The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
People love tooting their own horns. That means that when it comes to eating, everyone preaches the benefits of their own nutritional approach. However, when it comes to a plant-based diet, mounds of research back up the health benefit claims of vegetarians and vegan diet that this is a wonderfully healthy way to eat.
The health advantages are not insignificant either. Multiple respected health organizations and authorities have conducted independent research into the effects of a vegan diet. The following significant health benefits have been directly linked to eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less processed foods.
The International Diabetes Federation claims that nearly 400 million people are living with diabetes. That organization believes that number is "... expected to soar to nearly 600 million by 2035". They also point out that type II diabetes is entirely preventable with a plant-based diet as your basis for proper health.
Controls High Blood Pressure and Wards off Heart Disease
Eating plants as part of a vegan diet can keep your high blood pressure in check. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is referred to as a silent killer. Often times, the only symptom of high blood pressure is death. As many as 1 in 3 Americans suffers from high blood pressure needlessly, since a vegan diet helps regulate healthy blood pressure.
The Harvard School of Public Health points out that getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke considerably as well.
Weight Loss, Healthy Body Weight Regulation
If you need to lose weight, especially unhealthy fat, a vegan diet can help. Once you reach your ideal body weight, continuing to eat predominantly fruits and vegetables can help you maintain that healthy weight. This is because plant-based foods are fiber-rich, making you feel full longer. The end result is you eat fewer calories all day long.
Helps Your Eyesight
Eating spinach, carrots, corn, kiwi, squash and grapes helps keep your eyes healthy. Those foods also prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
The healthy antioxidants, nutrients, minerals and enzymes found in plants have cancer fighting properties. This means a plant-based vegan diet can drastically reduce your odds of developing any of a number of cancers.
Boosts Your Immune System
Your immune system is what fights off chronic disease, infection and sickness. A diet rich in plant foods keeps your immune system healthy. This helps you ward off debilitating, and even deadly, diseases and illnesses which affect your body and your mind.
Heals and Protects Your Skin and Hair
Eating a lot of vegan plant foods does wonders for your skin. Research shows that a vegeterian diet not only promotes healthy, strong skin and hair, but can help reduce symptoms that arise from weak hair and skin as well.
When Do Vegans Need to Take Supplements?
More people than ever are becoming vegetarian and vegan thanks to the ease in finding meatless meals in restaurants and on grocery shelves. Of course, animal rights activists have played a large role in this developing trend, as well as health experts who have confirmed that choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet has proven to yield immense benefits, including lessening the chance of heart disease, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and more.
How healthy is it to go this route?
Are you getting all of the nutrition you need?
In general, those vegetarians and vegans who eat a balanced diet that is filled with diverse foods, and choose foods on their plate by color are healthy and have no nutritional deficiencies. Research does show that there are appropriate times for vegetarians and vegans alike to take certain supplements in order to maintain proper nutrient levels, but not everyone will need them. The information below discusses when and how each supplement is recommended.
All vegans and vegetarians can benefit from taking Vitamin B12 as soon as they begin their diet. Otherwise, it is easy to become deficient. They should consume 100-200 micrograms of B12 daily, although if you haven’t been consuming B12 for a while, increase your dosage to as much as 2,000 micrograms every day for the first few weeks.
Unless you live in an area with lots of sunshine, you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement, regardless of your diet. Most people do not come close to the recommended levels of Vitamin D. We should aim for 1,000 I.U.s to maintain a healthy balance. This is (arguably) not as critical for vegans and vegetarians as the B12 supplement, but a highly important one nonetheless.
This one is a bit controversial. Many argue the importance of calcium for bone health; others argue that calcium supplements are unnecessary and lead to osteoporosis. For years, people have also argued that low protein diets require lower levels of calcium, although this has never been proven. Vegan diet eaters should consult their physician and make a personal decision about whether to take calcium supplements.
Vegetarians do not necessarily need this supplement, but vegans, who do not eat dairy, will need to consume about 90 micrograms daily, which is best obtained from iodized salt. Vegans who consume a large amount of sea vegetables may not need this supplement at all.
Iron supplements are primarily only needed for young women with heavy periods or post-menopausal women. Everyone else can obtain healthy iron levels from a well-balanced diet. Vegans and vegetarians may want a little extra iron by way of a supplement, but for the most, it is not needed. Examine your diet and consult your physician to see if an iron supplement is right for you.
Protein bars and shakes have become popular in recent years. While these are beneficial to consume after a workout, vegans and vegetarians do not need to take these supplements. They can easily obtain protein benefits from nuts, seeds, beans, grains, some fruits, and many vegetables.
While certain supplements such as B12 and Vitamin D are highly beneficial for both vegetarians and vegans, other supplements are not as critical unless you are lacking certain foods in your diet or have certain medical needs.
For example, people with a family history of bone or blood problems related to calcium deficiency should consider a calcium supplement, and post-menopausal women should consider an iron supplement.
Other than B12 and Vitamin D, vegans and vegetarians should consider their own unique needs by discussing their nutrition habits with a physician or a nutritionist.
How to Compensate for Dairy Nutrients in a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products and by products. This makes it distinctly different from other forms of vegetarianism, which allow the consumption of some animal products, commonly dairy and eggs. More people are turning to vegan diets than ever before, however their motivation to embrace such a lifestyle can vary, with common reasons for adopting such a diet including ethical concerns about animal welfare, religious requirements, and the environmental impact of meat and dairy production.
Almost 5% of the population or 16 million Americans are vegetarian and 50% of these people are vegan (Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group). One of the greatest benefits of vegan living is a diet that is mainly compromised of plant foods, some of the most nutritious foods in the world, if not the most.
Plant foods come from the earth and provide humans with all the nutrition they need to survive AND thrive. Disease prevention has been linked to plant food intake in study after study, and a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables increases energy and vitality ten fold. Human beings were never intended to eat out of a box, something that has become commonplace since the Industrial revolution. When we go back to the earth for our food sources, we greatly improve our health benefits; it’s really as simple as that.
Foods, which can be consumed on a vegan diet
When adopting a vegan lifestyle it is important to do your research to ensure that you are obtaining all the essential nutrients your body requires to be healthy. Poorly planned plant based diets can quickly result in nutritional deficiencies that in the short term will result in you feeling tired and lethargic and in the long term can have some serious consequences to your health.
There are many foods, which are consumed on a vegan diet, these include:
Foods eliminated on a vegan diet
True vegan diets strictly prohibit the consumption of any foods or additives of animal origin, and therefore this requires the avoidance of staple foods such as meat and dairy.
Foods excluded on a vegan diet plan:
At risk nutrients when following a vegan diet
Following any diet, which prohibits the consumption of core food groups, will place an individual at risk of deficiency of nutrients commonly obtained from such foods. When following a vegan diet the key at risk nutrients are:
Replacing nutrients found in dairy when following a vegan diet
As you can see from the list above, there are many nutrients that following a vegan diet places you at risk of either not obtaining at all or achieving an insufficient intake.
Dairy nutrient deficiency is one such concern, and today we will give you some simple suggestions how you can safely eliminate dairy from your diet without running the risk of developing any related nutritional deficiencies.
The key nutrients in dairy include protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
Safe dietary choices, which are good sources of these important nutrients
Adopting a poorly planned vegan diet can place you at risk of developing a number of nutritional deficiencies. Many vegans enjoy great health because they take the time to learn about and include plant foods that maintain an optimal level of nutrition.
Before making the switch ensure that you get personalized advice from a registered dietitian to ensure that you have the knowledge to make the best food choices and avoid any potential nutrient deficiencies.
4 Sources of Vegetarian and Vegan Protein
Protein is the building blocks of the body. Through digestion, protein is broken down into amino acids which are used to grow and repair cells. They are also lower in calories (4 per gram verses 9 in fat) and keep you fuller longer thus cutting down on the temptation to snack between meals.
One of the best sources of protein are animal products: meat, eggs and dairy. However, for vegans and many vegetarians, getting protein from these sources is not possible. Fortunately, several plant-based alternatives exist:
Leafy Green Vegetables
Not only do some leafy green vegetables contain significant amounts of protein, most of them are also filled with fiber and antioxidants. Two of the best sources are spinach and broccoli: 2.1 per two cups and 8.1 per one cup, respectively! With a variety of vegetables, one should never get bored of eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. The only issue with leafy greens is that you’ll need to eat bigger portions, so if you find that hard try one of the protein sources below!
Black, white, pinto, …, it doesn’t make a difference. All types of beans (and legumes in general) are filled with protein. For example, two cups of kidney beans have one more gram of protein than a Big Mac from McDonalds – 26 grams verses 25 grams. You can buy beans dry, soak them overnight and cook them the next day, or if more convenient, buy them canned, drain, rinse and cook. They are good fixed any way!
Most nuts, or the butters made from them, are not only good sources of protein, but also healthy fats. Almonds, cashews and pistachios all have about 160 calories per ounce, but 5 or 6 grams of protein. When buying nut butters, be sure to get one without hydrogenated oils or added sugar. Look for ones with just nuts and maybe a little salt.
With so many different types on the market today, it is hard to select just one. Most plant-based milks have some protein in them. For example, almond and rice milk each have 1 gram per cup. But if you want the most protein per serving, choose soy milk; it has a whopping 4 to 8 grams per 8 ounce serving.
These are only four sources of protein from plant-based sources suitable fro a vegan diet. Other include green peas, quinoa, chickpeas, edamame, tofu/tempeh/seitan, sesame, sunflower and poppy seeds, and unsweetened cocoa powder. With so many protein sources available for the vegetarian/vegan, there is not excuse not to eat enough protein.