Vegan diet is about avoiding all animal products for a variety of reasons like better health, weight loss, prevention from chronic disease or ethical and environmental concerns
An average American consumes about 200 pounds of meat each year, which is more than 3 times of the global average. Moreover, an average adult in the U.S. consumes more than 600 pounds of milk, cheese and other daily products. In addition to that, around 80 pounds of fat annually which is more than 22 pounds that was consumed in 1980s.
In order to avoid dangers of meat and dairy, one way is to go for a vegan diet. If you are wondering what to eat on a vegan diet, what are the benefits of vegan diet? Keep reading this ultimate guide on the vegan diet for the beginners for everything you need to know.
Vegan Diet, What is it?
Vegans are vegetarians that takes it to another level, meaning avoiding all animal products like eggs, honey and dairy products in their everyday diet.
Vegans make commitment to consume more plant based foods like vegetables, fruits along with nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. They also limit themselves from eating processed foods like refined carbs, sugar beverages and convenient meals.
There are several definitions and variations when we talk about vegetarianism. Most people get confused in all of it. Let’s define the most common ones.
Vegetarian: The follow plant based diet which can includes eggs and dairy.
Vegan: They refrain from all type of animal products like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, honey and dairy products.
Raw Vegan: This diet consist of raw foods (mostly all vegan) that is not heated not more than 46 C or 115 F. If you decide to go on a raw vegan diet, you are only allowed to eat limited foods, which makes it hard to stick with this diet for a long term.
Pescatarian: It involves following a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, nut, beans, eggs, dairy and fish, but meat and poultry is excluded in this diet.
Common Foods for Vegan Diet
In vegan diet, vegetables and fruits are mostly considered essential items in any typical vegan meal plan.
For a healthy vegan breakfast, it might consists of oatmeal, nuts, fruits, seeds and coconut milk. For lunch it can be salad with rice and beans. To eat throughout the day, vegans stick on nuts, fruits, raw vegetables. For the dinner, some foods like beans, grains or sweet potatoes are common choice to go for.
Some of the ingredients of vegan diet list may include as mentioned below. However, it depends upon the exact type of plant based diet someone might follow.
Vegetables: potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, squash, zucchini
Fruits: Bananas, pineapples, pears, oranges, apples, peaches
Nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, peanuts
Protein Foods: nutritional yeast, tofu, natto, tempeh
Whole Grains: barley, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, couscous
Plant-Based Milks: soy milk, cashew milk, almond milk, oat milk
Legumes: peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils
Seeds: hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds
Herbs and Spices: turmeric, black pepper, garlic powder, cumin
Healthy Fats: unrefined vegetable oils, olives, avocados
There is something to note that if you are on a raw vegan diet, some of the mentioned food items are limited.
Foods to Avoid on a Vegan Diet
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy are avoided by vegans. Vegan also do not consume honey or any other products that is made by animal derived ingredients, for instance gelatin.
Even though you might exclude meat, dairy, eggs and fish. You still can consume many unhealthy ingredients like white bread, sugar or refined oils while being on a vegan diet. A healthy vegan diet consist of largely unprocessed whole foods.
Here are foods that should be avoided on a vegan diet.
Poultry: Chicken, duck, goose, turkey
Meat: beef, lamb, pork, bison
Dairy Products: butter, milk, yogurt, cheese
Seafood: salmon, tuna, prawns, mackerel, anchovies
Animal Based Ingredients: gelatin, carmine, lard, casein
Health Benefits of Vegan Diet
One of the reason many people switch to vegan diet plan is for weight loss. As vegan diet is more plant based foods so consuming fewer processed foods can be an effective way to decrease intake of calories. A number of studies have shown that vegans in particular tends to have lower body weight.
Vegan or plant based diet is not only lower in calories but they also contain higher amount of fiber. It is a nutrient that moves through the body undigested, which makes you feel full and in turns helps to achieve weight loss more quickly.
Improvement of Gut Health
The plant foods have rich fibers which helps “good bacteria” or microbiome of the body to fulfill its need of fiber. A healthy gut needs enough prebiotics and probiotics which are found in plant based diet. Studies have shown that microbes in the gut plays important role in performing healthy activities like burning of calories and making us mentally sharp.
Moreover, a study in 2019 found that by following a short term vegan diet. There was an improvement in gut health. The plant based diet improves gut microbes which helps in blood sugar control and body composition.
Protection from Metabolic Syndrome
By following a healthy vegan diet plan, it can help you protect from metabolic risk like diabetes, blood pressure and insulin resistance.
It is important to know that not every vegan diet might provide with the same type of benefits. It depends upon the quantity of carbs in diet and overall nutrient is also the determining factors of benefits of vegan diet.
When you are on a vegan diet, you are more likely to consume whole foods and minimal processed ingredients. This helps to lower inflammation, better blood sugar level and balance hormone levels. This aspect of vegan diet will decrease the risk of conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Environment Friendly Diet
A report from Environmental Protection Agency states that forestry, agriculture and use of other land accounts for 24% of global gas emissions each year. This primarily consist of crops cultivation, lifestock and deforestation.
There are many benefits of consuming less manufactured animal products and opting for more sustainable products. Many people go for vegan diet for this reason alone.
Guidelines for Vegan Diet Plan
To follow a balanced and healthy vegan diet plan does not have to be difficult. We are going to give you few simple steps that should focus on, the steps are as follows.
Consume less junk, high calorie and low nutrition foods. You also need to cut down packaged, processed foods from your diet, even if its vegan.
Increase consumption of whole, nutritious foods like vegetables and fruits.
If you eat animal foods, you need to vary plant based protein in your diet. In today’s world when there are readily available industrial meat and processed foods, the opportunities to eat non plant based foods is enormous. That makes overeating of foods like cheese, meat and animal fats a common problem among people. You need to be aware of your food consumption and try to make plant based protein like legumes, a part of your daily diet plan.
Keep aware of your eating habits through practicing portion eating. Always aim for eating food your body need to be energized. The mindful eating habit would help you to prevent overeating whether it’s vegan food or not.
Risks of Vegan Diet
When a vegan diet is planned and executed carefully, it has healthy benefits for most people. But, it is not ideal for everyone. There are studies which shows people who take vegan diet are at higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. This is more common in people who are on processed vegan diets or suffering from other health conditions.
It is necessary to keep in mind that not all vegan foods are healthy. Many of the junk foods are labelled as vegan, but are filled with added sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives and trans fat. These are not a part of a healthy diet and should be avoided at all cost not matter vegan or not.
Precautions for Vegan Diet
We are all different at the end of the day. It’s important to track your progress and affects that your diet have on you. You should plan on changing that to figure out what works best for you.
Even though, vegan diet have many benefits, it might not be suitable for you. It is not always suitable for everyone. As it requires, proper planning and execution to make sure you are meeting correct nutritional needs according to your body. In some cases, supplements might be necessary to cover the nutritional deficiencies.
The symptoms like weakness, low energy level, hair loss and fatigue are all associated with low nutritional levels of the body. If you happen to experience these while being on a vegan diet, then immediately consult your doctor and professional dietician to make sure your health and nutritional needs are fulfilled