The vegan diet has gained popularity in recent years as the “ideal diet.” The removal of animal products from a vegan’s food intake makes it a healthy alternative to the usual meat diet for many health buffs.
There are two main types of vegans, the ethical and dietary vegans. Vegans with ethical sensibilities do not use any animal products because they believe that doing so would reinforce the idea of animals as mere “commodities.” The second type of vegans, as with strict vegetarians, only eliminate meat from their diet.
Research has shown that well-planned vegan diets protect the body from many degenerative diseases such as heart and mental diseases. Health associations such as the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada consider such a diet as appropriate for people of all ages. However, they warn potential vegans that poorly-planned vegan regimens can result in vitamin deficiencies.
Vegans usually use ingredients such as tempeh, tofu and seitanin, which are found in most East Asian dishes. Plant-based products can replace ingredients derived from animals such as milk and dairy.
Examples of plant-based products are plant milk and cream from soya, grain and almond, which take the place of cow’s milk and cream. Cheese analogues can replace cheese, while starch-based products, flax seeds, and apple sauce can substitute eggs.
“Mock meats,” which are readily available in health stores and supermarkets, can take the place of meat products. These veggie meats, made from ingredients such as soy or gluten, can be made into veggie sausages, bacon, burgers, and nuggets.
To avoid nutrient imbalance, the “Four New Food Groups” for vegans was conceived by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The committee advises both vegans and vegetarians to eat at least three servings of vegetables daily, including dark green and leafy vegetables such as broccoli; dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots; five servings of whole grains (bread, rice, pasta); three fruits; and two legumes (beans, peas, lentils).
It has been recommended that vegans eat foods fortified with Vitamin B12 or take a supplement. Iodine supplementation may also be necessary for vegans in countries where salt is not normally iodized. Vegans may likewise be at risk of choline deficiency and may benefit from choline supplements.
Vegetarians who eliminate meat and dairy from their diets should take in almost twice as much iron daily than those who eat animal products. Iron is less well absorbed from vegetarian regimens (ten percent absorption from vegetarian diets compared to eighteen percent from omnivorous diets).
It is likewise suggested that vegans eat three servings daily of a calcium-rich food such as fortified hazelnuts, almonds and soy milk. They should also take calcium and vitamin D supplements as needed.
A vegan diet has truly many benefits, including improved health and well-being. However, it is important for vegans to take the necessary supplements to make their diet optimal and well-balanced.