The next time you meet a vegan, I suggest giving them a big hug. Before I became interested in nutrition, my idea of a vegan was someone with guilt-tripping bumper stickers and an Instagram full of breakfast smoothies interspersed with cute animal photos. However, I have come to learn that vegans have their finer qualities. Back to the hugging. Veganism comes with a ton of environmental and health benefits. There is a substantial amount of research on vegan diets that I am very excited to share with you. Hopefully I can help you debunk the myths and discover the truths about Veganism!
Origin: Veganism is a branch of vegetarianism that excludes not only meat but ALL animal products including eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. While the principles of a plant-based diet have been around for a while, animal rights activist Donald Watson is attributed with the foundation of Veganism as a movement. In 1944, he and five others coined the term “Vegan.”
Philosophy: The diet was originally founded on the principles of animal welfare and environmental stewardship. Recent studies, however, reveal that currently, the majority of vegans in the United States are on a plant-based diet for health reasons rather than moral or environmental reasons.
- Low fat
- Low cholesterol
- High fiber
- High magnesium, potassium, and vitamins
- Rich in phytochemicals
- Lowers the risk of certain chronic diseases (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer)
- Eco-Friendly (uses less water and reduces carbon dioxide emissions)
- Low in calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins D & B12
- Requires more iron (The type of iron found it plants is not absorbed as easily as iron found in meats)
- Somewhat hard to follow
A Note About Protein: There are two types of protein—complete and incomplete. Complete proteins contain all of the amino acids that your body needs (essential amino acids). Incomplete proteins do not contain all essential amino acids (they lack one or more). While there are many sources of proteins that are vegan friendly, the majority of complete proteins are found in meat. If you are going vegan, you will need to eat a variety of incomplete proteins (for example: rice and beans) to ensure your body is getting all the essential amino acids. Soy and quinoa are two exceptions; both are complete proteins suitable for vegans.