Vegan diet: Health benefits, risks, and meal tips

A vegan diet is part of a lifestyle that excludes the consumption or use of any products made from animals.

Vegans do not eat animal products, including honey, eggs, gelatin, or dairy. They will not use clothes, soaps, or other products that are animal-sourced in any way.

A vegan diet can be a highly nutritious choice, as it is low in saturated fat and rich in nutrients. However, starting out on an animal-free diet without proper planning can lead to some health risks.

All protein, vitamins, and minerals must come from non-animal sources, so food choice and preparation are important.

A 2016 poll suggests that around 2.5 percent of people in the United States follow a vegan lifestyle.

This MNT Knowledge Center article will discuss the differences between veganism and vegetarianism, the health benefits of a vegan diet, and important things to consider before starting. We will also share some tasty vegan meal options and recipes.

Fast facts on the vegan diet

The vegan diet contains only plant-based foods.

Tofu, tempeh, and mushrooms are three of the many alternatives than can provide the nutrients found in meat.

A vegan diet can help to protect bone and heart health, and lower the risk of cancer.

Supplements are recommended to replace levels of certain nutrients that are found in meat, such as vitamin B-12.

What is a vegan diet?

The word vegan made from vegetables
The vegan diet excludes all foods sourced from animals.

A vegan diet involves eating only food products made from plants and avoiding animal products.

Animal products are important sources of protein, nonsaturated fats, iron, vitamins, and minerals in the standard diet of a person in the U.S. A vegan needs to find alternative sources of these nutrients.

Reasons for following a vegan diet can include preventing cruelty to animals, environmental considerations, or simply looking to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Fresh produce can be prepared at home. Some ready-made vegan meals are available in major grocery stores and specialist outlets.

Food packaging should state that the contents are vegan-friendly, or prepared in a completely meat-free kitchen. Vegan options are available in many restaurants, and some specialized restaurants serve only vegan food.

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Lower cancer risk

Meat eaters are at a higher risk of colorectal and prostate cancers.

The vegan diet consists of far higher volumes of legumes, fruits, and vegetables, fiber, and vitamin C. These are believed to protect against a variety of cancers.

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