What is the Vegan Diet?
The Vegan Diet consists only of plant derived foods. However, veganism is more than just about food. It is a lifestyle that excludes all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation. This extends to food, cosmetics, clothing or some sports.
Advantages of the Vegan Diet
Studies show that vegan diets are highly effective at reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. All of which are linked to heart disease (1).
Studies show that a vegan diet promotes healthy weight loss.
This is largely because the vegan diet contains high amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. These foods are lower in calories gram for gram than most meats and high in fiber, which can help reduce your overall calorie intake by 10% (2).
Note: When combined with a good training program your weight loss goals can be achieved in as little as 6-8 weeks.
Studies show that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from some cancers (3).
Vegan diets appear to be effective at reducing arthritis symptoms such as pain, joint inflammation and morning stiffness (4).
Potential Risks of Vegan Diet
A poorly planned vegan diet will lead to nutrient deficiencies and ultimately poor health.
Studies show that vegans are most at risk of being deficient in the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin K2
Insufficient amounts of these nutrients can lead to:
- Nervous system damage
- Bone Fractures
- Poor Heart Health
How to plan your Vegan Diet?
Step 1: Calculate your calories (optional)
The vegan diet doesn’t restrict you to eating a specific number of calories. However, we advise that with any diet it is worth having a rough idea as to how many calories you should consume daily so that you reduce your risk of under-eating or over-eating.
Step 2: Know your foods
Vegans avoid eating any animal foods or any ingredients derived from animals.
Foods to Avoid
- Meat and poultry: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
- Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.
- Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
- Animal-based ingredients: Whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, cochineal or carmine, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3 and fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods to Eat
There are plenty of meat substitutes that are nutrient dense.
- Tofu, tempeh and seitan: These provide a versatile protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs in many recipes.
- Legumes: Foods such as beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Sprouting, fermenting and proper cooking can increase nutrient absorption.
- Nuts and nut butters: Especially unblanched and unroasted varieties, which are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.
- Seeds: Especially hemp, chia and flaxseeds, which contain a good amount of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
- Calcium-fortified plant milks and yogurts: These help vegans achieve their recommended dietary calcium intakes. Opt for varieties also fortified with vitamins B12 and D whenever possible.
- Algae: Spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein. Other varieties are great sources of iodine.
- Nutritional yeast: This is an easy way to increase the protein content of vegan dishes and add a cheesy-like flavour. Pick vitamin B12-fortified varieties whenever possible.
- Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals: These are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B-vitamins and several minerals. Spelt, teff, amaranth and quinoa are especially high-protein options.
- Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha often contain probiotics and vitamin K2. Sprouting and fermenting can also help improve mineral absorption.
- Fruits and vegetables: Perfect foods to increase your overall nutrient intake. Dark leafy greens such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.
Step 3: Plan or prepare your meals
Now that you know what foods are allowed in this diet, it is a good idea to make shopping list and map out your meals in advance. This will save you plenty of time and help you stick to the diet.