Veganism 101

July 24, 2019

While veganism isn’t a new concept, it has grown in popularity over the past few years. In fact, according to GlobalData, the number of vegans in the United States grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017.

 

Those who are vegan do not eat anything containing animal products (such as dairy and eggs), and prefer not to use products made of fur, leather, wool or down feathers. People who choose to follow a vegan diet do so for various reasons, including environmental, ethical or health reasons.


Despite its popularity, there are many misconceptions surrounding veganism. Read on to learn more about veganism.

 

What’s included in a vegan diet?
As previously mentioned, a vegan diet avoids all animal products, including:

  • Meat and poultry

  • Fish and seafood

  • Dairy

  • Eggs

  • Bee products

  • Animal-based ingredients

    • These include: 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.

 

Vegans eat plant-based foods, including grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Here are some examples of what’s included in a vegan diet:

  • Tofu, tempeh and seitan—These foods are versatile and rich in protein.

  • Legumes—These foods contain many different nutrients and plant compounds.

  • Nuts and nut butters—These foods contain iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.

  • Seeds—These foods are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Whole grains—These foods are rich in many different nutrients, including fiber, iron and minerals, and are a beneficial complex carb.

 

What are the health benefits of going vegan?
There are many benefits to living a vegan lifestyle. Veganism has been linked to improved heart health and a lower risk of cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease in observational studies. If you’re interested in becoming a vegan for health benefits, please consult your doctor to discuss if it’s right for you.

 

What are the drawbacks to veganism?
Those who adopt this lifestyle must be aware of the health responsibilities that go along with it. Since you are not consuming any animal products, you must replace the amino acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and essential fatty acids in your diet.


Eating soy, beans and peas along with grains like rice, wheat and oats provides complete proteins and amino acids. Beyond this, dark green vegetables, fruits and
legumes will replace vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin C and zinc.


Taking a multivitamin to replace lost nutrients, and flaxseed for omega-3 essential fatty acids, will provide nutritional value similar to what is found in animal products.

 

How can I get started?
Making the switch from animal-based products is something you can do on your own. Making the switch in your diet, though, is a more involved process. Every person is different. That’s why it’s important to discuss your desire to become a vegan with your doctor before you change your diet. Your doctor may give you the green light to jump into a vegan diet, or they may recommend you ease into it instead.


For more information on veganism, please visit the American Vegan Society’s website.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional.

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