The vegan diet has become a very popular fad among fitness enthusiasts in the recent times, owing to its umpteen number of health incentives. Gradually, more people are adopting veganism for ethical, environmental or health reasons. Vegan and vegetarian diets appear to be among the top food trend, but evidence discloses that people have been consuming predominantly plant-based diets for ages. Basically, some people who adopt a vegan diet have opted to steer clear of all animal-based foods from their meals and choose clothing, household essentials and personal care products that are devoid of animal by-products. Vegan diets are packed with vital nutrients and low in saturated fats. When practised rightly, a vegan diet may deliver numerous health benefits including a slimmer waistline, manage blood sugar levels, improve cardiac health, and protect against cancer.
What Is Veganism?
Veganism is the practice of refraining the use of all animal products, chiefly in the diet, and an associated philosophy that denies the commodity status of animals. People who follow the diet or philosophy is known as vegan. Veganism endeavour to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, in terms of food, clothing or other purposes.
Categories Of Veganism:
They are also known as strict vegetarians, they avoid having meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances.
An ethical vegan is also known as a moral vegetarian. They are those who not only adapt the diet but also spreads the philosophy into other areas of their lifestyle and resists the use of animal products for any reason.
This type of veganism refers to the circumvention of animal products on the premise. They even consider the industrial farming of animals to be environmentally dangerous and unsustainable.
Properly structured vegan diets are ideal for all ages of life from infancy to pregnancy states the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and several other dietetic associations. The term vegan was coined in the year 1944 by Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson when they co-founded the Vegan Society in the United Kingdom.
Different Types of Vegan Diets
There are different types of vegan diets. The most common include:
Whole-food vegan diet: This diet is based on an extensive range of whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Raw-food vegan diet: A vegan diet centred on raw food includes eating raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or other plant foods that are cooked at temperature below 48-degree Celsius.
80/10/10: This type is based on a raw-food vegan diet that curbs having fat-rich plants like nuts and avocados. They majorly consume raw fruits and soft greens. It is also known as a low-fat, raw-food vegan diet or fruitarian diet.
The Starch Solution: This is a low-fat, high carb vegan diet that is quite similar to the 80/10/10 but mainly focuses on consuming cooked starches like potato, rice, and corn instead of fruits.
Raw Till 4: This type is a low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Where raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with a choice of having cooked plant-based meals for dinner.
The Thrive Diet: This diet is a raw-food vegan diet, where the followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or cooked at low temperatures.
Junk-food vegan diet: A vegan diet that is completely devoid of whole plant foods and mainly relies on meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts, and other highly processed vegan foods.
Potential Benefits Of Vegan Diet
A vegan diet delivers all the essential nutrients that a normal person needs, and it excludes possible health risks that have been linked with consuming harmful animal fats. Some of the science-backed health benefits of vegan diet includes:
Augments Cardiac Health
Adopting a vegan diet is beneficial in uplifting heart health in many ways. Several studies have associated that a higher intake of plant-based foods and a lower intake of animal foods with a lesser risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Aside from this, plant-based foods are an abundant source of dietary fibre and are low in fat that helps to shed surplus kilos, reduce cholesterol levels, and lowers the risk of obesity, a major contributing factor for heart disease.
Eating a vegan diet may lower a person’s risk of developing cancer by 15% since plant foods are a great source of fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals. The biologically active phytonutrients possess potent antioxidant and anti-cancer properties that safeguard against the risk of developing several types of cancer.
A vegan diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes is linked to remarkably lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study published in the Journal of British Medical Association revealed that a vegan diet controls blood sugar spikes, reduce cholesterol levels and manages weight. Apart from these, a vegan diet improved psychological well-being and lowered the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Studies have revealed that a vegan diet has a positive impact on people suffering from arthritis. This diet is valuable in easing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis including pain, joint swelling, and stiffness. Moreover, vegan diet helped arthritis patients to improve their energy levels and functioning.
Vegan Diet For Weight Loss
Vegans are thinner and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans. While there is also an increasing trend of people adopting a vegan diet to lose surplus kilos. Evidence discloses that vegan diets have a greater perspective for losing weight than omnivorous, semi-vegetarian and pesco vegetarians’ diets and help individuals to meet the nutritional demands. Moreover, it is essential to keep in mind that eating plenty of processed or high fat plant-based foods can also lead to unhealthful weight gain in the long run.
Vegan Diet Foods
The vegan diet encompasses plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, soy, legumes, nuts and nut butter, plant-based dairy alternatives, sprouted or fermented plant foods and whole grains. Thus, this diet does not include any animal foods like eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, or seafood. Moreover, they are also devoid of animal by-products like honey made by bees and other animal-based ingredients like whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumin, gelatin, carmine, animal-derived vitamin supplements and omega 3 fatty acid supplements obtained from fish.
Tofu, tempeh, are great protein-rich alternatives to meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
Legumes like beans, lentils and peas are impressive sources of numerous plant compounds and nutrients. Proper cooking methods and sprouting can improve nutrient absorption.
Nuts and kinds of nut butter are rich sources of iron, fibre, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E.
Seeds like hemp, chia seeds and flax seeds contain huge volumes of protein and healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
Calcium enriched plant milk and yoghurts are easy ways to meet the dietary needs of calcium.
Spirulina and chlorella are fantastic sources of complete protein.
Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals are an ample source of complex carbs, fibre, iron, B- vitamins and minerals. Spelt, teff, amaranth, quinoa and millets are particularly high-protein choices.
Fermented plant foods like tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, and kombucha are packed with probiotics and vitamin Sprouting and fermenting helps to improve nutrient absorption.
Fruits and vegetables are laden with all essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Foods To Avoid
Typically, vegans avoid consuming any form of animal foods, as well as foods containing ingredients obtained from animals, which include:
Meat and Poultry
Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
Dairy: Milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
Eggs: From chickens, quails, fish, etc.
Bee Products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Whey casein, lactose, egg white albumin, gelatine, carmine, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3 supplement and fish-derived omega 3 fatty acids.
Nutrients Of Concern
Some of the vital nutrients that may be low in a vegan diet include:
Vitamin B-12: It is mainly abundant in animal products. Vitamin B12 holds a significant role in improving red blood cells and nerve functions. Fortified cereals, plant milk and nutritional yeast are some of the plant-based sources of vitamin B12.
Iron: Iron is an essential mineral for maintaining blood health. All legumes and leafy green vegetables are good sources of iron.
Calcium: It is a key mineral for building strong bones and averts the risk of fractures. Dairy products are the main source of calcium. Vegans can add tofu, tahini, and leafy green to meet their calcium needs.
Vitamin D: This fat-soluble vitamin strengthens the bones and teeth, protects against cancer and other chronic health problems. Adding vitamin D fortified foods and spending time in the sun can improve vitamin D levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids: It is a healthy fatty acid essential for heart, eye and brain health. Include plant sources of omega fatty acids like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Zinc: A key trace mineral for bolstering the immune system and repairing DNA damage. Beans, nutritional yeast, nuts, and oats are abundant in zinc.
Iodine: It is vital for thyroid function. Iodine fortified salt and seaweeds are good sources.
Always consult with your healthcare provider whether to take supplements or add more fortified foods to meet these nutrients.
Chickpeas and Tofu Salad
Chickpea and tofu salad is a heart-healthy and delicious dish that packs with a chock full of plant protein and fibre.
1 cup cubed, tofu
½ cup boiled chickpeas
1 medium-sized, chopped tomatoes
¼ cup chopped, cucumber
¼ chopped, avocados
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 clove crushed, garlic
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
In a bowl add lime juice, sesame oil, garlic and white vinegar blend well to make the salad dressing and keep it aside.
In a pan add tofu, boiled chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and avocados and toss it up lightly.
Sprinkle sesame seeds and coriander leaves and drizzle over the dressing.
Tofu is a great source of plant-based protein, calcium, and fibre, when blended with chickpeas and an array of vegetables, the nutritional content of this power-packed salad gets boosted. Chickpeas are rich in protein, fibre, iron, folate, phosphorus, and copper. While sesame seeds provide a good amount of healthy omega fatty acids, copper, magnesium, and manganese. Lemon juice adds tangy flavour and healthy digestion.
Banana cake is a wholesome and yummy vegan dessert made from whole wheat flour and bananas.
4 ripe bananas
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
½ vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
In a bowl mash banana with a fork to a smooth consistency
Now add sugar and vegetable oil and vanilla extract to the mashed banana. Mix well using a blender so that oil mixes well with puree and sugar dissolves completely.
Sieve wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt directly into the wet ingredient bowl.
Fold the dry ingredients thoroughly into the wet ingredients, using the cut and fold method. Add little water or almond milk if the batter is thick to get the right consistency.
Now add chopped walnuts and fold again.
Pour the batter into a greased baking pan.
Bake the banana cake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes
To check if the cake is baked well, run a wooden skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is completely baked.
Let it cool completely.
Slice and serve the delicious banana cake with tea or coffee.
Banana cake is a good mix of all the key nutrients. Whole wheat flour is a dense source of energy, dietary fibre, and other vitamins. While walnuts provide you with healthy omega fatty acids, protein, iron, and antioxidants.
Side Effects Of A Vegan Diet
A well-planned vegan diet that refrains processed foods and packs with nutrient-dense food sources uplifts overall physical health and mental well-being. However, poorly planned vegan diets are at risk of being deficient in certain nutrients. Several pieces of evidence have shown that vegans are at a higher risk of nutritional deficiency including vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium, and zinc. Particularly, children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding on a vegan diet may pose a high risk owing to increased demands of nutrients.
Since vegan diet eliminates all kinds of animal protein and opts for plant-based protein sources like legumes, that contain antinutrients like phytates and lectin that increase intestinal permeability and cause a condition known as leaky gut. Furthermore, plant-based diets that lack iron and vitamin B12 may increase the risk of iron deficiency anaemia and nervous disorder.
Vegan diets are gaining huge popularity in recent times. Some of the incredible wellness incentives of following a vegan diet includes better cardiac health, weight loss and a lowered risk of developing chronic diseases. People who like to adopt a vegan diet must plan their meals diligently to ensure that they are getting all the key nutrients in the right proportions to avoid deficiencies.