VEGAN DIET

WHAT IS A VEGAN?

A vegan is a person who has chosen to exclude all meat, fish, dairy and eggs from their diet, as well as honey, gelatin and meat broths. They also typically refrain from using products made from animal parts, such as wool, fur and leather.

Why Follow a Vegan Diet?

People follow a vegan diet for a variety of reasons.
  • Concern about animal welfare
  • Improved health
  • Environmentally consciousness
  • Sustainability

IS A VEGAN DIET A HEALTHY DIET?

It can be very healthy! Research shows that vegans typically have lower BMIs, a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced blood cholesterol levels and a reduction in high blood pressure and cancer. This can be attributed to the fact that vegans typically consume more fiber, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes while taking in less saturated fat and cholesterol.

If vegans fill up on sugar and carbohydrates, it can leave their body deficient in nutrients. Vegans are especially at risk for low intake of calcium, B12, D, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc. This can be remedied by paying attention to your food choices and supplementing when necessary. For example, it is possible to meet your calcium needs through plant based food. It just requires a bit more attention to the diet and help from a dietitian or physician can assure you are on the right track.

FOODS TO ADD TO A VEGAN DIET

Calcium

  • Bok Choy, Kale
  • Fortified Plant Based Milks
  • White Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Sesame tahini
  • Oranges
  • Figs
 

Protein

Adaquate Amounts

Vegans need about 10% more protein than someone who consumes animal proteins. Plant proteins are harder to digest, so vegans should eat about .9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight compared to .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for omnivores. Making sure to have at least three servings of legumes and whole grains throughout the day are recommended to boost protein amounts.

Eat Legumes For Lysine

While a vegan diet might be adequate in protein, eating the right types of protein is equally important. A vegan diet can lack an essential amino acid called lysine. Lysine is found in the following foods:
  • Soyfoods like soymilk, tofu, tempeh, and vegetarian meats
  • Peanuts or peanut butter

Iron and Zinc

Iron

To boost levels of iron in the diet, vegans should add foods that contain vitamin C to every meal and snack to increase iron absorption. Vitamin C rich foods include:
  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
 

Zinc

Zinc is more bioavailable and has better absorption with these following food preparations:
  • Whole grain breads made with yeast or sourdough
  • Nuts and seeds that are toasted
  • Whole grains that are sprouted

Healthy Fats

To make sure to get enough omega-3 fatty acids, vegans should add the following foods to their diet daily:

  • Walnuts or walnut oil
  • Flaxseed or flaxseed oil
  • Hempseed oil

SUPPLEMENTS FOR VEGANS

Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

It is wise for vegans to go to their doctor and get labs done for vitamin D and vitamin B12. The doctor can work with you on appropriate supplementation to meet optimal levels. After supplementation has started, retest in 3 months to evaluate labs again and determine if the amounts are correct. Adjust accordingly.  

Iodine

Iodine should be supplemented either through iodized salt (around ¼ tsp daily) or taking around 90 mcg of supplemental iodine three times per week. Again, speak with your dietitian or physician for the best amount for you. 

DHA and EPA Fatty Acids

Both of these fatty acids are typically found in fish. DHA is found in algae and seaweed and can be used for supplementing the vegan diet. EPA is not found in algae, so vegans need to eat ALA rich plant sources that convert into EPA in the body. Foods rich in ALA are flaxseeds and walnuts. Other good sources include pumpkin seeds, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and mustard seeds.  Some vegan supplements now carry both DHA and ALA in pill/capsule form. It is also important to lower consumption of omega-6 oils as they can interfere with absorption of DHA and EPA. Oils containing high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids are vegetable oil, sunflower oil and corn oil.





















WHAT MAKES A VEGAN DIET HEALTHY?

Types of Diets Excluding Animal ProductsDiet Descriptions
VeganVegans do not consume any animal products or animal by-products. They do not eat eggs, dairy, honey, broths derived from animal products, beeswax and gelatin. They also typically refrain from using products made from parts of animals such as wool, fur, and leather.
Lacto VegetarianLacto Vegetarians consume dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. However, they exclude all red meats, white meats, fish, fowl, and eggs.
Ovo VegetarianOvo Vegetarians consume eggs; they exclude all dairy, red meats, white meats, fish and fowl.
Lacto-ovo VegetarianLacto-ovo Vegetarians consume dairy products and eggs; they exclude all red meat, white meats, fish and fowl. This is the most common of all types.
PollotarianA Pollotarian only excludes red meat, fish and seafood; they eat dairy, eggs, and poultry and fowl.
PescatarianPescatarians do not consume red meat, white meat or fowl; they do eat dairy, eggs and fish.
FlexitarianFlexitarians eat all animal foods but do so in limited quantities and try to keep the majority of their diet plant based.