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Nutrition » Diets » Vegan » The Vegan Diet: How it works, What to Eat, the Benefits

The Vegan Diet: How it works, What to Eat, the Benefits

The Vegan Diet

What is a vegan diet?

Veganism is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. Vegans follow the principles of ahimsa – not harming all living creatures. Clothes made of genuine leather and furs never attract a real vegan. According to vegan principles, animals should not die or be exploited for the doubtful achievements of science or of a simple human whim.

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What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian?

Let’s see how a vegan diet differs from a vegetarian one. What do vegetarians eat? Their diet plan may include eggs, dairy products, milk, etc. Honey and mushrooms are used without problems as the main idea is “no meat” (59). The essential difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is the uncompromising denial of animal products on the plate, only entirely plant-based products are permitted.

What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian?

How to start a vegan diet?          

Nowadays the vegan diet is becoming popular all over the world and there are 2 transition methods:

  • instant
  • gradual

The advantage of an instant transition is to break with past experiences and eating habits and plunge directly into veganism: study foods, choose the ones that are most tasty and wholesome, and then follow the course, slightly adjusting it based on your well-being and preferences.

Another option for a gradual transition is suitable for those who recently learned about this topic or who find it difficult to start a vegan lifestyle without preparation. The easiest way to start is switching to a vegetarian diet first, thus continuing to consume dairy products, eggs, honey, etc., for a period of transition (5).

What does a vegan diet consist of?

Vegans exclude any kind of animal-based food in favor of entirely plant-based nutrition. Every person can make an individual vegan diet plan choosing from a huge variety of products in the categories below (129)

  • all kinds of fruits and vegetables;
  • a group of nuts and seeds (walnuts, cedar, chestnut, cashew, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias, pistachios and, of course, coconut);
  • the whole variety of cereals and grains;
  • legumes (peas, beans, beans, lentils of almost 10 varieties and colors: red, yellow, green, chickpeas, mung bean, soy).

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How to get protein on a vegan diet?

In general, switching to vegan diets is characterized by lower protein intake. A common fear is that eliminating animal products makes it difficult to achieve adequate protein intake, but this does not have to be the case.

There are at least 6 sources of plant-based protein you can easily pack into your meals and drinks.

  1. Nuts, nut butter, and seeds
  2. Beans and legumes
  3. Vegan meat substitutes
  4. Tempeh and Tofu
  5. Nutritional Yeast
  6. Lentils

What does a vegan diet consist of?

What is a vegan keto diet?

The ketogenic diet is low in carbs, high in fat and moderate in protein. Vegans can attain ketosis by eating high-fat, plant-based products like coconut oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts. Keto and vegan diets have been linked to health benefits, including weight loss and a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes (47, 8).

An essential feature in following a vegan keto diet is using more vegan healthy foods based on a high amount of fat and low in carbs, excluding grains or starchy vegetables by getting calories from whole foods.

A vegan keto diet includes:

  1. Avocados: Whole avocados, guacamole.
  2. Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
  3. Coconut products: Full-fat coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened coconut.
  4. Condiments: Nutritional yeast, fresh herbs, lemon juice, salt, pepper, spices.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds.
  6. Nut and seed butter: Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter.
  7. Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms.
  8. Oils: Olive oil, nut oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil.
  9. Vegan protein sources: Full-fat tofu, tempeh.
  10. Vegan full-fat dairy alternatives: Coconut yogurt, vegan butter, cashew cheese, vegan cream cheese.

How to lose weight on a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is quite popular among dieters who are striving for a toned body and a luminous rejuvenated skin. First of all, consuming many fresh products of plant origin helps to fill all the cells of the body with water. Plant-based foods are also often lower in calories than animal products. They contain fiber, which promotes satiety (feeling of fullness) and is beneficial for digestion. Many people feel more energized when following a vegan diet, allowing them to do more: for instance, resuming exercises, fitness or yoga courses. This all can have a beneficial effect on the health of our bodies and lead to weight loss (3).

It is important to be careful with fat intake even on a vegan diet!

People take for granted that a vegan diet promotes weight loss. This is partly true, and partly not, as it depends on proper diet planning.

To lose weight, one must reduce overall calories consumed. Fat, whether it comes from an animal or a plant source, is high in calories. Therefore a vegan wanting to lose weight must be careful with fat intake just the same as a non-vegan.

The same goes for carbohydrate foods, especially baked goods. Bakery or pastry can also be vegan food if it does not include animal fats or eggs. But if a vegan eats a lot of confectionery, pies, and sweets, etc. (6), it is the fastest way to gain weight. For that reason, it is important to include a large amount of raw, fresh plant food recipes in the everyday menu.

Fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits help to lose weight and improve your health.

How to lose weight on a vegan diet?

Is the vegan diet healthy and safe?

Benefits of Veganism:

  • Plant foods tend to be lower in calories.
  • Plant foods contain many dietary fibers that contribute to a feeling of fullness.
  • Fiber also improves digestion and helps promote a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Plant-based foods are helpful if you’re struggling with hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure, since water-soluble dietary fiber helps lower blood cholesterol.
  • Water-soluble dietary fiber improves glucose tolerance, which means: plant-based foods do not increase blood glucose too much. Therefore, plant food is good for diabetes, especially type II (1).

Disadvantages of Veganism:

  • Plant foods are low in nutritional energy. To get the right amount of energy, you need to eat large amounts of food, which overloads the digestive tract. A vegan doing heavy physical work can have serious problems getting the right nutritional energy. With increased energy requirements, it is wise to include more seeds, nuts and vegetable oil on the menu.
  • In the case of veganism, it is also likely that problems arise not so much with the number of proteins as with the consumption of essential amino acids. To prevent them, consume a variety of different plant-based protein sources as each provide different essential amino acids.
  • Remember that legumes contain lectins that can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea if they are not sufficiently processed or consumed raw. You should soak dried beans and peas for a day and cook them until soft.
  • Vegans and vegan-fed breast milk are at risk of deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, so vegans should carefully monitor their consumption of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) with plant foods. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the development of the central nervous system and the retina of the eyes. Usually, people get omega-3 fatty acids with fish, while vegans should choose rapeseed, flaxseed and soybean oil, nuts (especially walnuts), and pumpkin seeds.

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Conclusion

The modern menu contains an excess of meat, salt, saturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids, sugar, white flour products and at the same time a few fruits and vegetables. Following a vegan diet can help you improve your nutrition plan for overall health. However, a complete elimination of animal food can lead to serious health problems, if not approached with caution. You can still get all the essential vitamins and nutrients that keep your body healthy and safe by carefully planning your meals. Before starting a vegan diet, it would be best to consult a professional.

In addition, the combination of a right healthy diet with a proper workout program might have significant benefitial effect on your body. Consider checking out the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home below.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a plant-based nutrition program to reduce body weight and cardiovascular risk in the corporate setting: the GEICO study. (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) 
  3. A two-year randomized weight loss trial comparing a vegan diet to a more moderate low-fat diet. (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Dietary adherence and acceptability of five different diets, including vegan and vegetarian diets, for weight loss: The New DIETs study. (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Low glycemic index vegan or low-calorie weight loss diets for women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled feasibility study. (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Plant-based, no-added-fat or American Heart Association diets: impact on cardiovascular risk in obese children with hypercholesterolemia and their parents. (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. (2005, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Olivia Johnson

Olivia Johnson

Olivia is a passionate writer and a whip-smart proofreader who takes pride in her ability to turn hard-to-digest information into an enjoyable read. She is a book worm, a life of the party, a meditation and fitness enthusiast, and a champion for healthy living all in one. Dissecting dietary fads, debunking long-established weight loss myths and delivering science-backed quality content is her top priority. When working on a piece, Olivia tunes into her own experience of trial-and-error weight loss which helps her cut through the clutter when doing extensive research. Her unbridled enthusiasm spills over into her work and motivates readers to chase after their full potential.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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