Are you interested in starting a vegan diet plan?
What’s “Vegan” Anyway?
The word “vegan” was created in 1944 to define vegetarians who don’t eat dairy. Coined by Donald Watson (the director of the newly created Vegan Society), the term eventually expanded to include other foods and even other products made using animal materials or ingredients.
For example, many vegans identify themselves as “ethical vegans” rather than simply “dietary vegans.” This means they not only avoid foods of animal origin, but also products made of leather, fur, down, and sometimes silk and wool. Because animal by-products are used in the manufacturing of many items – from glue to film – ethical vegans need to make lifestyle choices that go beyond what they eat on a daily basis.
What Vegans Don’t Eat
The easiest way to explain the vegan diet plan is to say vegans are vegetarians who also avoid eggs and dairy products. This includes milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and all types of products made with milk. These exclusions are the staple of all vegan diets, regardless of whether the choice is made for dietary or ethical reasons.
Some vegans also avoid honey because they consider modern beekeeping practices cruel and abusive. Vegans who avoid honey sometimes use sweeteners such as agave nectar instead, but this is not a widespread choice. Many vegans do eat honey.
Where Can Vegans Get Their Protein?
Since all animal products are eliminated from the diet, most vegans get their protein from beans, especially soybeans. This is because soybeans are the only plant food that’s a complete protein (contains all amino acids needed to provide the necessary protein nutrients).
Soy is used in the making of many vegan products, including soymilk, soy cheese, and tofu (bean curd). In addition, fake “meats” (also known as mock meats) are often a staple of the vegan diet plan. They are made using soy protein and a mix of flavors to mimic the taste and texture of chicken, beef, sausages, and other meats.
Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) and Tempeh
Other vegan sources of protein are texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and tempeh. TVP is made using defatted soy flour and is sold dry. Before you can use it in a recipe, it needs to be rehydrated. TVP is a common replacement for minced meat because of its texture.
Tempeh is made with fermented soybeans and it has a more earthy flavor than other types of soy products. It’s often used in Asian-style dishes and in sandwiches.
What Else Can You Eat On The Vegan Diet Plan?
Aside from soy, vegans also consume many products made with a rice, oat and almond base. For example, almond milk is a common replacement for dairy, and rice ice cream is available in many flavors.
Many products normally made using eggs are also available in vegan alternatives. This is the case with egg-free mayonnaise. Commercial egg substitutes made with potato starch, nutritional yeast flakes, and tapioca are available in both powder and liquid form.
For baking, many vegans simply replace the eggs in the recipe with other ingredients. For example, ground flax seeds, baking powder or apple sauce are potential baking substitutes where eggs would normally be required.
Are Vegan Diet Plans Healthy?
The Good News
In 2009, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a research review examining vegan diets. According to the review, the average vegan diet contains more fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and even iron than other diets.
The Bad News
On the other hand, the review also found that vegan diets contain less cholesterol, are lower in calories, and might lack calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D – all nutrients commonly found in animal products.
Plan It Well
While this could lead to deficiencies, the truth is that well-planned vegan diet plans could actually be healthier than diets containing meat. In fact, in an article published in the Forum of Nutrition journal, experts pointed out that well-balanced, well-planned vegetarian diets offer additional protection against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
This is partly due to the low cholesterol content of vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as a higher consumption of fiber-rich foods.
Make Sure to Get Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that can’t be obtained from plant sources, so vegans should take a supplement. Another way for vegans to obtain vitamin B12 is to buy fortified products, such as fortified cereal, soy milk or breads.
Ensure Consumption of All Nutrients Especially Calcium
All other nutrients can be obtained from vegan food sources, though it might take some planning to ensure the right amounts are available. In the past, dietitians were worried that vegans might be deficient in calcium, since they don’t consume dairy products. However, calcium can be obtained from foods such as Chinese cabbage, turnip, and kale effectively.
To boost calcium absorption, it’s also important that vegans also consume enough vitamin D.