icon_butterfly What does it mean to be Vegan?

Extreme fad or way of life...

What does it mean to be Vegan?

Gone are the days when Veganism was seen as the diet of hippies or over-the-top animal lovers. Veganism has been increasing dramatically in popularity in recent times. Celebrities like Jenifer Lopez, Liam Hemsworth and Brad Pitt have reportedly jumped on the bandwagon for various reasons. Should we join them? Here are some things you should know before making the change…

What is a vegan?

A vegan diet, also know as a plant-based diet, is a diet that excludes all animal-derived products. That means strictly no eggs, dairy, meat, or even honey. Many vegans do not eat foods that are processed using animal products, such as refined white sugar and some wines.

Most vegans extend the definition of veganism to go beyond just food and will also avoid the use of all personal and household products tested on animals, and avoid purchasing and using all animal-derived non-food products, such as leather, fur, and wool.

Why become a vegan?
There are a number of principal reasons for becoming a vegan: perhaps for the environment, like Natalie Portman; for the pure love of animals, like Miley Cyrus; or for a healthier lifestyle, like Mike Tyson (!) and many others.

In terms of health benefits, many view the diet as a form of detox and a healthy weight loss and maintenance regime. For example Jessica Simpson became a vegan two weeks before her wedding in order to lose some extra weight. There is a lot of debate as to whether or not becoming vegan is actually healthy. It is obviously important to maintain a healthy balance and take advice on the necessary supplements in order to ensure you get all the nutrients and vitamins you need.

What do Vegans eat?
This is perhaps the most common question about veganism. A vegan diet includes all grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruits. In addition, many vegan versions of familiar foods are available, so you can eat vegan sausages, ice cream, cheese, and vegan mayonnaise, along with the more familiar veggie burgers.

Vegans can also eat many of the most common and familiar everyday foods such as many salads; spaghetti and other pastas; and chips, salsa and guacamole; hummus and pitta bread. Dishes like a vegetarian burrito without cheese or sour cream would be vegan; vegetarian Thai curry made from coconut milk is vegan; Vegetarian stir fry with Chinese noodles is vegan; and most breads are vegan.

Want to know more? Head over to our Facebook where we’ve posted a vegan food pyramid to give you a little extra help!

Is Veganism likely to improve your health?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegans are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure than meat-eaters are. Vegans get all the nutrients that they need to be healthy, such as plant protein, fibre, and minerals, without all the nasty stuff in meat that slows you down and makes you sick, such as cholesterol and saturated animal fat.

But vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and veg, and plant-based food is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle. The answer depends as much on what you eat as with any other diet. Just pigging out on crisps or chips, for example, would be technically vegan but is hardly treating your body as your temple ;-)

Is it good for weight loss?
Vegans are, on average, up to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters are. And unlike unhealthy fad diets, which leave you feeling tired (and usually don’t keep the pounds off for long), going vegan is the healthy way to keep the excess fat off for good while leaving you with plenty of energy. Vegans commonly report fantastic energy levels which is compelling evidence in itself.

What else do I need to know?
You’ll, more than likely, need to take supplements. Vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in animal foods, so you'll want to stock up on a variety of B12-fortified foods as well as a B12 supplement. B12 keeps the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, so deficiencies can lead to tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss (the bad kind), nerve problems, and depression.

Iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme, which makes up about 40% of the iron in animal foods, is easily absorbed by the body. Vegan diets contain only non-heme, which is less readily absorbed, so you may need to ingest more iron if you want to get the same benefit.

Every meal you eat should contain protein. Proteins are the building blocks of life: they break down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. Animal-based foods tend to be high in protein, like cheese, fish, chicken or beef. The best sources of vegan protein include natural soy, lentils, beans, quinoa. (Want to know the best way to cook quinoa? Have a look at our protein article)....

Now that you know a little more, would this be something you might consider? Jay-Z tried a 22-day Vegan challenge on December 4th 2014. Maybe that could be a good way to start? If you are vegan or if you’re thinking of becoming vegan be sure to let us know! We love to hear from you!

- Megan McCafferty & the Best Ever Me team x


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