Veganism is a lifestyle in which individuals do not eat or use any animal products or by-products. This lifestyle may be chosen for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. Vegans are different from vegetarians, who may consume eggs, dairy and/or fish.
Food and Lifestyle
Vegans avoid consuming all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and honey. Additionally, they avoid by-product animal ingredients that include but are not limited to butter, casein, rennet and whey. Most only consume pre-packaged foods if they are labeled vegan so they do not consume any animal products or by-products. Healthy vegans consume diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids but low in salt and bad fats. Additionally, vegans do not use or wear any products tested or made from animal parts. This includes leather, fur, silk, wool, non-vegan cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.
The key to being healthy on a vegan diet is variety. A vegan diet may help lower blood pressure and bad fats in your body, like LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. However, if vegans do not eat a balanced diet, it will lead to nutritional deficiencies. A vegan lifestyle can be low in vitamin B12, protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. Educate yourself on nutrient food sources and be mindful of your diet so you get adequate amounts of these nutrients.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that consuming a vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate if you plan and eat healthful foods. You should consume at least 5 servings of grains or starchy vegetables, 3 servings of soy foods or legumes, 1 to 2 servings of nuts or seeds, 4 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day. These goals will promote health while following a vegan lifestyle.
As mentioned, vegans should pro-actively consume adequate amounts of vitamin B12, protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. Fortified products should be consumed to prevent deficiencies. For instance, non-dairy milks, including soy, rice, or almond, provide vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. Legumes, such as beans, peas, lentils, and nuts, provide protein, iron, calcium and zinc. Finally, incorporate meat substitutes, such as tofu, veggie burgers, and tempeh, into your vegan diet. These can be good sources of vitamin B12, protein, iron and zinc. However, do not assume that these foods contain these nutrients. Read your nutrition labels.