You are wondering, what is a vegan and why do individuals make the switch?
People choose a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons. For many the choice is made on ethical grounds based on their respect for the lives of animals, they will avoid all foods derived from animals (including dairy products and fish, and even honey for some die-hards) and shun anything that is made from animals as a result of them being killed or testing on, such as clothes and drugs. Vegans therefore exist on plant-based foods only (as opposed to vegetarians who will eat dairy products and some even eat fish). But being a vegan is a strict discipline and possibly the purest form of lifestyle when it comes to respecting all living creatures on the planet – although it is perhaps arguable that plants are also “living”, and yet it is plant-based foods that vegans live off to survive (but maybe that is a debate for another time!)
One thing that cannot be debated and that is the health aspects of a vegan diet. In other words, anyone adopting a vegan diet is going to be one of the healthiest people around (if the diet is followed properly) which is another reason people adopt veganism as a way of life.
Benefits of A Vegan Diet Plan, Weight Loss?
For one thing, anyone adopting veganism are likely to lose weight (as long as they don’t live on candy bars and skittles). That’s simply because most of the foods that cause weight gain and obesity are, by nature of a vegan way of life, eliminated from the daily diet. Gone are the fatty foods, processed foods, junk foods, and the overkill of sodium (salt) that usually accompanies such foods. The elimination of these elements from anyone’s diet can only be good for general health and is a basis of any good weight-loss program. It has been proven that vegetarians are 10% leaner than omnivores (people who eat anything) and vegans are even thinner than that on average. But this comes as no surprise really when you think about it, because in reality a good vegan diet consists of fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses and grains – and very little high calorie processed junk.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), women should be considering increasing their intake of fruit and vegetables in the fight against breast cancer. The NCI also recommends a more veggie-based diet because heart disease in the number one killer of women. But high cholesterol, the biggest factor involved in heart disease, doesn't figure in a vegan diet, which is surely good food for thought?
Those on a vegan diet will also enjoy lower blood pressure, as well as the reduced risk of diabetes and some cancers. For instance, research conducted by the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto found that a vegan diet led to lower LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) by almost as much as the drug Lovastatin which can cause liver rot.
The Cons of Going Vegan
Having said that, being a vegan does leave you prone to missing out on some very important nutrients, minerals and vitamins, as well as protein (although protein intake can be maintained via nuts and beans). However, research has shown that anyone adopting a vegan diet would be advised to take various vitamin supplements to maximize their health as the diet is deficient in B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids (usually found in fish). Vitamin B12 is important for creating red blood cells which helps keep the brain and nervous system healthy. It is also needed to absorb folic acid, and it helps to release energy. Trouble is B12 is mainly found in meat, fish and dairy products…and can take up to 4 years for the deficiency to be realized! Hence the need for vitamin B12 supplements for vegans.
Vitamin D is also a very important vitamin as it helps the body absorb calcium which is vital for good bone growth, development and general well-being. Anyone deficient in vitamin D runs the risk of contracting bones diseases such as osteoporosis or rickets. Again, vitamin D is found principally in liver, egg yolk, saltwater fish and milk.
However, anyone looking to embark on arguably the healthiest eating and lifestyle plan can easily avoid the comparatively minor drawbacks by supplementing their vegan diet with vitamins in a number of safe and ethical ways. Yet advice should always be sought when looking to make such lifestyle and diet changes, which is why consulting a team of experts such as those found at changingshape.com is a wise move. For here you can find both diet and exercise professionals ready to answer your questions, give advice and even help you formulate a healthy vegan diet plan and exercise regimen to suit your weight-loss or general well-being.
If you are interested in finding out more about the benefits and pitfalls of a vegan diet, then check out www.changingshape.com for more details.