What is a vegan diet?
Most of us may have often heard the term “vegan”. But have you ever pondered over the question what is a vegan diet? Vegans are often confused with vegetarians. However, there is a marked difference between the two. Vegetarians typically abstain from poultry, fish and meat. Vegans are vegetarians with the addition that the avoid by products and animal products like soaps, cosmetics, wool, silk, fur, leather, honey, dairy products, eggs and various other kinds of items which are made from animal products.
The purpose of Veganism?
Many people turn vegan for ethical, environmental or health reasons. Some vegans believe that consumption of dairy products of various kinds and eggs encourages the meat industry, while others are opposed to the conditions associated with production of dairy products. Vegans strongly believe that their stand promotes a caring and humane world.
What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?
Most people often don’t get a clear answer to the question what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian? The answer lies in understanding the key features of vegans and vegetarians. The major difference between vegans and vegetarians stems from their choice of what they eat and foods that they avoid. Vegans stay away from products associated with animals in any form. These products include gelatin, honey, eggs, dairy products, fish, poultry and meat. Their diet comprises of vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, grains and beans.
Vegetarians on the other hand are people who abstain from meat. Lacto ovo vegetarians include dairy products of various kinds and eggs in their diet but stay clear of meat. They are hence said to follow a meat free diet. Another category of vegetarians are the pollo vegetarians who eat fish but refrain from consuming meat. People who sometimes eat a vegetarian diet are referred to as flexitarians. All these people may not be considered vegetarians in the true and correct sense.
Another major point of difference between vegans and vegetarians is that vegetarians are limited by their choice of food whereas veganism is essentially a lifestyle. Their choices are not only restricted to food items, but they also avoid household items, clothing or cosmetics that may be even remotely related to animals.
Religion also plays a major role in people embracing veganism apart from various types of health and ethical reasons. Religions like Hinduism and Jainism promote vegetarian diets. Many people who start off as vegetarians may soon become vegans for ethical or health reasons.
Vegans get their daily nutrition requirements from various kinds of foods. Balanced and healthy vegan diets can ensure that vegans get the desired supply of nutrients. Vegans may use the following tips to ensure that they consume a healthy and balance diet.
- Vegans are advised to consume minimum of five portions of different vegetables and fruits daily.
- Vegans may base their meals on pasta, rice, bread, potatoes or other items rich in starch and carbohydrates.
- It is advisable for vegans to choose wholegrain products.
- Dairy alternatives like yoghurts and soya drinks may be chosen.
- Vegans are advised to consume appropriate quantities of proteins, pulses and beans.
- It is advisable for vegans to take frequent meals of smaller portions.
- Vegans can choose unsaturated spreads and oils.
- Vegans are advised to drink a minimum of 8 to 10 glasses of water every day to keep their body hydrated.
List of vegan foods
Vegan foods basically comprise of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and other similar products. A list of vegan foods comprises of the following categories:
Vegans can opt for both frozen and fresh vegetables. They can include fresh vegetables like avocado, bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, cauliflowers, celery, carrots and broccoli. These vegetables may be consumed raw.
Cooked vegetables for vegans include onions, garlic, kale, asparagus, squashes, mushrooms and zucchini. Vegas can also opt for leafy green vegetables including salad mixes, lettuce, baby spinach and baby kale.
Amongst the frozen vegetables, vegans may choose from stir fry mixes, peas, corn, spinach, asparagus and broccoli.
Fruits form an essential part of vegan diets. These may include mango, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, apricots, watermelons, blackberries, bananas, plums, peaches, lemons, grapefruit, orange, kiwis, apples and many more.
A vegan diet may also comprise of dried fruits like figs, dates, apricots, currents and raisins.
Legumes, Grains and Beans
Vegans can consume various types of soy products including soy milk and tofu. Amongst legumes and beans, they may consume hummus, lentils, kidney beans, chick peas and black beans. In the category of starches and whole grains, vegans may choose from options like wheat gluten, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal and many more similar options. They can also choose from whole wheat products like pasta, pita, bagel, English muffins, tortillas and bread.
These are an essential component in a vegan diet. Vegans must make efforts to maintain an appropriate balance of essential fatty acids in the body. These can be obtained from canola oil, olive oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, sesame butter and seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seed butter and seeds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, nut butters, olives and coconut milk.
Non dairy products
Vegans can substitute dairy milk products with non dairy ones. These products are usually available in a variety of flavors. Vegans may choose the ones according to their taste and preference. These products may include coconut yoghurt, almond yoghurt, soy yoghurt, flax milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk and soy milk.
Vegan convenience foods
Vegans don’t essentially need to deprive themselves of convenience and junk foods. There are vegan alternatives available for almost every type of food which provide nutrition and taste delicious. Common and popular foods like pizza, burgers and hot dogs can easily be substituted with vegan options. Going vegan surely does not imply depriving your taste buds of flavor!
Benefits of being a vegetarian
There are many benefits of being a vegetarian. Vegetarians can lead a healthier lifestyle and contribute to the environment in a significant way. Veganism is a step ahead of vegetarianism and has a number of advantages. Both vegetarians and vegans can avail of the following advantages by choosing their lifestyle and what they consume.
Vegan diet for weight loss
Many people turn to vegan diet for weight loss. By cutting out animal products, weight loss becomes easier as people refrain from consuming saturated fats which are found in meat and various dairy products.
Vegans are healthier
Both vegetarians and vegans have reported to have healthier cholesterol levels, low cancer rates, lower rate of heart diseases, appropriate body mass index, lower rate of diabetes and balanced blood pressure levels.
Vegetarians and vegans have better immunity levels. This is because the fruits and vegetables consumed by them are rich in anti oxidants and nutrients. These components boost immunity and enhance the capability of the body to keep diseases at bay.
Improves sports prowess
Vegans possess high energy levels and are known to be successful athletes. Scott Jurek, the well known ultra runner is one such example who turned vegan in 1999 and went on to win a number of long distance races.
Consumption of vegetables and fruits nurtures the skin, nails and health. This gives vegans a healthier and glowing skin.
Avoidance of dairy products is known to be helpful in alleviating arthritis related symptoms. Vegan diet combined with a gluten free diet can provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis.
Higher energy levels
Vegans usually experience high levels of energy in the body. High energy helps to keep the body active and hence eliminate a number of health issues.
Various studies have established that the average age of vegetarians and vegans is more than people who mixed and non vegetarian diets.
Farewell to bad breath and body odor
Vegetarians and vegans are usually less dependent on mouth washes and deodorants to keep bad breath and body odor at bay. Elimination of red meat and numerous dairy products from the diet leads to fresher breath and reduces body odor.
Vegan weight loss meal plan
Switching to a diet involves significant changes and a lot of adjustments. It is hence necessary to follow a vegan weight loss meal plan when switching to the diet with the purpose of reducing body weight. The following tips can guide you regarding the steps to be taken for switching to a vegan diet.
Going vegan gradually
Going vegan gradually is a good approach as it provides the body the required time to adjust to the diet changes. It also helps to reduce cravings gradually. Going vegan gradually provides the benefit of succumbing to temptations once in a while till the time you are prepared to incorporate the change completely.
Tips for going vegan gradually
- Eliminate a minimum of one animal related product from your lifestyle per week.
- Consume at least one vegan meal in a day.
- Schedule a day in a week for a completely vegan diet.
- For faster weight reduction, eliminate products like bacon and red meat.
Eat real food
Research has proven that counting calories is not a good way to reduce weight. Instead, the focus should be on eating real food. Real foods may include seeds, nuts, whole grains, veggies and fruits. Vegans may also treat themselves with cookies and soy cream once in a while to reduce cravings. These foods have lesser fat and fewer calories than non vegan foods. Hence you may consume them without feeling the least bit guilty.
Be careful of substitutes
There are a number of vegan substitutes available for various kinds of food products. However, for weight loss, they may not be the best option. The substitute vegan foods are processed and may fail to aid in weight loss. Though healthier than most animal products, they may not present the best weight loss food choices. The processed foods can prove to be useful while making the transition from being a non vegan to vegan but it is important to eat real food that can help in weight loss. The following tips can also prove useful in vegan weight loss plans:
- Buy some vegan cookbooks and use them to prepare nutritious meals.
- Include protein in every meal as it gives a gives a fuller feeling.
- Carefully read the list of ingredients on every packet of vegan foods.
- You may choose to consume B12 supplements and also ensure that the body receives adequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium and iron.
- Eat green vegetables as they are a good source of calcium and iron.
- Eat plenty of seeds and nuts as they are good providers of zinc, omega 3, amino acids and protein.
Going vegan is a healthy option. For most it implies a moral decision, while for others it is a good way to reduce weight. Whatever the reasons, veganism and contribute significantly to the environment.
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