A vegan diet is based on only eating plant-based foods. This means that any meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cheese and honey are all avoided.
Well-balanced vegan diets have been approved for all stages of life, including pregnant and lactating women, children, adolescents, the elderly population, and competitive athletes. These diets are generally considered healthy and wholesome as long as you are still receiving the proper nutrients that are being lost by not consuming animal products. The types of nutrients generally lost through a poorly planned vegan diet in include calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and iron. Losing these essential nutrients can cause serious health problems, but can be avoided as long as your vegan diet is properly planned.
Here are some quick facts on the importance of these nutrients and how to keep them while on a vegan diet:
• Vitamin B12: Produces and maintains cells, maintains the nervous system, and helps create DNA.
• Calcium: Keeps bones strong, expands blood to muscles and vessels
• Iron: Transports oxygen, regulates cell growth and differentiation, integral part of many proteins and enzymes
• Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Protects against atherosclerosis, acts as an anti-inflammatory
In order to keep from losing these nutrients that are crucial in order to live a healthy lifestyle, you can eat:
• Wheat: Breakfast cereals, yeast extract, fortified oatmeal/cereal
• Vegetable Substitutes: Vegetable stock, veggie burgers,
• Soy Products: Soy milk, tofu, soy beans, soy nuts
• Beans: Lentils, any kind of beans, chickpeas
To conclude, yes, a vegan diet is extremely healthy. Research has shown that people who follow a vegetarian diet are at a lower risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, diverticulosis, renal disease, some cancers (including lung and breast), and gallstones. Also, cholesterol is only found in animal foods, so vegan diets are completely cholesterol-free. This diet focuses on fresh, unprocessed foods and will help with many future health problems in the long run.