No conversation about a diet is complete without a mention of a vegan diet. Veganism seems to be the latest trend, with many International and Indian celebrities following suit.
Veganism as a lifestyle is more common in Western countries; however, India, with a population of 30% of vegetarians, is catching up.
In India, veganism has a celebrity dimension. Numerous cricket and Bollywood celebrities have publicly declared their intention to adopt a vegan diet, which has helped to broaden the diet’s appeal.
Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to eliminate all instances of animal exploitation and abuse. A vegan diet forgoes all animal products to avoid consuming meat, dairy, and eggs.
A vegan diet might initially appear difficult or excessively restricting. However, this diet may have health advantages, such as better heart health and blood sugar regulation. It could also be helpful if one of your goals is to lose weight.
However, consuming just plant-based foods may occasionally make you more likely to have nutritional deficiencies.
Types of vegan diets
The vegan diet has different varieties. Among the most common are:
1. Whole-foods vegan diet
The basis of this diet is a wide variety of whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
2. Raw foods vegan diet
This diet consists of raw plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and foods that have been cooked at temperatures under 48°C
3. 80/10/10 diet
The 80/10/10 diet is a raw vegan diet focusing primarily on raw fruits and soft greens while excluding fatty foods like nuts and avocados. It is sometimes referred to as the fruitarian or vegan, low-fat, raw-food diet.
4. Starch diet
This vegan, low-fat, high-carb diet is similar to the 80/10/10 diet in that it emphasises cooked starches such as maize, rice, and potatoes rather than fruit.
5. Raw till 4
The 80/10/10 diet and starch diet served as the basis for this low-fat vegan diet. Up to 4 p.m., raw food is consumed with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
6. Thrive diet
A raw food vegan diet is the thrive diet. Supporters consume raw or lightly cooked plant-based whole foods at low temperatures.
7. Junk food vegan diet
This diet largely relies on faux meats, vegan cheeses, fries, vegan sweets, and other highly processed vegan meals and does not contain whole plant foods.
Benefits of a vegan diet
Vegan diets can give people all the necessary nutrients and reduce some of the concerns that animal fats have been linked to.
Research has found a wide range of health benefits of the vegan diet, some of which are given here.
1. Improves cardiac health
Higher intakes of plant-based diets and lower intakes of animal foods are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and mortality in adults, according to a large-scale 2019 research by The American Heart Association (AHA).
The primary dietary sources of saturated fats are animal products, such as meat, cheese and butter.
The American Heart Association (AHA) states that consuming meals high in these fats elevates cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, high in fibre, the AHA has linked plant-based diets to enhanced cardiovascular health. The most acceptable sources of fibre are plant-based foods like grains and vegetables, which are extremely low or absent in animal products.
2. Reduces cancer risk
A 2017 research by Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that adopting a vegan diet might reduce one’s cancer risk by 15%.
Plant-based diets are rich in fibre, vitamins and phytochemicals; biologically active molecules found in plants that fight cancer may be the cause of this health advantage.
Research on how nutrition may affect a person’s chance of developing particular cancer has shown contradicting results.
Red meat has been associated with several types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Additionally, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, processed beef is potentially cancerous and can lead to colon cancer.
You can avoid these potential dangers by cutting out red and processed meats from the diet.
3. Enhances weight loss
The Body Mass Index (BMI) of vegans is often lower than those on other diets.
In a 2015 research study, the authors found that vegan diets were better than omnivore, semi-vegetarian and pesco-vegetarian diets for weight loss and macronutrient provision.
People can better control their weight by substituting high-fat, high-calorie animal meals with low-calorie plant-based alternatives.
However, it’s crucial to remember that consuming many processed or high-fat plant-based meals, sometimes known as a “Junk food vegan diet,” might result in unhealthy weight gain.
4. Decreases arthritic pain
According to a few studies by PubMed Central, patients with various forms of arthritis can benefit from a vegan diet.
One small research randomly assigned arthritis patients to follow their current omnivore diet for 6 weeks or transition to a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet.
Compared to those who didn’t modify their food, individuals on the vegan diet reported having more energy and performing better overall.
According to many previous studies by PubMed Central, a vegan diet may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, including pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness. However, further research is required to confirm this.
These advantages may be attributable to the vegan diet’s increased levels of antioxidants, probiotics and fibre and the absence of specific trigger foods.
5. Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes
A significant 2019 review by JAMA Internal Medicine found that a plant-based diet can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The study established a relationship between this outcome and consuming wholesome plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
Additional health benefits of veganism
A vegan diet offers a wide range of additional health benefits, such as
By replacing meat with plant proteins, people with diabetes may lower their risk of kidney damage.
According to observational studies, aspects of the vegan diet may help lower the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease.
Remember that the majority of the research demonstrating these advantages are observational. This makes it challenging to evaluate whether the benefits were driven directly by the vegan diet.
Before researchers may make factual findings, randomised controlled studies are required.
6. Protects the environment
People may also forego animal products to minimise their adverse environmental effects.
Recent studies in The Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute indicate that animal husbandry significantly contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) that cause climate change.
The number of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) caused by meat eaters is 2-2.5 times higher than that of vegans.
It appears that grazing animals, including cattle, sheep and goats, generate the most greenhouse emissions per gram of protein they produce. As a result, diets that drastically cut out dairy likewise result in much lower levels of GHGEs.
According to another study, a vegetarian diet results in 33% fewer GHGEs than a conventional American diet that includes meat but provides the same number of calories.
What can you eat on a vegan diet?
Foods to eat in a vegan diet
If you don’t eat animal products, you don’t have to stick to bland tofu and salads. Following a vegan diet, you can enjoy a broad range of delectable dishes.
Here are some suggestions:
- Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils like red, brown, or green lentils, chickpeas, split peas and kidney beans.
- Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and natto, fortified soy milk; and soybeans.
- Nuts including cashew, almond and peanuts
- Seeds such as sunflower, sesame and their butter, as well as flax, hemp and chia seeds.
- Whole grains include things like Amarnath, ragi, sago, whole wheat, whole oats and brown or wild rice, as well as foods manufactured from them like whole grain pasta, bread, and crackers.
- Vegetables and fruits. Both of these foods are excellent sources of extra nutrients. Iron and calcium levels are exceptionally high in leafy greens such as mustard, spinach, fenugreek etc.
- Calcium-fortified yoghurt and plant milk. These help vegans in consuming the appropriate amount of calcium in their diets. When possible, choose types that are additionally fortified with the vitamins B12 and D.
It’s likely that many of the foods you now eat are vegan or that you may convert them to veganism with a few minor changes.
You might, for instance, substitute meats with beans, peas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, almonds or seeds.
You may also swap out dairy products and use plant kinds of milk; instead of scrambled eggs, you can have tofu and use plant-based sweeteners like molasses or maple syrup.
Foods to avoid in a vegan diet
Vegans refrain from eating any animal products or anything using animal products as ingredients.
- Meat and poultry: Organ meat, wild meat, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, quail and others.
- Seafood: All varieties of fish, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
- Dairy products: Milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, and other dairy products.
- Eggs: Eggs from quails, ostriches, chickens, fish, etc.
- Bee products: Honey, bee pollen etc.
- Ingredients derived from animals: Whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, cochineal or carmine, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, vitamin D3 derived from animals, and omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish.
Generally speaking, the best way to tell if a food contains ingredients produced from animals is to read the label. Nowadays, many foods are marked as vegan, making it simpler to identify them at the grocery store.
Risks of a vegan diet
The vegan way of living has its own set of issues and health risks.
1. Risk of eating disorder
An eating problem called orthorexia is characterised by an excessive focus on healthy eating habits. Over restriction, preoccupation and other severe eating disorders are possible outcomes.
Most eating disorder specialists do not advise restricted diets like veganism or vegetarianism for those seeking to recover from an eating disorder like orthorexia.
2. Leaky gut
Legumes become a significant source of plant-based protein for vegans because they cannot consume any form of animal protein.
Legumes contain proteins that also include some anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients can prevent the body from absorbing vital vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.
Lectins and phytates, which work to block all good absorption, are the anti-nutrients found in legumes.
When people eat less animal protein and more legumes, there is a possibility that their risk of developing intestinal inflammation will increase. Although there are no direct studies on humans, you should be aware of the possibility.
3. Hormone disruptions
Many vegans use soy as a protein source since they exclude all animal protein sources.
While unprocessed soy products may be suitable for specific individuals, processed soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, and soy-based processed foods marketed as meat alternatives, may not agree with some people.
Processed soy foods have the same detrimental effects on human health as other highly processed meals, with the additional danger of hormone disruption brought on by phytoestrogens, which are present in all types of soy.
Additionally, soy has been discovered to factor in the harmful metal cadmium ingestion in vegans and vegetarians.
Haemoglobin has always mostly come from red meat. There aren’t many heme-rich choices for vegans, and the available ones are non-heme iron. The problem with non-heme iron is that it takes longer for the body to absorb it.
Iron-deficient anaemia is the most prevalent type of anaemia and nutritional deficiency in India. And vegetarian and vegan diets both have a significant risk of anaemia.
Doctors advise patients to include iron supplements in their regular diet. You could prevent iron deficiency with supplements. However, some people oppose its consumption because of its side effects.
5. Higher chance of depression
Vegans may be more susceptible to depression because they lack a source of omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils and consume more omega-6 fatty acids from foods like nuts.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements derived from algae are an alternative, although they can be costly and difficult to source. Additionally, since many vegan diets may contain a higher-than-average amount of nuts, the body’s fatty acid balance might become unbalanced.
Low omega-3 levels are linked to some problems, some of which are very dangerous. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for pregnant women to consume because they support the growth of the fetus’s brain.
6. Deficiency of vitamin B12
Vegans are far more likely to experience a vitamin B12 deficiency because this essential nutrient is only found in animal products.
In reality, most nutrition experts agree that vegans and vegetarians must take high-quality vitamin B12 supplements to prevent the potentially permanent health issues that might arise from a deficit.
7. Limits zinc absorption
Similar to vitamin B12, zinc is rugged for vegans to consume. Legumes, nuts and seeds are just a few vegan food items that also contain zinc.
Additionally, the phytic acid found in plant-based foods hinders zinc absorption. Phytic acid is one of the anti-nutrients that harm the lining of the small intestine, and in essence, it causes harm to the body due to mineral deficiencies.
8. Excessive carbohydrate intake
As previously said, vegan meals are low in protein sources, some of which also have anti-nutrient features. Additionally, it has been noted that foods that are 100% vegan typically include more carbohydrates.
Because there are few options for vegan diets, they frequently include carbohydrates to help them feel full. Legumes, for example, are vegan food that also contains carbs. An imbalance in the body’s metabolism can result from excessive carbohydrate ingestion.
It may result in blood sugar instability and non-alcoholic fatty liver. It is essential to consume a balanced diet containing enough macronutrients.
Vegans typically avoid animal products for ethical, health, environmental reasons or any combination.
An abundance of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fortified foods manufactured from these foods, will likely be substituted for meat, eggs, and dairy products if you follow a vegan diet.
It’s more straightforward than most people believe in switching to a vegan diet. It does, however, need some additional nutritional knowledge.
So, if you’re thinking about switching, think about seeing a registered dietitian who specialises in plant-based diets to be sure you understand the basics.
People who want a vegan diet must carefully plan their meals to ensure they are obtaining enough essential nutrients to prevent deficiencies.
What can you eat on a vegan diet?
You can consume foods made from plants while following a vegan diet, such as:
1· Fruits and vegetables
3·Nuts and seeds
4·Pasta, rice, and bread
5·Dairy substitutes such as almond, coconut, and soymilk
What foods do vegans avoid?
On a vegan diet, you can’t eat the following items
1· The meat of animals, fish, seafood, or other living things; or the hides, organs, or other by-products of animals.
2· Whole eggs as well as egg-based foods like mayonnaise.
3· Dairy products like yoghurt, milk, cream, and cheese.
4· Honey or white sugar.
Do vegans eat eggs?
No, strict vegans do not eat eggs as it is obtained from an animal.
Is a vegan diet healthier?
Yes, it is healthier. Numerous health advantages of a vegan diet include improved heart health, weight loss and a lower risk of developing chronic diseases. According to research, vegan diets may also be good for the environment.
Is it true that vegans have trouble getting enough B12?
Yes, it is true. Vegans may rely on goods fortified with vitamin B-12, such as some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast. Since plants cannot produce vitamin B-12, vegans must find alternate sources of the vitamin if they want to maintain their health.
What is wrong with eating dairy products?
The primary source of saturated fat in the American diet is milk and other dairy products, which increases the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, studies have connected dairy consumption to a higher risk of prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.