Are you thinking about trying out a vegan diet? Veganism has been around for quite some time and is growing in popularity. Let’s first define what a vegan diet is. Going vegan means eating an entirely plant-based diet. That means no meat, no dairy, no eggs and no fish. Many choose this lifestyle or dietary choice due to health reasons, environmental or animal welfare concerns.
Before you decide that a vegan diet is right for you, here are some important factors to keep in mind.
- Key nutrients essential to overall health that usually come from animal products may need to be supplemented due to being low in the vegan diet. A few of these nutrients are protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.
- Vitamin B-12 is mainly present in animal products. It protects the nerves and red blood cells and helps make DNA. Plant-based sources include fortified cereals and plant milks, nutritional yeast and yeast spreads.
- Every meal should contain protein. Proteins are the building blocks of life. They promote cell growth and repair. Sources of vegan protein include natural soy, lentils, beans, quinoa and nuts.
- Iron is important for blood health. Beans and dark leafy greens are good sources.
- Calcium is crucial for bone health. Tofu, tahini and leafy greens are plant-based sources of calcium.
- Vitamin D helps strengthen bones and teeth. Regularly eating vitamin D-fortified foods such as plant milks and spending time in the sun can boost vitamin D levels.
- A vegan diet can feel restrictive. It is important to note that just because a food product seems vegan doesn’t mean it actually is. Checking nutrition fact labels and verifying ingredients is a must in order to comply with eating vegan. Planning for meals carefully helps to avoid any nutrient deficiencies and to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs. Eating out or on the go may be more challenging and take more planning to find vegan-friendly restaurants.
- Following a plant-based diet does not guarantee good health. People following this diet can still live unhealthy lifestyles and eat more highly processed foods. Yes, certain chips, soda and candy are considered vegan. It is important to be mindful of your food choices.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper, "It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." In closing, if you decide going vegan is right for you, take small steps to fully implement it. Remember, you wouldn’t decide to run a marathon the day you first started running; the same holds true when transitioning to a vegan diet.
1. Melina, Vesanto, et al. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 116, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 1970–1980.
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