The Vegan Diet — A Complete Guide for Beginners
The vegan diet has become very popular in recent times.
According to the Vegan Society, here in the UK, there has been an increase of over 360% in (over 15 year olds) adopting a vegan lifestyle, in the last decade, and numerous other surveys show similar huge increases, all in the favour of a plant-based dietary lifestyle.
Increasingly more people have decided to go vegan for ethical, environmental or health reasons.
When done right, such a diet may result in various health benefits, including a trimmer waistline and improved blood sugar control.
Vegan diets seem particularly effective at improving markers of blood sugar control. They may also lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Vegan diets may improve heart health. However, more high-quality studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.
Likewise, vegan diet is linked to several other health benefits. However, more research is needed to determine causality.
What Is the Vegan Diet?
Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose.
For these reasons, the vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy.
There are several ways to follow a vegan diet, but scientific research rarely differentiates between the different types.
Vegan diets seem very effective at helping people naturally reduce the amount of calories they eat, resulting in weight loss.
Vegans avoid eating any animal foods, as well as any foods containing ingredients derived from animals. These include:
Meat and poultry: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.
Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Animal-based ingredients: Whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, cochineal or carmine, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3 and fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods to Eat
Vegans substitute animal products with plant-based replacements, such as:
Tofu, tempeh and seitan: These provide a versatile protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs in many recipes.
Legumes: Foods such as beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Sprouting, fermenting and proper cooking can increase nutrient absorption.
Nuts and nut butters: Especially unblanched and unroasted varieties, which are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.
Seeds: Especially hemp, chia and flaxseeds, which contain a good amount of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Calcium-fortified plant milks and yogurts: These help vegans achieve their recommended dietary calcium intakes. Opt for varieties also fortified with vitamins B12 and D whenever possible.
Algae: Spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein. Other varieties are great sources of iodine.
Nutritional yeast: This is an easy way to increase the protein content of vegan dishes and add an interesting cheesy flavor. Pick vitamin B12-fortified varieties whenever possible.
Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals: These are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B-vitamins and several minerals. Spelt, teff, amaranth and quinoa are especially high-protein options.
Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha often contain probiotics and vitamin K2. Sprouting and fermenting can also help improve mineral absorption.
Fruits and vegetables: Both are great foods to increase your nutrient intake. Leafy greens such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.
Pros and cons…
Favouring a well-planned diet that limits processed foods and replaces them with nutrient-rich ones instead is important for everyone, not only vegans.
That said, those following poorly planned vegan diets are particularly at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies.
In fact, studies show that vegans are at a higher risk of having inadequate blood levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium and zinc.
Not getting enough of these nutrients is worrisome for everyone, but it may pose a particular risk to those with increased requirements, such as athletes, children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Your genetic makeup and the composition of your gut bacteria may also influence your ability to derive the nutrients you need from a vegan diet.
One way to minimize the likelihood of deficiency is to limit the amount of processed vegan foods you consume and opt for nutrient-rich plant foods instead.
Fortified foods, especially those enriched with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, should also make a daily appearance on your plate.
Furthermore, vegans wanting to enhance their absorption of iron and zinc should try fermenting, sprouting and cooking foods.
Also, the use of iron cast pots and pans for cooking, avoiding tea or coffee with meals and combining iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C can further boost iron absorption.
Moreover, the addition of seaweed or iodized salt to the diet can help vegans reach their recommended daily intake of iodine.
Lastly, omega-3 containing foods, especially those high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can help the body produce longer-chain omega-3s such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Foods high in ALA include chia, hemp, flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.
Also, a daily intake of 200–300 mg of EPA and DHA from an algae oil supplement may be a great idea.
Individuals may choose veganism for ethical, environmental or health reasons.
When done right, the vegan diet can be easy to follow and may provide various health benefits.
As with any diet, these benefits only appear if you are consistent and build your diet around nutrient-rich plant foods rather than heavily processed ones.
The StrongDuck Vegan Life range is the ultimate in high quality and proven, honest vegan products.
We offer a pure pea isolate protein, essential for increasing daily protein intake required for lean muscle gain. We also have our Natural Lean Muscle Fuel, made with Pea isolate protein and soya isolate protein, and providing essential extra calories with our oat flour carb source, and nutrient-rich superfoods, and 5g of creatine monohydrate per serving.
Currently, we also add our vegan Multi vitmain and mineral tablets and our vegan creatine monohydrate powder, and we have got exciting plans for imminent future product range additions!