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Vegan diet is a type of diet that is entirely derived from plants. It avoids anything produced from animal sources ranging from meat to dairy, and sometimes even honey.
The word vegan is derived from the word vegetarian by combining the start(veg) and end(an).
Veganism is the practice of following a vegan diet and a philosophy of not using animals as a commodity. The person who follows this diet or notion is called a Vegan.
The core concept of the vegan diet is to curb the consumption of animals and their by-products. However, there are different types of vegan diets, depending on what vegan food one prefers to eats and how one eats.
• Whole food Vegans: People whose diet involves whole foods, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts.
• Dietary Vegans: People who follow a strict plant-based diet; however, they incorporate animal-based products in other aspects of life, such as clothing and cosmetics.
• Junk Food Vegans: vegans who eat a variety of junk food in their diet, which is often processed, like fries, vegan meat, and non-dairy ice-cream.
• Raw food Vegans: vegan who consume food that is mostly raw or cooked at a very low temperature(118˚F).
• Low-fat raw food Vegans: Their main diet includes a lot of fruits and also sometimes referred to as fruitarians. They reduce the consumption of high-fat food like avocados and coconut oil and eat mostly fruits.
Vegan food curbs the consumption of any animal-based product, whereas vegetarians consume plants and include dairy as well as eggs.
There are various types of vegetarians who also consume some amount of meat in their diet on an occasional basis. Below are the various types of vegetarian diets.
• Lacto-vegetarian: This allows the consumption of dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, etc. But restricts the intake of meat, poultry and fish, and their products.
• Ovo-vegetarian: This excludes the intake of meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but includes the consumption of eggs.
• Lacto-Ovo-vegetarian: It allows the consumption of both eggs and dairy products while restricts meat, poultry, and fish-related products.
• Pescatarian: This diet only allows the consumption of fish and related products while meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products are restricted.
• Mediterranean: They are also called semi-vegetarian, which is mainly a plant-based diet but allows the consumption of meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs on occasions. It also promotes the use of fish, oils, and fats.
Vegan diet is a more strict or restrictive version of a vegetarian diet. Still, there are a wide variety of products available that constitutes a vegan diet.
The diet consists of the following:
• All fruits and vegetables
• Starch-based meals like potato, pasta, bread, rice
• Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas
• Seeds including flax seeds and chia seeds
• Nuts and nut butter
• Alternate source of protein like tofu, tempeh and seitan
• Non-dairy milk such as almond, soy, coconut or plant milk preferably fortified with calcium and vitamin D
• Algae and Seaweed
• Whole grains and cereal
The vegan diet emphasizes on a plant-based lifestyle. There is a wide of variety of items that an average person consumes,which might not be eligible for a vegan diet.
Some of the products which are not consumable as part of the vegan diet are:
• Poultry products like chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
• Meat from animal sources like pork, beef, lamb, horse, wild meat, or red meat.
• Sea food sources like fish, shrimp, mussels, squid, octopus, scallops, crab, lobster, prawns, etc.
• Dairy products like milk, butter, ice-cream, cream, yogurt, cheese, etc.
• Eggs from poultry sources like chicken, quail, duck, ostrich, etc.
• Bee related products like honey, bee pollen or royal jelly.
• Products using animal ingredients like casein, whey, egg albumin, gelatin, animal-based vitamin D, or fish-based omega-3 fatty acids.
A vegan diet is often attributed to a healthy lifestyle and can improve various conditions, which, with a daily non-vegetarian meal, would otherwise get deteriorated.
Vegan meal is better in reducing and maintaining a healthy weight than a meat meal.
• Weight reduction: it increases metabolism, and thus reduces about 1 pound of your body weight per week without including exercises in your routine. Whereas eating animal sources often leads to the accumulation of body fat.
• Restricts overeating: high fiber vegan food maintains the feeling of fullness for a longer duration avoiding overeating. Simultaneously, it promotes the consumption of extra calories.
Diabetes in many people occurs due to the development of resistance to insulin produced by the body. The vegan diet causes:
• Increases insulin sensitivity of the body, allowing a better utilization of the glucose managing diabetes.
• Reduces the risk of diabetes. Vegetarian diets have a 50% less risk of getting diabetes compared to non-vegetarians. Moreover, non-vegetarians have a 74% higher chance of diabetes over a period of 17 years.
Meat usually has a high amount of cholesterol and a low amount of fibers. Cholesterol accumulation for a longer period is often associated with major heart diseases.
• Vegan diet with higher fiber reduces the level of cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases. Moreover, a higher level of weight loss can also be seen over a period of 18 weeks.
• Consuming a vegan diet for a year reduces bad cholesterol by 40%. Vegan meal consumers has a 73% reduction in coronary heart diseases and a 24% decrease in ischemic heart disease-related deaths when compared to non-vegetarians.
Eating a significant amount of red meat can cause a higher risk of cancer in humans. Red meat is considered carcinogenic and associated with colorectal cancer.
• Reduced cancer risk: Vegan diet consumers have 15% lesser chances of developing cancer as it contains a lot of minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, which reduce the chances of cancer.
Vegan diet can also help in several other conditions such as:
• Kidney disease: it improves the kidney function.
• Alzheimer’s disease: reduces the risk of the disease.
In India, most people typically consume a vegetarian meal with occasional meat consumption. Since there is ample variety of vegetarian food available, it is not very difficult to switch to a vegan diet. In most other countries, people consume meat at least once a day or more, which makes it more difficult.
To switch to a meat-free, vegan diet, all of a sudden is not very easy for them. A few steps that can help to follow a vegan diet are:
• Start gradually: you can start by converting one usual meal to a vegan meal. Incorporating more leafy green vegetables in various forms such as salads, dishes promote easy acceptance for a vegan meal.
• Find good replacements: gradually start replacing vegan items with the non-vegan ones in your regular meals. It helps in a better transition to a vegan diet. Tofu acts as a wonderful substitute for meat and dairy products in various dishes. Similarly, beans or chickpeas can be used elsewhere.
• Try exciting recipes: Always consider the idea of trying new recipes and keeping it fun to eat. The internet and the books are full of recipes which can offer ideas according to your taste.
A balanced diet consisting of meat, dairy, and veggies, provides all the types of nutrients and keeps one away from deficiencies.
Converting to a completely plant-based source might lead to a nutritional gap causing deficiencies. To prevent this, one must consume plant sources that cover all types of nutrients.
|Nutrient||Function||Rich Animal Source||Rich Plant Source|
|Protein||Building block of the body||Meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy sources||Soya beans, pulses, beans, tofu, peas, chickpeas, peanut butter, soymilk, almonds, etc.|
|Iron||Forms hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all body parts.|
Consumption of vitamin C together increases absorption.
(Strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, or broccoli are rich in vitamin C)
|Meat||Dark and leafy vegetables like spinach, kidney beans, black beans, peas, cereals enriched with iron, oatmeal, raisins, cashews, soybeans.|
|Zinc||Essential in cell growth, cell division, breaking down carbohydrates, wound healing, and immunity.||Dairy sources||Soy products, whole grain, legumes, nuts, and wheat germ|
|Calcium|| Essential for bone & teeth growth and maintenance|
Daily need: for 18-50 years is 1000mg
|Dairy products||Mustard, turnip green bok choy, and kale. Food fortified with calcium like tofu, calcium drinks, cereals, and soymilk|
|Vitamin D |
|Vital for bone development. Required for the absorption of the bone.||Dairy products||Soymilk, rice milk, cereals, or margarine.|
Advice: exposure to sunlight a few times a week, preferably in the morning
|Vitamin B12||Promotes cell division and blood formation|
Deficiency can cause anemia and irreparable nerve damage
|Meat, fish or dairy|
Only available in significant amount in animal sources
|Most vegans need to ingest vitamin B12 supplements or food products fortified with Vit B12 like soy or cereals|
|Omega- 3 fatty acids||Reduces chances of heart issues.|
Deficiency can lead to skin, hair, or nail abnormalities.
|Mostly obtained from fish||Flaxseed and its oil, canola oil, and soybean|
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