With an increasing number of people opting for a greener lifestyle it is no wonder that many people are turning vegan as well. Perhaps, for the vast majority of people, a vegan lifestyle is still a curiosity. They are wondering what exactly a vegan lifestyle involves.
What is veganism?
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is the abstaining from the use of animal products.
This is a simple enough definition. If you don’t eat animal products, you are a vegan.
But there is more to the definition than this.
What Kind Of Vegan Are You?
It is quite surprising that there are various types of vegans. I will list them below and elaborate on them. These are the recognized groups of vegans.
- Dietary vegans– These are plant-based eaters. They avoid animal products in their diet but do not mind using animal products other than food. For instance, they will not object to using leather shoes or leather bags or eating honey.
- Whole food vegans – For whole food vegans, it is not just about avoiding animal products. The emphasis is on eating a diet rich in whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and legumes. They are similar to the dietary vegans but eat more whole foods.
- Raw food vegans – Apart from avoiding animal products in their foods, raw food vegans eat only foods that are raw or lightly cooked below a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius).
- Junk food vegans – Junk food vegans actually don’t call themselves by this name. But they are called junk food vegans because their diet has a heavy content of processed vegan foods. These include vegan meats, fries, frozen desserts and frozen dinners. They also enjoy traditional junk foods like cookies and (non-dairy) ice cream. For these vegans, it is all about avoiding animal products, not necessarily about eating an ideal healthy diet.
- Low fat, raw food vegans – This is a subset of the raw food vegans. They are sometimes known as “fruitarians”. They eat mainly fruits but avoid high fat fruits such as coconuts and avocados. They may eat other plants in small quantities.
For all vegans any animal products is off limits. Not only do they not eat eggs or drink milk, they also avoid animal-derived products like gelatin, albumin, whey and pepsin. Some of these animal-derived products may be in marshmallows, breakfast cereals, gummy candies, chewing gum and “Gel-lo”.
What Can A Vegan Eat, Anyway?
One of the commonest questions I get when people learn that I am a vegan is this:
“What does a vegan eat, anyway? What can a vegan eat?
Many people believe that vegans can only eat vegetables and tofu. And they think it is such a boring life. But, as it turns out, vegans have a lot of food choices.
There are many healthy foods that a vegan can eat. These include veggie burgers, bean burritos, nachos with salsa, hummus wraps, tomato pizzas, vegetable sandwiches and pasta dishes. Vegans can use some plant based foods to replace meat in certain foods. They can use products such as tofu, beans, seitan, tempeh and nuts in place of meat. In this situation, these vegan alternatives are prepared in a special way to taste like meat. But it is important to eat these infrequently rather than regularly.
Animal products have been increasingly implicated in the causation of disease. Especially chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis and chronic kidney disease. This is the main reason why eliminating meat from the diet and eating vegan is such a good idea for a healthy life. A vegan diet has many advantages.
Vegan Diet Benefits
- Benefit number 1- Vegan diet benefits the environment. Many environmental groups claim that Vegan is the ultimate way to go green. They argue that it is more environmentally friendly to grow plants than to raise animals such as chickens, pigs and cows. Growing plants such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and so forth, uses less water than raising animals. So this is the great environmental benefit. For people who are very interested in environmental concerns, this is a good enough reason to become a vegan. But I am going to concentrate on the personal health benefits of going vegan. Here we go!
- Benefit number 2 – Vegan diet improves blood sugar levels. One of the benefits of eating Vegan is a decrease in blood sugar levels. This is something that is extremely beneficial for diabetics because it can substantially lower the need to use insulin and other medications to control blood sugar levels. IMPORTANT! If you are a person with diabetes and you are taking INSULIN, it is important to work with your doctor to regulate your blood sugar as you start on a vegan diet.
- Benefit number 3 – Vegan diet is good for WEIGHT LOSS. People who avoid eating meat are also often able to lose weight much faster. Some of the reasons for this include the increase in carbohydrates in vegetables as well as the decrease in calories and fats. Plus many of the fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber which is good for weight loss. When you eat more fiber, you are satiated more quickly and therefore more likely to eat less calories in general.
- Benefit number 4- Vegan is Heart healthy. A Vegan diet also has a huge perk of providing a substantially lower fat content to your diet as well. This is healthy for the heart in terms of lower cholesterol. Vegan diets tend to be high in fiber which also helps lower LDL cholesterol.
- Benefit number 5- Better gastroenterologic/colon health. It is well known that most vegan diets are high in fiber. The reason is that they contain a high amount of vegetables, fruits and legumes. A high fiber diet increases the bulk of the stool and prevents constipation. A high fiber diet has also been strongly linked with reduction in the risk for colorectal cancer.
- Benefit number 6- Vegan is cheaper! There is a myth out there that a vegan diet is expensive. In fact, eating vegan is cheaper than eating meat! A vegan diet consists mostly of rice, beans, pasta, fruits and vegetables. These are generally cheap compared to a meat based diet. So, a vegan diet is good for your health as well as your wallet.
- Benefit number 7- Vegan diet can help improve chronic diseases. Most vegan diets are high in vegetables and fruits which are usually a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be alkaline whereas meat based diets tend to be acidic. The alkaline, antioxidant-rich vegan diets can help improve chronic conditions such as arthritis and chronic kidney disease and may help reduce heart disease, diabetes and prevent certain cancers.
It needs to be emphasized that the benefits stated in the preceding paragraphs pertain to dietary vegans and whole food vegans and raw food vegans. Junk food vegans may not have all these benefits. But the truth is that vegans tend to mix the different types of veganism. While they may be mostly a dietary or whole food vegan, they may add some processed tofu once in a while to mix things up a little for different reasons. It is important to be balanced.
Until next time, ADIOS!