The vegan diet has gained popularity in recent years and, more and more people are adopting it. Its popularity doesn’t solely depend on health benefits but also the environmental benefits and ethical reasons. But a diet solely based on plant life can be difficult for many and can lack a lot of nutrients that are necessary for a human body. But if done properly, the diet has many health benefits.
It isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle that is followed by many all around the globe. The vegan diet was first defined by The Vegan Society in 1944, but it wasn’t until 1949 that veganism was given a proper definition by Leslie J Cross as “the principle of emancipation of animals from exploitation by man.” Society was first registered as a charity in 1964, but later on, in 1979 it became a limited company. The earlier definition was very clear on its adaptation, which is why it changed over the years and, the present definition of veganism is as follows, “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternative for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
Veganism is not only about what you put in your mouth, but a way of life. Currently, most of the medicines in the market need to be animal tested for approval but this doesn’t mean that a vegan should not use them, rather what they can do is request their physician or pharmacist to prescribe them medicines that do not contain any animal products like lactose or gelatine.
Many vegans are against animal exploitation in any way. They avoid going to the zoo or aquariums and, are against the use of animals for entertainment purposes like horse races or bullfights. They would support animal sanctuaries that provide a safe and loving home for animals rescued.
What can be eaten in a vegan diet
A vegan diet mainly consists of plant-based products and banning intake of the animal-based product, which not only includes meat and fish but also milk and dairy products. A proper balanced vegan diet is very important to have all the nutrients essential for a human body for which there are different varieties of vegan diets:
- Whole-food vegan diet – it is a diet that along with fruits and vegetables is based on whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The concept is based on consuming all the parts of a plant.
- Raw food vegan diet – the concept here is to consume raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or plant food cooked at low temperatures to retain all the nutrients.
- 80/10/10 – it is one of the most difficult vegan diets that limit fat-rich substances such as nuts and avocados and relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens.
- The starch solution – a similar diet to the above one, but focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruits.
- Raw till 4 – this is a time based vegan diet in which raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
- The thrive diet – it is again a raw-food vegan diet, where followers eat plant-based whole foods that are minimally cooked.
- Junk food vegan diet – it is a very different type of diet from the rest that depends on mock meats and cheese, fries, vegan desserts, and other heavily processed vegan foods.
Depending on your needs and the reason for you to choose a vegan diet, you should choose a diet best suited for you. But one thing to keep in mind is to be aware of the things available around you to follow the diet, you can’t just decide on a whim, you need to be sure that what you need is there around you.
Health benefits of a vegan diet
The vegan diet has many health benefits, apart from reducing weight it also reduces the chances of strokes and heart diseases. The diet is considered to be rich in fiber and lower in cholesterol, protein, calcium, and sodium than an omnivorous diet.
Because of the limited options available in the diet, many fear that they might be losing out on some essential nutrients required for the body. The most common concern of people is the deficiency of B12 vitamin that is mainly present in meat and dairy products, which can lead to neurological symptoms that if prolonged can become permanent. But the minuscule requirement of B12 can be covered from either plant-based milk or supplements.
Another major concern for a vegan diet is the amount of protein intake, as there isn’t sufficient protein in fruits and vegetables. But Marco Springmann, senior researcher of environmental sustainability and public health at the University of Oxford says, “We’ve never seen issues with protein deficiencies, only in people who don’t eat enough calories. Protein is in everything.”
Another important nutrient that vegans fear of losing out is iron. But as long as the diet includes fruits and vegetables of every color there is nothing to worry about, as the body adapts according to the amount of iron intake and efficiently uses it.
“We’ve found that the vegan diet could be one of the healthiest diets, outperforming pescatarian and vegetarian, because the vegan diet is higher in fruit, vegetables, and legumes and the health benefits from this compensate anything else,” says Springman. Therefore, there is no need to worry about any nutrient deficiency. Plan a properly balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables of different colors, along with nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, and lentils, as well as chia, hemp, and flax seeds. If you follow a proper diet plan, there is no reason to be concerned.