Vegan Diet | Should you go Vegan | Important things to know about Veganism
The vegan diet is gaining immense popularity among people. The diet pattern is strict and restricted; many people go vegan because of the health benefits, also for the services of the environment and animals. I can tell you that it is not easy to follow a vegan diet or practice Veganism for a person who has been on a regular flexitarian diet pattern all the life. Flexitarian means a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat, poultry, or fish. Vegan Diet is all about plant-based food and no animal food product.
1. Vegan and Veganism
A Vegan is a person who practices Veganism. And a vegan diet is a strict diet that devoids all types of animal products, meat, chicken, eggs, fish, including all the dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese. Vegans also avoid honey, mayonnaise, food that contains gelatin, certain alcohols, and white sugar.
Veganism is a lifestyle that avoids every kind of animal-derived product. Not only the food like meat, poultry, seafood, egg, and dairy but also a person practicing strict Veganism avoid products and things that are tested on animals or are animal byproducts, including certain medications and beauty products, items such as leather and wool. In other words, Ethical Veganism goes far beyond a plant-based diet.
The Vegan Society defines veganism as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
2. What food you can eat and whatnot, when on a Vegan's diet?
A vegan diet includes a wide range of food products that one can eat, including
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Rice and Pastas (made without eggs)
- Legumes and Beans
- Flours and Chocolates
- Soya milk, Coconut milk, Almond milk
- Tofu and other soy products
- Cooking Oils
- Seeds and Nuts
- Oats, Chia, and Quinoa
Also, many Vegan-friendly food products are readily available in supermarkets. When you eat a Vegan-friendly diet, it covers all of the food that is out there, excluding any kind of animal product in it, you can go through the ingredients and choose the best for yourself.
So here are a few Non-vegan foods.
- Every kind of meat, including Beef, Pork, Lamb, Goat, other wild meat, etc.
- Poultry including Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Quail, Eggs, etc.
- Fish and other seafood, Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, Squid, etc.
- Dairy products such as Milk, Yogurt, Butter, Cream, Cheese, etc.
- Food products that contain egg or dairy products, such as Ice-cream, Cream, Candy, Cookies, Cakes, Fast food, etc.
- Honey is also not allowed in a vegan diet; it is believed that the health of the bees is sacrificed when it is harvested by humans.
- White sugar is also avoided because the refined sugar is filtered using the Bone char (Bone char is a black, porous, granular material produced by charring animal bones). Bone char is often referred to as natural carbon, which is widely used in the sugar industry. But not all sugar is refined using Bone Char; some sugars are Vegan, like Beet sugar and Rock sugar or Misri. Or you can check the specific company's site to know the details.
- Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, etc. Or sauce having any form of animal extract should be avoided in a vegan diet.
If you go for a Vegan diet, then make sure you check the content list on the food packet that you buy, carefully go through all the ingredients to learn whether it is for you to eat or not.
3. Is a Vegan diet Healthy for you? And what is the difference between Vegan & Vegetarian?
The vegan diet indeed is healthy. People who go Vegan for a long time are known to weigh less, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol level. Researches show that people who go vegan and vegetarians have a lower risk of heart diseases and diabetes. When you choose to go completely vegan, where you exclude dairy products, it is crucial to understand that there will be compromises for specific nutrients that are important for your health. You have to ensure that you are having the right amount of protein, calcium, iron, essential fatty acids, and vitamin B12 (which is found only in animal products). Here are a few nutrients that you should take care of.
- Protein, even though the animal product is the primary source of protein for an individual, but you can easily meet the standard recommendation for protein on a vegan diet. Food like lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, and grains contain a fair amount of protein. So make sure your food is rich with vegetarian protein.
- Vitamin B12 is one more nutrient that we get from most of the animal products. But you can get Vitamin B12 from fortified plant-based milk, soy products, and B12 supplements. You also get some amount of the vitamin from organic produce, which is grown in B12 rich soil.
- Calcium is one more essential nutrient that we get from milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy product. Still, you can compensate for the daily requirement of calcium from green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, collards, mustard greens, cabbage, etc. Fortified soy milk and juice.
- Other than these nutrients, a vegan diet also needs the addition of Vitamin D, Iron, zinc, and omega-3. Even though we depend on non-vegetarian food to get these nutrients, you can get all the nutrients from a plant-based diet too. A well-balanced food that should have portions of every kind of fruit and vegetables, rice, legumes, and nuts can supply you with all the necessary nutrients.
- If you feel you are unable to have a variety of food at a time, then consult your health care provider or dietician for the necessary supplement, if needed.
The only difference between a vegan diet and a vegetarian diet is the consumption of dairy products. Vegetarian people do not restrict themselves from having milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. They also consume food that is made in factories, which processes eggs and dairy products. Nutritionally vegetarians consume more nutrients than vegans because they get the necessary vitamins, minerals, calcium, etc. from dairy products.
4. Can you go on a Vegan diet for a short time of period?
Yes, you can go Vegan for a short time. And this can be a great way to learn about what a Vegan diet is, whether you can go Vegan or not. When the question is, why you want to go Vegan? Is it because many people are practicing Veganism. Any health-related issues, or for your ethical and moral reasons. Going Vegan for a short period can answer your questions and make things much more manageable.
5. How can you have all the nine essential Amino acids with a Vegan Diet?
The Amino Acids are the building blocks of the protein. And we get all of them from the non-vegetarian food or dairy products. So it has always been a question of whether a Vegan diet meets the daily requirement of all the essential amino acids or not. According to research, Vegans can get protein from different vegetarian sources, including legumes, nuts, grains, soy milk, tofu, etc. And to get the required amount of amino acids, a person should eat a variety of plant-based diets with grains and nuts to reach the daily requirement.
For example - the protein in rice is high in sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine, and methionine, but low in lysine. On the other hand, the beans, peas, and other lentils are high in lysine and low in cysteine and methionine. So you can combine both the food together, the rice and beans, to get all of them. You just need to eat a well-balanced diet and a variety of food to get all the nutrients.
6. Can a Vegan diet be sometimes unhealthy for you?
Many of us think that we get certain nutrients from animal meat, which can't be compensated with vegetables but Vegan food in itself, being a plant-based diet, is relatively healthy. It can be unhealthy if you don't eat a properly balanced diet. Just the same as for every other diet pattern, more or less of anything can affect your health. A vegan diet is a very restricted diet giving you less variety of food to consume, so combining different types of nutrient-packed food and adding up every kind of edibles to your diet can make it balanced. And, if you think you can lose weight on a vegan diet, you may be right until you pack yourself with high fat, high carb food, and empty calories. It's healthy when you make it healthy.
7. My thoughts on going Vegan?
Going Vegan is very much a personal choice of an individual. You can watch and learn about your own diet style and eating habits to know if a vegan diet is for you or not. I believe every kind of diet and food pattern is acceptable as long as you eat them in moderations. You may be vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, a vegan, or a flexitarian; just make sure your food is complete and well balanced.
With a vegan and vegetarian diet, add portions of veggies, lentils, nuts, rice to complete your meal. And if your meat lover, then don't forget to add vegetables and fruits to get the essential nutrients. Your healthcare provider or your dietician can guide in the best way to choose your diet style or any changes that you want to make, do consult one of them before any significant diet changes.
Dr. Shiva S. Mohanty
BDS (Utkal University)
Nutrition & Healthy Living (e-Cornell)
Food & Health (Stanford)
Reference - Health Articles/Google