What Does “Being Vegan” Mean?
There was a time if you were not on the Atkins diet or the Jenny Craig diet, or Weight Watchers, you were considered “not serious” about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Then it was “low-carb,” “no-carb,” and even protein-only diets. Today, all the rage seems to be the Keto diet. But one diet that has outlived them all, and never goes out of style is the vegan diet. However, many people today have no idea what it means to be on the vegan diet, or just simply being vegan.
Persons on the vegan diet are called vegans, and are proud of it. Very few persons who go vegan, report negative results while being vegan. In fact, all the people who I know who are vegans say it is a lifestyle not a diet.
Nevertheless, for the purpose of this article and to help you better understand this radical change in lifestyle, we’ll call it the vegan diet.
In this article, we will give you the 411 on the diet that keeps your stomach full according to persons who’ve tried it.
So let’s delve into what it means being vegan.
What Exactly Is Veganism?
Veganism, according to dietitian Alina Petre on healthline.com, is the exclusion of all animal products from your diet. Not to be confused with being a vegetarian, which allows the consumption of dairy products, such as milk, but the exclusion of meat.
The vegan diet does not allow the consumption of any kind of dairy. I.e. no meat and no derivatives such as butter, eggs, and yogurt.
Does Being Vegan Means Being Healthy?
Well, that depends on who you ask. For the most part, I would say, ‘Yes.” However, I believe some types of vegan diets are not so healthy. But I will let you be the judge. There are many types of vegan diets. Today, I will list the major ones:
Raw-food vegan diet — These vegans eat only fresh vegetables, nuts, fruits, seeds, and plant foods cooked under 115℉. They prepare their meals by mostly using blenders and juicers.
The junk & convenience food vegan diet — If you’re a meat lover, but want to go vegan, this is probably the best way to wean yourself to being vegan. With this diet, you eat processed vegan foods that are meant to substitute for meat, cheese, and other dairy products, e.g. vegan burger with fries, or pizza rolls with vegan cheese.
High-carb and low-fat vegan diet — Vegan dieters eat whole plant-based foods such as rice and potatoes, which are high in carbohydrate, and eating on average 20% or less fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Low-carb vegan diet — By definition, if the vegan diet is devoid of dairy, then most food items are carbohydrates. So to go low-carb leaves very little option for these vegans. The alternative is to go high on fats and oils, the other group of macronutrients required for a healthy diet. Vegans on this diet usually eat, for example, an avocado smoothie, or steamed veggies with tofu.
Plant-based diet — Some people choose to go vegan in order to lose weight. Others, to prevent environmental issues or prevent animal cruelty. They don’t really care what they eat, as long as it does not include animals. These dieters eat ONLY plant-based foods.
According to one website, there are 15 different types of vegan diets. The ones listed above are the major ones. If you wish to go vegan, then do your research on all the different types, including the ones listed here.
So what are the benefits for being vegan, you may ask, i.e. besides the preservation of our friends in the animal kingdom?
I will list a few advantages, and to be fair, also a few disadvantages, so you will be able to make informed decisions concerning veganism.
Benefits of Vegan Diet
One of the biggest challenges faced by persons who wish to go on a diet, is losing weight. As we get older, our metabolism slows, which then causes weight gain. A vegan diet, high in protein, helps prevent muscle loss and the buildup of fat. Low-fat vegan diets are popular among persons who wish to lose weight. Other benefits of a vegan diet include:
Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
A 2006 study showed, “low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes.” Persons with Type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to a low-fat vegan diet or a diet following the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines over a 22-week-period. The results were that both a low-fat vegan diet and a diet based on ADA guidelines improved glycemic and lipid control in Type 2 diabetic patients. These improvements were greater with a low-fat vegan diet.
Other benefits include glowing skin, better sleep at nights, and the prevention of cancer.
Disadvantages of Vegan Diet
But, like all diets that do not include the three types of macronutrients, namely carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, there are always disadvantages. Here, then, are a few disadvantages of being vegan:
Absence of Vitamin B12
According to WebMD, “Vitamin B12 does a lot of things for your body. It helps make your DNA and your red blood cells, for example.” Interestingly, the body does not produce Vitamin B12. Therefore, we obtain this necessary vitamin from supplements, or animal-based foods such as eggs, milk, and meat. Since, by definition, veganism means no animal-based foods, the diet is usually lacking Vitamin B12. It is stated that adults should take 2.4 mcg of Vitamin B12 daily.
The Absence of Zinc and Iron
According to an article in the Journal Of Research In Medical Science, “Since its first discovery in an Iranian male in 1961, zinc deficiency in humans is now known to be an important malnutrition problem world-wide. It is more prevalent in areas of high cereal and low animal food consumption.”
Zinc helps you to maintain proper hormone levels, while keeping your body healthy and strong. It is suggested that a lack of zinc in the body could be the reason for hair loss or wounds taking a longer time to heal.
Also, according to WebMD, iron is a very important nutrient as it acts as a vehicle in transporting oxygen from the lungs to your blood cells. We don’t need to tell you what happens if your cells do not receive oxygen. Other benefits include healthy skin, hair, and nails.
WebMD also advises that if you decide to go vegan, you should take iron supplements, since plant-based iron absorbs slower than iron in meat products.
Other disadvantages of being vegan include the lack of Vitamin D, which is necessary for bone retention and also cancer-fighting properties, and lack of Omega-3 Fatty acids, which are important for the prevention of heart disease and eye and brain health.
So there you have it. In a nutshell, what it means to be vegan. It’s a lifestyle where the animal life is preserved, foods are mostly plant-based, and there are benefits such as weight loss and the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. There are also disadvantages, as certain vitamins and minerals that are also important in the growth and development of your body are absent. However, with supplements, one can maintain a healthy lifestyle on a vegan diet.
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