Vegan diet or veganism is more of a lifestyle choice than a food choice; however, people can also derive multiple health benefits from following this diet. Most people think both vegan diet and vegetarian diet to be one and the same, but there is a slight difference between them.
A vegetarian diet does not include the animal-based foods like meat, fish, or poultry while a vegan diet is a step further and excludes even the use of all animal products and by-products in any form or for any purpose such as:
- body care
- home furnishings
Veganism involves not consuming or using the animal products like:
- dairy products
- and even the animal-based soaps.
Most people adopt veganism for the reasons other than health such as environmental concern and ethical reasons.
The vegans feel that they support the meat industry by consuming dairy products and eggs because, most often, once the egg-laying chickens or dairy cows are too old to reproduce, they are sold as meat.
Also, since male calves do not produce milk, they are often raised for products like veal. Hence, some people avoid the dairy products and eggs because of the conditions associated with their production.
Vegans also believe that animals are an integral part of nature. It is important to protect them to maintain an ecological balance. So, it would be anti-environmental to subject them to sufferings. Veganism is considered a commitment to the belief that animals have their own value, and it is wrong to consider them a resource to humans; so, any suffering or violence to the animals for food and any form of enjoyment is morally indefensible.
People also choose veganism as a lifestyle choice to promote a caring and humane world. They consider it as their responsibility to do their best to protect the environment and humanity.
Is veganism a hard choice to follow?
Among the various diet plans, most people think that the vegan diet is the most difficult one to follow. No, going vegan is not as hard as people think.
There are too many misconceptions related to a vegan diet, the major one among these being it does not provide sufficient nutrition to the body. However, the fact is that a vegan diet, when followed in the right way, does contain the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants needed for an optimum functioning of our body.
Hence, the difficulty level of a vegan diet is just the same as following any other health-promoting diet like a keto, detox diet or a low-carb diet.
Most vegans discover the switch to be far easier than they imagined. All you need to do is focus on crowding out the animal-based foods instead of cutting them out at one go.
You can eliminate meat, eggs, and dairy products from your diet only after you have found a few vegan foods to replace them. When your focus is on crowding instead of cutting, the feelings of sacrifice and strain are eliminated, and the diet becomes varied, more interesting, and delicious.
Can I eat free-range eggs?
Since the prime purpose of veganism is to avoid exploitation of animals, you may think that eating free-range eggs is fine.
However, the fact is when it comes to the protection of animals, the free-range eggs, though better from the caged eggs, are far from being perfect. Most of the hatcheries providing hens to the free-range egg farms kill the male chicks upon hatching.
Also, even when the hens are kept in spacious conditions, they have it rough as they are bred to lay eggs at a very high rate. This kind of treatment can expose them to several health problems.
Additionally, nearly all hens, including the free-range and caged ones, are slaughtered much before they reach the midpoint of their natural life. This practice is followed because the egg yield usually declines as the hens age, and it is more feasible to purchase new hens considering the increased egg output of the younger birds.
So, eating eggs, whether caged or free-range, does not align with the purpose of veganism.
I can’t forgo meat; I love it too much!
One of the main concerns for people for adopting veganism is their liking for meat.
Fortunately, there are varieties of vegan meats that taste as good as or even much better than the real meat. In fact, some of these meat alternatives are so convincing that even the die-hard meat eaters cannot tell the difference.
There are too many tempting vegan versions of:
- deli meats
- and even shrimp.
So, your special liking for meat will not affect your desire to adopt veganism.
But, hasn’t a human evolved to eat meat?
There’s no doubt that at several times in history, the ability of humans to eat and digest meat helped them survive especially during periods of famine and war.
Also, there are some parts of the world where the local population depends on fish, livestock, and poultry for proteins and other nutritional requirements.
This is so because some lands do not support agriculture, but have natural landscapes that support the grazing of animals. Also, most coastal areas do not have sufficient land for farming but have access to high amounts of fish.
But, the question here is not whether humans in the past relied on meat for their survival or whether some populations will suffer after adopting veganism, the question is whether there are any benefits of eating meat today.
Not many people living in the developed countries can claim that their survival depends on the animal products. Even in terms of nutrition, there is no vitamin or mineral that can be obtained only from the animals-based products. This shows that there is no real benefit or compulsion of eating animal-based foods.
Hence, it makes sense to stop the massive amount of food from being wasted in feeding livestock. It will benefit all if more grains are produced for human consumption so that the whole world can feed on a vegan diet.
What’s wrong with honey?
The most objectionable aspect of consuming honey is it’s exploitive.
There is a risk of the bees getting crushed when the honey-storage slots in the hive are emptied. Also, a single bee can produce not more than two spoons of honey in a month. Hence, it can be too unethical to take away the tiny amount of honey from the beehive given the massive amount of work done by the bees.
Luckily, it’s very easy to avoid honey. There are plenty of options like:
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
- and rice syrup
that can be used in place of honey.
How can I ensure that my body gets all the nutrients when on a vegan diet?
The key to a nutritionally perfect vegan diet lies in variety. A varied vegan diet includes:
- all types of fruits such as fleshy, citrus, pulpy, and high-fiber fruits
- whole grains
- leafy greens
- and seeds
How can you get enough proteins?
A vegan diet includes sufficient amount of proteins to meet the recommendations as almost all food types except alcohol, fats, and sugar provide this nutrient.
The high-protein vegan sources include:
- peanut butter
- soy milk
- whole wheat bread
What about healthy fats?
Though fatty foods are considered the worst enemies of our body, not many people know that some fats can be good and are actually essential for carrying out certain functions.
The healthy fats include:
- monounsaturated fats
- polyunsaturated fats
- omega-3 fatty acids
- omega-6 fatty acids
Once you decide to adopt veganism, you must ensure that your body is not deprived of these healthy fats.
The plant-based foods rich in healthy fats are:
- dark chocolate
- Chia seeds
- extra virgin olive oil
- and whole grains
You can also improve the production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) in your body by including the vegan sources of alpha-linolenic acid in your diet such as:
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
How do I ensure proper supply of Vitamin D?
Milk is considered a good source of vitamin D; however, since a vegan diet excludes the intake of milk, you must look for other foods like rice milk, and vitamin D-fortified soy milk that contain sufficient amount of this vitamin.
Also, you can increase the production of vitamin D in your body by ensuring sufficient exposure to sunlight. Standing under the sun early in the morning for at least ten to fifteen minutes and allowing the sun rays to fall on your hands and face is recommended for boosting the vitamin D production.
How will I get Calcium if I do not consume the dairy products?
Calcium is an essential nutrient required for maintaining the health of the bones and teeth. Milk is again a very good source of calcium. However, fortunately, there are several plant-based foods that can fulfill the requirement of this nutrient.
The calcium-rich food sources are:
- calcium-fortified soy milk
- tofu made with calcium sulfate
- and orange juice
You can also eat plenty of dark green vegetables as they do not just contain a high amount of iron, but also improve the absorption of calcium in the body.
You can try the following substitutes for dairy products:
- Soy milk, potato milk, rice milk, and nut milk
- Buttermilk can be replaced with rice milk or soured soy. For one glass of buttermilk, you can use one cup of soymilk and add one tablespoon of vinegar.
- You can substitute crumbled tofu for ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese in lasagna
- Soy cheese that does not contain casein
What should I eat to get enough amount of Zinc?
Vegan diet provides zinc at levels higher than or at least close to the regular diet. Zinc is present in good amount in the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Fruits like apple and guava
Will my body be deprived of iron if I follow veganism?
No, there are several plant-based foods that offer a rich content of iron. Dark green leafy vegetables and dried beans are good sources of iron. You can eat the vitamin C-rich foods like melons and oranges as it markedly increases the absorption of iron. Some other sources of iron are given below:
- Black beans
- Swiss chard
- Blackstrap molasses
- Kidney beans
- Beet greens
- Chickpeas and black-eyed peas
- Prune juice
Is it going to be expensive to be vegan?
Once you have learned the basics of veganism, your diet will consist of foods that are healthier, yet inexpensive. There are plenty of low-cost vegan foods out there, and the trick to reduce your grocery shopping expenses is to buy unprocessed foods in bulk.
You can buy everything from grains to beans to nuts in bulk and store them for future use. This will cut down your expenses to a great extent. So, going vegan can actually be a way of saving more compared to your regular diet.
Also, since a vegan diet includes everything that grows in the earth; when you become vegan, you will discover an enormous range of new foods that you never knew existed. There is a diversity of options to explore!
Some delicious and healthy foods that vegans can eat include:
- Homemade pancakes without eggs
- Tofu lasagna
- Eggless cookies
- Rice pudding
- Soy ice cream, and soy yogurt
- Banana muffins
- Oat nut burgers
- Corn fritters
- Scrambled tofu
- Vegetable burgers
- French toast made with soy milk
- Soy hot dogs
- Pumpkin Casserole
Going vegan is difficult only due to the anticipation of the act. Once you’ve decided to follow it and cleared all your misconceptions, you will realize that there are plenty of new food discoveries to make and the rewards are quite overwhelming.