choline is a water-soluble nutrient. So, when you’re boiling green vegetables, use the cooking liquid in sauces and soups.
Can you get all of the nutrients you need from a vegan diet?
The only nutrient you lack is vitamin B12, which is only present in animals. Don’t consider a supplement.
Some vitamins that you do not get enough are:
- Iron (iron plants, but our bodies do not digest it as well as the type present in animal sources)
- Zinc (It is present in some, but not all of the vegetables)
- Dairy products (which are not vegan) tend to be strong sources of calcium and vitamin D
- Certain dairy substitutes (such as almond milk and coconut yogurt) are fortified with these nutrients.
The Bottom Line
A vegan diet can be a healthy eating style for individuals who ensure that they fulfill all of their macronutrient and micronutrient requirements, such as:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
On top of the nutritional benefits, the environmental and ethical benefits of a vegan diet are positive. However, individuals do not feel pressure to adopt a vegan diet if it doesn’t sound appealing. It is important to remember that people can still follow the guidelines of veganism and eat a diet of unhealthful, refined foods. Also, a healthy vegan diet potentially requires more time to prepare.