What is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet basically contains plant foods and zero animal products. People on this diet do not eat animal meat, fish, poultry, including eggs, milk and all dairy products. It will not include additives such as sugar. Nutritionists say that a proper vegan diet can meet all the nutritional needs of a human being, whether male or female, child, teenager or the elderly. People go on this diet for a number of reasons, top among these being religious, ethical, cultural and health reasons. Overall, a vegan diet is much healthier to consume than a diet laden with animal proteins.

A vegan diet can include grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits and (essential) fats. One should have higher servings of grains, legumes and any other foods rich in proteins and vegetables. Smaller servings of fruits and fats are ideal. One can get all the nutrients they require from plants, including proteins. Some of the best protein sources are black beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, almond butter, pistachios and peanut butter.

Low calorie vegetables to use on a vegan diet include cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, carrots, green beans and bell peppers. Fruits include cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, black currents and grapes. The types of nuts to consume include almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.

The best fats to use include olive oil, almond oil, walnuts, pecans, marine algae DHA and avocados. Fat is very essential for providing the body with energy. Consuming sufficient amounts will keep the body going for much longer than carbohydrates. These fats pose no risk of fat accumulation in the body because they are all unsaturated. Fats should provide between 20 and 40% of calories in a vegan diet. It is essential to include small amounts of saturated fats such as coconut oil/milk as well for optimal health.

There are many benefits of consuming a vegan diet. Consuming fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of ischemic stroke. Eating citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and cruciferous lowers occurrence of stroke by 27%, death from stroke by 42% and reduces cardiovascular disease by 27%. Overall, it reduces mortality by up to 15%. Eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains also lowers the risk of getting diabetes. Other benefits include reduced cholesterol, blood sugar levels, heart problems and cancer. A vegan diet releases cancer fighting phytochemicals such as isoflavones, ellagic acids, glucarates, phenolic acids, carotenoids, flavonoids and sulfide compounds among others into the body.

A vegan diet is the surest way to keep your weight in check. You will remain trim and in optimal health. Higher energy levels, clear smooth skin, a general feeling of well being, good memory and longer life are some of the other positive effects. If you find the taste of pure vegetables and grains too bland, season your diets with herbs such as garlic, cayenne, onions, ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, basil, chives and sage. There is something to go with every meal.

By Laura