Today I will be talking about the vegan diet and whether it is just another trend or if it holds some valuable health benefits! Many influencers and celebrities have now been advocating for a vegan diet. Although this is not a new way of eating, it seems to have gained popularity in the past years. There are now many plant-based foods at restaurants and common grocery stores alike. With this new gain in popularity, the question must be asked- is the vegan diet really good for everyone? There are strong arguments and anecdotal evidence from each said but the answer remains untold. The vegan holds some obvious benefits and possibly some unnoticed drawbacks which I will be discussing in this post.
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So let's get into it!
1. Vegan Definition
Oxford Languages defines a vegan as "a person who does not eat any food derived from animals and who typically does not use other animal products" (noun) or "eating, using, or containing no food or other products derived from animals" (adjective). Some define vegan as a diet and others refer to it as a lifestyle. People may choose to eat a plant-based diet but are not as rigorous in ensuring that other aspects of their life as in line with the tenets of veganism.
As described by The Vegan Society, the other components of vegan living include vegan medicine, charity supporting, ethical entertainment, and natural beauty products, cleaning products, bathroom items, clothing, and etc. Vegas opt to use natural products and do not support the testing of animals with any of their products. Also, they choose not to support entertainment and business such as zoos, aquariums, dog racing, horse racing, and anything else of this nature.
As reported by Claire Suddath in Time, veganism was first coined in 1944 as a term referring to the avoidance of animal products. This can be traced back to the ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies. In conjunction, vegetarianism is also a principle seen in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, believing that we should not inflict pain on other animals. In 1847, the very first vegetarian society was formed in England and in 1944, a British woodworker by the name of Donald Watson made the term vegan for vegetarians who did not eat dairy and eggs.
There are numerous benefits to eating a strict vegan diet. Studies have shown that vegans have better heart health, less chance of becoming obese, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, decreased incidence of diabetes, cancer (especially GI, breast, ovarian, and uterus). Vegans also tend to have a lower BMI (body mass index) than those who eat animal-based products as veganism has also been known to promote weight loss.
Veganism also has numerous mental benefits. A vegan diet, or a healthy diet in general, has been known to improve mood and emotional stability. Animal products are said to create an inflammation cascade in the body which can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, hopelessness, and depression. Furthermore, a vegan diet is rich in vital nutrients that can promote feelings of happiness and well-being through supporting the production of important neurotransmitters.
You can eat:
- fruits and vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- bread, rice, and pasta
- vegetable oils
- dairy alternative
- plant-based meats
You can't eat:
- beef, pork, lamb, and other red meat
- chicken, duck, and other poultry
- fish, shellfish, crabs, clams, mussels
- cheese, butter
- milk cream, ice cream, and other dairy products
Veganism also has drawbacks, mostly based on incorrectly implementing this strict lifestyle. Animal proteins can shortchange you on protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin B12. All of these except vitamin B12. can be easily added to your diet by adjusting the types of vegan options you eat. Vitamin B12 must be taken as a supplement when starting a vegetarian or vegan diet as a result of its primary source being meat. Vitamin B12 is essential in the creation of red blood cells and also DNA function. Just because you are eating vegan does not mean you are automatically getting all your vital nutrients! Make sure your diet is encompassing all the necessary carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Planning meals and the inability to eat out at a lot of places can pose a barrier to many people. If you have a busy lifestyle, it may be hard to meal plan and find restaurants near you that provide vegan options. In conjunction with being time-consuming, the vegan lifestyle can also be expensive with buying vegan alternatives, supplements, and organic foods. With the correct amount of planning, it can be done inexpensively but it more or less will be time-consuming when you first get started. My post on meal planning is a great way to organize your cooking and grocery shopping!
Vegan protein sources include nuts, soy, quinoa, and beans.
Calcium sources are soy milk, fortified drinks, tofu, broccoli, kale, and almonds.
Omega-3 fatty acid sources are flaxseeds, vegetable oils, and plant-based sources.
Iron sources are tofu, soy nuts, peanut butter, and fortified cereals.
4. Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet refers to focusing on consuming non-animal products while not necessarily cutting them out of the diet. This is a great option for those who are not ready or willing to commit to a vegan lifestyle. Many celebrities such Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Gisele Bündchen, Natalie Portman, Woody Harrelson, Russel Brand, Lewis Hamilton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. For all those who think you can't build muscle or maintain your weight with a vegan diet- if the terminator can undertake (and promote) a plant-based lifestyle, I'm sure you can handle one as well!
5. Organic and non-GMO Diet
Although not required in the vegan lifestyle, most participants try to ensure their diet is also organic and non-GMO. Organic foods ARE non-GMO as GMOs refer to genetically modified organisms that are prohibited in organic production. GMOs involve genetic technology that changes the genetic makeup or structure of a product making it unreplicable in nature. Common GMO foods include corn, papaya, and potatoes. The purpose of genetically modifying these foods is to increase the resistance to pests, disease, and environmental conditions.
GMO foods are said to be safe by some and dangerous by others. I urge you to carefully research and vet the source of information while learning about this topic.
6. Final Thoughts
A vegan lifestyle, although may seem like a fad, is rooted in some rich history. The vegan diet has undeniable benefits but also can be time-consuming and inexpensive. Before diving into this lifestyle, I recommend you do your own research and determine what your body needs nutritionally. If you have any health conditions, be sure to consult your doctor and if possible a nutritionist to point you in the right direction. Many people prefer to transition into a plant-based lifestyle slowly to make it sustainable. Start by introducing a couple of vegan days a week and see how you feel! Don't feel pressured to radically change your lifestyle but don't be too scared to try!
What do you think about the vegan diet? Let me know in the comments below!