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At some point or another, most people have encountered a coworker, friend, or family member who follows a special diet. The special diet may be a result of health concerns such as diabetes or food allergies. Others may follow specific nutritional guidelines paired with a strict fitness regimen in efforts to enhance weight loss. Often, diets that focus on health or weight loss include following the standards of eating a vegan diet. A vegan diet is a type of vegetarian diet where all animal products are avoided. While vegetarians generally do not consume meat, they often do eat eggs and dairy products. Vegans, however, reject meats as well as these animal products. The reason a person may choose to follow a vegan diet may be for health reasons, such as weight loss; however, the decision may also be made for ethical or economic reasons.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
When it comes to following a vegan diet, there are numerous benefits. Those who are focused on health will find that a vegan lifestyle offers many health benefits. Some of these health benefits include a decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease along with a decreased risk of other illnesses. Other benefits include increased energy, a decreased risk of obesity, and an overall sense of well-being. In fact, chances are good that those who already suffer from conditions such as obesity, acne, or chronic illness may actually see an improvement in their conditions by going vegan. Scientific studies have discovered that this is because of the high protein, calcium, antioxidant, and iron consumption associated with vegan diets.
While promoting a healthier lifestyle, a vegan diet is also helpful for the environment. Not eating meat decreases the amount of water and food required to raise animals that are breed for meat production, while not purchasing the meat decreases the amount of fuel that would otherwise be required for transporting the animals and meat to other facilities. With many people following a vegan diet, this can make a significant impact on the environment. Other reasons may also involve the rights of animals and economic matters. For those who love animals, the choice to go vegan may be related to the way in which animals are slaughtered as a part of the meatpacking process. And some choose to go vegan simply because of the economic benefits. Meat is expensive, and choosing to go with grains and vegetables instead can drastically decrease a person’s weekly grocery budget.
- Health Benefits to Being a Vegetarian or Vegan
- Economic Benefits and Costs of Vegetarianism (PDF)
- Benefits of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
- Disease Rates of Vegetarians or Vegans
- Vegetarian Foods: Powerful Foods for Health
- The Health Advantage of a Vegan Diet
Negative Effects of Eating Meat and Dairy
While it has always been thought that meat and dairy are vital parts of a healthy diet, recent studies have proved that the opposite is true. In fact, people under 65 years old that regularly consume meat, dairy, and eggs are nearly four times more likely to develop illnesses such as cancer or diabetes. Some studies have concluded that frequent consumption of meat, eggs, and diary is actually as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. This is because meat contains saturated fat, cholesterol, bacteria, and possibly synthetic hormones. The fat and cholesterol content make it easy for a person who eats meat to gain excessive amounts of weight while putting a strain on the heart. The bacteria, on the other hand, can be introduced during any part of the meatpacking process. While the bacteria are known to cause foodborne illnesses, the diseases that affect animals while they are alive can also cause severe illness in humans after consumption. When medications and synthetic hormones are given to these animals to reduce the risk of animal-human disease spread, they can be harmful to the human body.
- Balanced vs. Vegetarian vs. Vegan Diets (PDF)
- Health and Environmental Implications of U.S. Meat Consumption and Production
- Health Concerns Associated With the Consumption of Meat
- Environmental Ethics and the Ideology of Meat Eating (PDF)
- Is Your Meat Safe? Foodborne Illnesses
How to Switch to Veganism
For those who have always consumed meat, dairy, and eggs as a regular part of their diet, a vegan lifestyle may seem difficult to follow. To make the switch, however, it is best to start out slow. Individuals can begin by slowly replacing one animal product over a period of time. For instance, a person may start by replacing eggs with vegan alternatives such as bananas in recipes. Gradually, a person can cut out other animal products until they no longer have any animal products left in their diet.
Staying Healthy With a Vegan Diet
As with any diet, it is important to ensure that all nutritional requirements are being met. For vegans, the biggest nutritional concern is eating enough protein and vitamin B12. Protein can be obtained by eating many different foods, such as nuts, beans, and soy. Vitamin B12, however, cannot be obtained through any plant-based foods. To add B12 into a vegan diet, it is necessary to eat fortified soy products or supplements that contain the vitamin. A quick review of a supplement bottle will state whether or not the supplement meets vegan diet standards. While eating a wide variety of vegan foods and taking a vitamin B12 supplement, a person should continue with regular fitness regimens to stay healthy.
- Vegan Dietary Chart (PDF)
- What’s the Difference: Vegan vs. Vegetarian
- Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition
- Vegetarian, Lacto-ovo, and Vegan Diets
- Veganism vs. Vegetarian: Which One is Best for You?
- Vegan Nutrition and Diet
- Meat, Egg, and Diary Alternatives
- Egg and Diary Replacers
Eating a Vegan Diet on a Budget
Eating a vegan diet does not have to be an expensive or exhausting task. Vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts are popular foods for any diet, and they remain staples in a vegan diet. These products can be grown in a garden to decrease the cost of fresh produce, while beans and nuts can also be purchased in bulk to save money. To make the most of a vegan lifestyle, review vegan recipes for cheap, meatless main course ideas.