Vegan diets, where no animal products are included in the diet, continue to be a popular choice for many Americans. But is a vegan diet healthy? It can be, but it requires careful planning to ensure anyone considering a vegan diet will get the nutrients they need. If done incorrectly, a vegan diet can result in malnutrition. However, a well-balanced vegan diet can help control weight very effectively and reduce the risk of a number of life-threatening conditions. Is a vegan diet healthy? Let’s examine the facts.
General Information About a Vegan Diet
Vegans eat no products that come from animals. This includes meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. They, therefore, must get all of the nutrition they need from plant sources. It differs from a vegetarian diet because vegetarians will eat animal products, such as cheese and eggs, but not meat. Some vegetarians will eat fish, while fish are not part of a vegan diet.
People have varying reasons for going vegan. It can be as a protest against cruel farming practices, out of environmental concerns, because they do not like the taste of animal products, for health reasons or any combination of the above. Because more people are becoming aware of the consequences of what they consume, the popularity of vegan diets is at an all-time high. But is a vegan diet healthy? We will examine the facts.
Items on a Vegan Diet
More grocery stores carry vegan-friendly products, so it has become easier than ever for regular people to switch to a vegan diet. These are some of the most common items on vegan shopping lists.
- Any and all vegetables, especially fresh, in-season offerings.
- Any and all fruits, especially fresh, in-season offerings.
- Whole grains, including wheat, quinoa, brown rice, multigrain pasta, and oats.
- Nuts, lentils, legumes, and beans, which are main substitutes for non-vegan protein-rich foods.
- Seeds, especially flax seeds, which contain the valuable omega-3 fatty acid.
- Milk substitutes, such as soy or almond milk.
- Soy products, including fake meat and tofu, for protein.
- Egg and butter substitutes.
- Products that are rich in vitamin-D, vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, and zinc.
- Avocados, edamame, chickpeas, mushrooms and chia seeds.
- Soy yogurt. If you don’t like soy yogurt, kimchi is another great source of probiotics.
- Nutritional yeast, which has B-12 and is a great substitute for Parmesan cheese.
Dangers of a Vegan Diet
But is a vegan diet healthy? Going vegan does constitute some risks.
1. Lack of Protein
Because the vast majority of proteins come from animal products, an ill-planned vegan diet can be too low in protein. Vegans must get their protein from other sources.
2. Lack of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as eggs and seafood and they are important for eye health, brain health and cardiovascular health. There are fortified soy milk, supplements and breakfast bar options for vegans.
3. Lack of Vitamins
Individuals on a vegan diet need to be careful about watching for vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms because folacin masks these symptoms and vegan diets are typically rich in it. B-12 only occurs naturally in animal foods, so vegans must use fortified foods or supplements.
4. Lack of Minerals
Lack of iron can be a problem because many people get their source of iron from red meats, which vegans do not consume. Zinc and calcium are also minerals vegans need to ensure they get enough of.
Are There Benefits to a Vegan Diet?
There are a number of benefits to following a vegan diet that answer is a vegan diet healthy. For one, vegans tend to struggle less with weight problems and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which reduces their risk of heart disease. Lower weight also significantly decreases the risk of developing diabetes. They also consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, two food groups most people do not eat a healthy amount of.
A vegan diet unquestionably reduces an individual’s carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Plants require far less energy to grow and do not produce greenhouse gases like methane that animal production does. Vegans also have the conscience of knowing that their life is not built on eating or exploiting other living creatures.
Babies can be raised on a vegan diet, although extra care must be taken. Carnivorous pets, including dogs and especially cats, should never be fed a vegan diet.
Is a vegan diet healthy? Like most diets, it can be both healthy and unhealthy. If going vegan sounds interesting to you, there’s no reason not to give it a try. Just be sure to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist and have a plan to ensure your health won’t suffer because you have left out necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. You should never make any major changes to your diet without consulting a medical professional to ensure your health will not be compromised.
Are you a vegan? What caused you to switch over to a vegan diet? Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Image source: depositphotos.com