Written by Hannah W.
Many of us have heard the term vegan, but what is a vegan and what do vegans eat?
In a general sense, vegans are those who do not eat meat or animal products. Going vegan can stem from a desire to protest animal cruelty, but veganism goes so far beyond that! Another reason one may adapt to veganism is simply for the health benefits associated with a vegan diet.
Once you learn about the dietary benefits to both body and mind it may persuade even you to go vegan! So, let’s start with the basics before we dive into the wonderful benefits of being a vegan.
What do Vegans Eat?
As mentioned before, vegans stay away from meat and animal products such as milk, eggs, and dairy products. So enough about what they don’t eat, what do vegans even eat?
It may seem like a restrictive diet, but vegans actually have a lot of options. They eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans… so to make it easier on you, just think whole foods!
Getting Enough Protein as a Vegan
One concern that may arise, especially in the health realm, is getting enough protein. Without meat, how can one get enough protein? I’ll let you in on a little secret, meat is not the only way to get protein in your diet. Non-meat protein foods that pair well with a vegan diet include:
Grain Protein Sources:
– Wild Rice
Vegetable Protein Sources:
Fruit Protein Sources:
Other Vegan Protein Sources:
– Peanut butter
– Soy milk
In addition to these protein options, it’s important that vegans include complete proteins into their diet.
There are 20 amino acids, but 9 are essential. This means that our bodies cannot make these amino acids and therefore we need to get them through the food we eat.
A complete protein is categorized as a protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. Quinoa, soy, and buckwheat are all complete proteins, but you can also make a complete protein by combining two protein foods together.
Examples include rice & beans, and hummus & pita, but you aren’t limited with those options. Get creative in the kitchen and combine different plant based protein sources to reach your complete protein needs.
There are plenty of protein sources, so don’t let a vegan diet or maybe what’s really on your mind, going meatless, scare you! This list is a great starting point when trying to incorporate the right foods while still achieving a vegan diet.
What are the Benefits of a Vegan Diet?
Ok, ok, so we have gone over what veganism is, what vegans can eat, and addressed maybe the biggest concern about this lifestyle which is getting enough protein while eliminating meat.
Now we can discuss the most important topic of going vegan: the benefits. What are the benefits of a vegan diet? Are there benefits?? Uhhhh of course there are!
Ethical Benefits of a Vegan Diet
This was mentioned briefly in the beginning, but a vegan diet excludes animals or animal products from one’s diet. This means that your dietary impact on living creatures is nonexistent.
Vegans don’t consume animal products and therefore don’t contribute to animal harm or animal use to achieve a healthy diet. Going vegan is also beneficial for the environment.
In one study, scientists noted that livestock attribute to 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Using fewer meat products could help lower greenhouse gas effects and benefit our Earth as well!
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Going vegan can help improve your health in so many ways! Here are the top reasons going vegan can improve your health.
1. A vegan diet may be linked to lower the risk of heart disease
Consuming a diet with plant based foods can help lower risk for heart disease. Animal products can contain higher amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol, two things that can increase the risk of heart disease.
By eliminating animal products from the diet, it reduces the risk from consuming too much saturated fat and cholesterol.
2. A vegan diet can lower daily sugar intake
This one is very simple! By eating whole foods we can easily lower our daily sugar intake. Most processed foods contain some form of egg or dairy products (a vegan no no).
Processed foods are often packed with added sugars to increase flavor and preserve food. Not very helpful when trying to eat healthy. So by eliminating processed foods and incorporating whole foods, sugar intake decreases!
Sugar can cause some unwanted side effects in the body. Large amounts of sugar can increase the likelihood of mood swings, sabotage weight loss goals (sugar is an empty calorie: it adds calories to your diet with little nutritional value), and it can cause bloating.
No one wants that perpetual food baby!
3. A vegan diet can be easier on the digestive tract
Have you been struggling with an upset stomach or bloating? This can often be caused by animal based proteins. Why you ask?
Animal proteins are higher in fat and the combination of protein and fat in the animal product slows down the digestion process. This slowed digestion rate can cause gas and bloating. It can also cause discomfort if other foods can’t be digested at the rate they need to.
Plant based foods however are typically easier on the digestive system and can ease the discomfort you are having.
4. A vegan diet can aid in weight loss
The biggest and one of the best reasons to go vegan is that it can aid in weight loss! Hurray! How is this possible?
Well, you may have heard of the 80/20 rule. It’s the idea that weight loss is dependent on two factors; 80% on what you eat and 20% on exercise.
Veganism incorporates a healthy diet including whole foods and minimal processed foods. Whole foods have a higher nutrient value and generally lower caloric intake than processed foods, so you will fuel your body with all the best things to keep it running properly and keep your calorie count in check!
There are so many benefits to going vegan.
It may seem like a daunting task to make some significant changes to your diet if you are a meat eater, but if you decide to switch to a vegan lifestyle, you may see how your body reacts positively to a vegan diet.
You can still easily get the nutrients you need from whole foods and it will be better on the body; making you feel better as you incorporate plant based whole food products into your diet!