What is vegan about? Vegan is about veganism, which is the implementation of refraining from including animal products, principally in the diet. Additionally, it involves an associated perspective that rejects the commercial standing of animals. An individual who follows this diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.
The Vegan Society, a registered charity in the UK, has experienced unprecedented, positive interest in the vegan diet and a membership increase of 20% in the past three years. Veganism is sharing a stage of media attention in the US and Uk press, and other areas of Europe, unprecedented to what has been known before.
There were additionally other signs of a mushrooming interest in the vegan diet and lifestyle. For example, for two years, there have been indications from Google trends statistics for both the UK and worldwide indicating an increase of over 30% in the number of searches for the word “vegan.” In March 2013, a new record was set for the highest ever number of searches for the word ‘vegan.’ veganism is without a doubt gaining in popularity in the western world.
What is a Vegan?
Vegan and vegetarian diets mutually eliminate meat and seafood from their diets. Vegan diets additionally go a step further by vetoing every other food of animal origin. Therefore, in addition to steering clear of meat, vegans also steer clear of dairy products, eggs, and honey. Furthermore, vegan foods have no byproducts of animal agriculture, such as lard, whey, or gelatin.
Vegan individuals follow an entirely plant-based diet. Several kinds exist, and participants may follow them for an assortment of reasons. These consist of environmentalism, ethics, health, and religion.
Many vegans do not wear fur, leather, or anything else derived from an animal. Additionally, they reject the use of animals in other forms such as animal testing for cosmetics, rodeos, the circus, or horse-drawn carriages.
Veganism is a moral value that upholds living in unison with animals and omitting them from food, as well as clothing, entertainment, products, and labor. Veganism is about harm reduction.
The focus of this article is on the health and diet portion of vegans and veganism.
A vegan diet involves powerful benefits over a vegetarian diet. Eating vegetarian only decreases farm animal exploitation, whereas a vegan diet eliminates it entirely. A vegan diet may additionally offer health and environmental benefits over diets that contain dairy products and eggs. For these reasons, a lot of vegetarians eventually choose to go vegan.
What do Vegan’s Eat?
Becoming a vegan may not be difficult when considering the considerable selection of vegan foods available:
- Beans, tofu, and tempeh
- Bread and Pasta (some contain animal products)
- Fruits and berries
- Rice, wheat, and other grains
- Vegan milk (soy, almond, pea, nut, hemp, etc.)
In addition, many of the most popular brands of chocolate, wine, and beer are vegan. Even dairy-free creamers for coffee are available. In addition, the world’s great cuisines present a continual variety of vegan meals.
Where to Buy Vegan Foods
All supermarkets stock an extensive assortment of vegan foods. In addition, a reputable natural foods store will offer even more options. Most carry a variety of vegan meats, types of milk, and cheeses. In the frozen section, one may find vegan waffles, burritos, and pizza. The desserts are not left out either. One can purchase vegan ice cream, brownies, cookies, and many other favorites. The better natural food stores sell at least one vegan alternative (Gardein, Beyond Meat, Miyoko’s Creamery, and Silk) for every popular non-vegan food including, cream cheese, mayo, eggs, to name a few. The selections are improving in view of the fact that vegan food producers are introducing tasty new products monthly.
It does not matter what non-vegan food one may desire to replace; it can be replaced with an excellent vegan equivalent. This includes everything from hot dogs to cream cheese to eggs. The majority of these products are plentiful in protein and additional nutrients. They can enable an individual to rid their diet of animal products without any feeling of sacrifice.
The Advantages of Being Vegan
To begin with, vegan diets are known to help individuals lose weight. However, they also offer an assortment of further health advantages.
For a kickoff, a vegan diet may aid with maintaining a healthy heart. Additionally, a vegan diet can offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and select cancers.
Here are some science-based benefits of a vegan diet.
Rich in certain nutrients
When switching to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, meat and animal products are eliminated. This change will most likely lead an individual to rely more intensely on other foods. With a whole-foods vegan diet, alternatives are made in the form of fruits, peas, nuts, beans, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains.
Because these foods are composed of a more considerable percentage of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can provide a higher daily intake of specific valuable nutrients.
A number of studies have stated that vegan diets have a propensity to yield added antioxidants, fiber, and beneficial plant composites. They additionally seem to be abundant in magnesium, folate, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Vegan diets seem to be higher in iron, although iron plants’ form is not as bioavailable as is found in animal foods (reference).
On the other hand, not all vegan diets are created equal. For example, inadequately planned vegan diets may not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, niacin, essential fatty acids, riboflavin (vitamin B2), calcium, iodine, selenium, vitamin D, or zinc (reference), (reference), (reference).
Because of this situation, it is crucial to go for whole-plant foods and fortified foods. One may need to think about supplements for nutrients, for example, zinc, vitamins B12 and D, and calcium, since these can be lacking in a vegan diet.
Can aid with weight loss
A growing number of individuals are turning to plant-based diets in expectation of shedding excess weight. This hope may be for a good reason.
Many observational studies suggest that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-vegans (reference).
Also, several arbitrarily managed studies, the ultimate standard in scientific research, drew the conclusion that vegan diets are more victorious with weight loss than the diets they were compared with (reference).
What’s more, a study evaluating the weight loss results of five (5) separate diets reasoned that vegetarian and vegan diets were as well-accepted as semivegetarian and standard Western diets (reference).
Although they were not always adhering to their diets completely, those taking part which was in the vegetarian and vegan groups even lost somewhat more weight than those on a typical Western diet.
Can lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
Switching to a vegan diet may additionally provide benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function. Without a doubt, vegans have a propensity to have lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity. They can also have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (reference), (reference), (reference).
Studies have reported that vegan diets will lower blood sugar levels in diabetes patients more effectively than the diets from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the National Cholesterol Education Program (reference, reference).
In one 2009 study, forty-three percent of the contributors that adhered to a vegan diet could decrease their blood sugar-lowering drug, contrasted with only twenty-six percent of contributors who adhered to an American Diabetes Association suggested diet.
Research additionally proposes that individuals with diabetes who replace meat with plant protein can reduce their chances of poor kidney function, but this necessitates more research.
Moreover, several studies indicate that a vegan diet may have the ability to relieve symptoms of systemic distal polyneuropathy, a condition in people with diabetes that causes sharp, burning pain.
May protect against certain cancers
According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within our control, including diet (reference). For instance, eating legumes on a regular basis can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer by 9–18% (reference).
Research also suggests that consuming at least seven (7) portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day can lower the risk of dying from cancer by up to 15%.
Vegans usually eat additional legumes, fruits, and vegetables than non-vegans considerably. This advertence may clarify why a review of ninety-six studies established that vegans might gain from a fifteen percent lower risk of acquiring or expiring from cancer (reference).
Furthermore, vegan diets usually include additional soy products, which can protect against breast cancer (reference). Evading some animal products can additionally aid in reducing the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancers. That may be because vegan diets lack smoked or processed meats as well as meats cooked at high temperatures, which are thought to advance certain kinds of cancers (reference, reference, reference, reference).
Vegans also steer clear of dairy products, which some studies suggest may slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, there is confirmation that dairy can assist in lessening the threat of other cancers, for example, colorectal cancer. Therefore, it is likely that avoiding dairy is not the factor that lowers vegans’ overall cancer risk.
It is important to note that these studies are observational. They make pinpointing the exact reason vegans have a lower risk of cancer unattainable.
Nevertheless, until researchers know more, it appears prudent to focus on adding the amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes ingested each day while restricting the intake of smoked, processed, and overcooked meats.
Can lower the risk of heart disease
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and fiber is connected to a lower risk of heart disease. Well-planned vegan diets usually comprise of all these foods in large quantities.
Observational studies evaluating vegans with vegetarians and the general population conclude that vegans may benefit from up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure (reference). Vegans can additionally have up to a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease (reference).
In addition, several arbitrarily managed research reports that vegan diets are considerably more efficient at decreasing blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels than the diets they were contrasted with (reference, reference, reference).
This set of circumstances can be essentially beneficial to heart health. Because reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of heart disease by 46%.
Can moderate pain from arthritis
Some studies have stated that a vegan diet has positive effects on individuals with various kinds of arthritis. One study arbitrarily allocated forty (40) individuals with arthritis to either ingest their omnivorous (plant and animal ) diet or switch to strictly a plant-based vegan diet whole-food for six (6) weeks (reference ). Those on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who did not change their diet.
Additionally, several other studies propose a vegan diet can aid in improving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness (reference, reference). The vegan diet has elevated antioxidant, probiotic, and fiber substances and a shortage of some foods that may be responsible for these benefits.
A vegan diet can present a variety of health advantages. Essentially, health examiners up until now do not precisely understand what produces these benefits.
Therefore, pending further research, increasing the amount of nutrient-rich, whole plant foods in a diet can only benefit health overall.
The Disadvantages of being Vegan
Unfortunately, there is good and bad to everything and going vegan is no exception. Although a vegan diet has many advantages, it also has disadvantages.
For starters, although a vegan diet does not include any animal products, it does not automatically mean that it is healthy since it, by meaning, does not exclude a lot of sugar, gluten, or processed foods. Just look at the fame of fake meats that are highly processed and not essentially healthy by any means.
Below are some problems that can occur as a result of following a vegan
Legume protein can raise the risk of leaky gut
Because a vegan diet eliminates all forms of animal protein, consisting of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, individuals following a vegan diet often turn to legumes as a plant-based protein source alternative.
However, legumes have high levels of anti-nutrients, which involve lectins and phytates, which can cause the intestines to become more permeable, also known as leaky gut.
In contrast, animal protein foods do not contain anti-nutrients and are among the highest sources of food nutrition for humans.
The risk is that when individuals eliminate animal protein from their diet and replace it with more legumes, there may be an amplified risk of gut irritation and inflammation. Although there are no direct human studies on this topic, it is a potential risk to be on the alert to avoid.
An avenue to counteract the potential effects of anti-nutrients can be to ingest more foods with natural probiotics, such as sauerkraut, fermented pickles, tempeh, and others. Additionally, an increase of probiotics in the system can help improve gut health overall.
Soy protein can cause hormone disturbances and elevated heavy metal intake
As mentioned earlier, as a result of excluding all forms of animal protein, a lot of vegans resort to soy as a protein source. Although unprocessed forms of soy may be acceptable for some individuals, processed forms of soy are frequently established in a vegan diet, including soy milk, tofu, and soy-based processed foods presented as meat substitutes.
Understand that processed soy foods are no healthier for human health than any other highly-processed foods, but they have an added risk of hormone interference because of phytoestrogens found in all forms of soy. Soy has also been a contributor to the intake of the toxic metal cadmium in vegans and vegetarians.
To aid in counteracting or avoiding any negative results from eating excessive amounts of soy, one may consider eating fermented soy sources such as tempeh or limiting the soy consumption to several times a week. It might also be advisable to avoid non-organic forms of soy, which can be a source of GMOs in the diet.
There is a risk of anemia
Iron-deficient anemia is the most widespread nutritional deficit worldwide, and mutually vegans and vegetarians are at a higher risk of this condition. Whereas plant foods do contain a form of iron, it is called non-heme iron, and it is considerably less absorbable by the body.
Iron-deficient anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency globally, and both vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of this condition. While plant foods contain a kind of iron known as non-heme iron, it is much less beneficial for the body because it isn’t as absorbable.
Iron-deficient anemia can cause severe symptoms together with fatigue, and females of child-bearing age should be aware of how a vegan or vegetarian diet can quickly lead to anemia.
Although iron supplements may help with reversing or preventing anemia, most women dislike taking iron supplements because of potential adverse side effects, including constipation.
Women of child-bearing age on a plant-based diet should have their ferritin levels checked regularly as it is essential to ensure they do not become anemic.
Increased risk of depression
Without a food source of omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils and increased intake of omega-6 fatty acid from foods such as nuts, vegans might be at higher risk for depression.
Algae-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids are an alternative, but they can be expensive and hard to find. Also, because various vegan diets may include a higher than usual consumption of nuts, the stability of fatty acids in the body can still get off-balance.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be tested with a blood test and should be monitored if an individual commences experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. It is crucial to contact a healthcare professional when depression starts to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
It may additionally be wise to consider magnesium supplements to aid with anxiety.
There are issues linked with low omega-3 levels, and some are pretty serious. Pregnant women also need to be particularly aware of their omega-3 intake as the fatty acids help nurture fetal brain development.
Risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency
In view of the fact that vitamin B12 is only available in animal foods, vegans are at a considerably higher risk of experiencing a deficiency in this vital nutrient. Actually, most nutrition professionals concur that those on a vegan or vegetarian diet must supplement with a high-quality vitamin B12 supplement to circumvent permanent health conditions resulting from deficiency.
It is important to note that many individuals have a genetic variation known as MTHFR that can impact how B vitamins are absorbed. In this case, even specific B vitamin supplementation might not be enough to prevent a deficiency.
Individuals concerned about not getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet can ask their doctor for a vitamin B12 test.
Restraining of zinc absorption
In the same way as a lack of vitamin B12, vegan and vegetarian diets can result in a low zinc condition. It is speculated that the problem is caused by the higher consumption of plant foods that contain phytic acid, which can restrain the body’s capability to take in and process zinc.
In light of this possible issue with zinc absorption, nutritionists often recommend that vegans and vegetarians boost their zinc intake up to 50% of the recommended daily allowance to guarantee adequate levels.
Adequate zinc levels are especially crucial for boosting the immune system. Therefore, it is essential to consume enough zinc food sources or take a zinc supplement.
Plant-based sources of zinc are not as bioavailable as animal sources, so individuals must make certain they are getting enough.
Risk of consuming excess carbohydrates
Vegan diets are usually lower in protein and can cause blood sugar swings in some people. There is the additional risk of over-consuming carbs on a vegan diet, especially since legumes are often consumed as a protein source. However, they are excessive in carbohydrates.
Vegans may additionally substitute the calories from protein sources with refined carbs, including crackers, cookies, and bread. Over-consuming carbohydrates can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, blood sugar dysregulation, and other troublesome symptoms.
Eating a diet that includes moderate to higher protein levels has been shown to have a positive effect on satiety and weight management. It can be challenging to find beneficial protein foods on a vegan diet that are not also sources for carbohydrates (i.e., beans) or are soy-based.
Vegans may encounter fatigue or low exercise tolerance without a valuable source of lean protein in the diet. In that case, they may be required to think about adding protein powder to their diet.
This article has presented both the advantages as well as the disadvantages of a vegan diet. Seeing both sides of an issue allows one to make an informed decision.
Therefore, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to determine what type of diet is best for you.
Personally, when it comes to food and life in general, I have a moderate approach.
Since plant-based diets and animal-based diets both have their pluses and minuses, I chose to restrict overindulgence in either.
Questions, comments, and concerns, or experiences with being vegan are welcomed below.