This week, we are focusing our attention on the Vegan diet, one that has been enjoying alot of attention in the news and on social media. A plant-based diet seems ideal–fresh produce, whole grains, and easy on the planet. Right? Well, the Vegan diet is not for everyone, and ALWAYS speak to your doctor or a dietition before starting any kind of restrictive diet to make sure it is right for your health needs.
What is Veganism?
A vegan diet includes no animal products. Animal products can mean anything from meat (including fish), cheese, eggs, honey, and gelatin (a food ingredient obtained by boiling the skin, bones, or tendons of animals). If a food is made by or out of an animal, it’s not vegan.
A vegan diet, also known as a plant-based diet, can be rich in anything else – fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. Most grocery stores stock a variety of vegan products and more and more major fast-food chains are following suit to cater to the growing number of people eating animal-free.
What are the Benefits of the Vegan Diet?
Over the past decade, the American Dietetic Association announced that vegetarian and vegan diets may be considered adequate nutritionally and even help prevent or reverse certain health conditions. Here are some commonly perceived benefits of a vegan diet.
Veganism Benefits Animal Welfare
Veganism is a unique lifestyle as its devotees often have both moral and health reasons for choosing it. Most vegans say that animal welfare as the number one benefit of veganism. Most vegans are against animal exploitation and cruelty, which are all too often components of conventional meat and dairy industries. However, some vegans may adopt eschewing animal products for religious reasons. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism advocate against the use of animal products.
Because the meat and dairy industries continue to grow globally, there is concern about the amount of energy and water needed to sustain them. Vegans believe that the production of meat and animal products is harmful to the planet, citing the increasing amount of crops needed for conventionally-raised animals and fish and the energy involved in transport.
Prevention of cardio-metabolic disease
Research has found that plant-based diets, particularly vegan diets, if planned well, can help reduce the risk of heart diseases like high blood pressure. President Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet after he had a quadruple bypass and claims it has “kept him alive”
Increased nutrient sufficiency
Compared to a standard American diet which is often high in processed foods, a vegan diet is higher in nutrients. The increased fruit consumption on a vegan diet also provides a greater number of antioxidants.
Reduced Risk of Obesity and Type II Diabetes
Following a vegan diet has been associated with reduced risks of obesity and Type II diabetes. Vegans typically have a lower body weight and the vegan diet has been found to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels in people with Type II diabetes. There is also speculation that the lower glycemic load of a plant-based diet contributes to a reduced risk of diabetes.
Because it focuses on fruits and vegetables, a vegan diet may help prevent or lessen the risk of some cancers.
Can you get enough nutrients on a vegan diet?
A vegan diet on its own may not supply you with all the nutrients you need in adequate amounts. For populations that require increased nutrients or who have special nutrient needs such as growing children, pregnant women, pre-menopausal women, athletes, and the elderly, a vegan diet is inadequate without supplementation. It is best to discuss this with a health care provider and dietitian.
Could Veganism Be a Good Fit for You?
You tolerate beans, grains, and soy well
If you don’t notice any digestive or blood sugar issues after regularly consuming grains and legumes, you may do well on a vegan diet. Soy is also used commonly in vegan diets because it is a complete protein.
You feel good after eating a plant-based meal
It is important that you feel energized, satiated, and have steady blood sugar after you eat.
You don’t have gut inflammation issues (IBS, Crohns, etc.)
If you have a healthy gut and don’t notice any digestive issues, you may be able to thrive on a vegan diet. Since vegans rely on nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, those with compromised gut function may find the diet worsens their condition. In addition, excess fiber consumption may be a concern for some people as it can trigger inflammation.
You’re able to maintain a healthy weight
Vegans typically carry less body fat then people who consume the average American diet. If you’re overweight and find that veganism helps you lose excess weight, it may be a reasonable diet for you. If you’re average weight and find that you’re able to maintain a healthy weight on veganism, you may also want to continue the diet.
Suggestions for Starting a Safe Vegan Diet
If you choose to explore veganism, it’s best to be thoroughly prepared. Here are some suggestions for safe ways to go vegan.
1. Start slowly
Begin by introducing one plant-based meal a day and see how your body reacts to it. If it feels right after a week, try 2 plant-based meals a day, etc.
2. Give it a six-week trial
Six weeks will give you enough time to transition into your new diet and monitor for any issues. Choose a six-week period where your life will be relatively normal—no travel or excessive exercise (like training for a marathon) during this time. This way, you can isolate variables and know that any new issues are the result of your new diet. Before your trial period, prepare yourself with a stocked pantry and fridge and lots of vegan recipes.
Consult a dietitian or qualified healthcare provider
Before starting a vegan diet, consult your doctor or another qualified practitioner to ensure going vegan is safe for you. If you get the green light, you may want to consider consulting a dietitian who specializes in plant-based diets for support and help. They can help you form a diet plan and offer emotional support as well.
At Oasis Wellness Center, we offer many modalities to assist you in finding the healthy lifestyle that is right for you. Give us a call at our Scarborough, Maine Wellness Center to set up an appointment with a chiropractor or health coach to discover how you can live your best life! (207) 883-5549.
Here is a recipe for a Quinoa and Avocado Salad–try it and enjoy!
This Avocado Quinoa Salad is a powerhouse salad packed with good-for-you ingredients and the best healthy lemon vinaigrette.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 8 ounces fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 large cucumber, chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 large ripe avocados, pit removed and chopped
- 1/4 of 1 bunch fresh cilantro, optional and to taste
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, do not use regular mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon (2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice)
- Salt and pepper
Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Fluff and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prep the dressing. Whisk the red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, oregano, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste) together in a small bowl. Slowly add in the olive oil into the vinegar mixture while whisking briskly. Whisk in the lemon juice. Pour into a jar and store in the fridge while prepping the vegetables.
Prep the veggies: Halve the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber (peel if desired, we leave the peel on), finely chop a quarter of a red onion, roughly chop fresh spinach, remove the pits and chop the avocados. Finely chop the cilantro if desired.
In a large bowl, add in all the prepped veggies and quinoa. Remove the dressing from the fridge and shake it well and then pour over the salad*. Toss the salad and enjoy immediately.