With the buzz now for various weight-loss diets, the Vegan diet is very much on the spotlight. Vegans constitute about 2% of the US population but continue to be a growing number.

What’s a Vegan diet? A vegetarian diet that excludes all animal-based food. That means no meat, no fish and no dairy products.¬†Vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes instead become the staple.

What are the health benefits of a Vegan/Vegetarian diet? Studies have shown that dietary fibers, folate, antioxidants in fruits, vegetables and whole grains decreases the risk of hypertension, diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity. The risk is further decreased slightly among vegans.

What are the harmful effects of a Vegan diet? A diet that is mainly plant-based is deficient in Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Protein, Calcium, and Iron. Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common among Vegan. Vitamin B12 deficiency may manifest as fatigue, anemia or as neurological problems. Vitamin D is essential for bone health so is Calcium. Bone pain, bony deformities, brittle bones maybe some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. A diet low in protein will not provide enough nutrition for building the muscle mass. A decrease in the muscle mass will not only decrease your muscle strength/endurance but also decrease your metabolic rate. Iron deficiency presents itself as anemia or hair loss. Hence it is highly recommended that vegans take Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Calcium supplements. Always consult with your physician before starting any supplement.

Is Vegan same as Vegetarian diet? No. A vegan diet is even more restricted than a Vegetarian diet since dairy products are eliminated as well. Among vegetarians, there are pesco- vegetarians, ovo-lacto-vegetarians, and vegans.

Classification of dietary patterns *

Dietary Pattern Definition Beef Poultry/Fish Dairy/Eggs
Non-vegetarian Eat red meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs more than once a week An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i001.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i002.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i003.jpg
Semi-vegetarian Eat red meat, poultry, and fish less than once per week and more than once per month An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i004.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i005.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i003.jpg
Vegetarian
Pesco- Eat fish, milk, and eggs but no red meat nor poultry An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i006.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i007.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i003.jpg
Lacto-Ovo Eat eggs, milk, or both but no red meat, fish, nor poultry An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i006.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i006.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i003.jpg
Vegan Eat no red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i006.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nutrients-06-02131-i006.jpg An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
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* Adapted from Gary E. Fraser [15].

What is a Vegan’s substitute for meat?

Beans, soy, lentils, nuts, quinoa are the main source of protein for vegans. Meaty texture or taste is often mimicked by the use of eggplant or mushroom. Similarly, vegan/veggie burger made from beans, tofu is available in the grocery stores as well as in select vegan-friendly restaurants.

Meat substitutes for Vegans are :

Food Serving size Grams of protein
     
soybeans 1 cup 29
peanut butter 2 tablespoon 8
lentils 1 cup 18
beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans 1 cup 15
tofu, firm 4 ounces 11
quinoa 1 cup 8

 

What’s a Vegan’s substitute for dairy products?

There are non-dairy milk, cheese, butter, etc are available in the market. They are made from nuts like almond, cashew, and soy.

 

What’s a Vegan substitute for eggs?

Flax seeds and chia seeds are used as an egg substitute for baking. Commercially available yeast is also used for baking instead of egg.

 

Where do the Vegans get their supply of Omega-3 fatty acids?

Since Omega 3 fatty acids are mainly found in fish/seafood a Vegan diet may not provide the required supply of essential fatty acid which is very important for many bodily functions. Flaxseed, Chia seeds, Walnuts, Soybean oil, Canola oil are few plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.

 

What should be in a Vegan’s pantry?

Absolute “must-have”: Lentils, black beans, soybeans, red kidney beans, nuts, tofu, rice, quinoa, yeast, vegetable stock or broth, soybean/canola/olive oil.

 

What are the best Vegan websites/apps?

Happy Cow, americanvegan.org, chooseveg.com are few helpful online resources for vegan recipes to restaurants.

 

“Veganism” as they call it, is a way of living that excludes the use of animal-based products not only for nutrition but for clothing, cosmetics, etc. On the compassionate ground, Veganism does stop the butchering of animals to put food on our table. It also curbs the exploitation of innocent animals by humans for our selfish needs. There are good alternative food sources that we get from the earth. In my opinion, it is wrong to say that all foods from an animal source are unhealthy since the nutritional benefits of dairy products, fish, etc cannot be discounted. So whether you are pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or a vegan choose your plate prudently to maintain good health.

 

Reference: National Institute of health

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