A few decades ago Albert Einstein said: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet”.
These wonderful words were said at the time when there was not enough knowledge about the influence of food on our bodies, environment, climate, hunger in various parts of the world, and also human and animal rights. If only Einstein possessed the same knowledge as modern scientists, he would have probably said a little different thing: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegan diet”.
What is a vegan diet?
Vegan food is a powerful tool to maintain one’s health. It cuts down the range of reasons for diseases. Keep in mind that vegan diet is not a raw food diet.
Vegetarians exclude from their rations meat, poultry or fish. But there are far more to it.
Sometimes vegetarians eat everything except the products that come out of killing – eggs (chickens don’t hatch from industrial eggs), milk, dairy, and honey. In this case, they are called lacto-ovo vegetarians. This is the most widespread group.
Sometimes vegetarians exclude meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products, but eat eggs – they are called ovo-vegetarians.
Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, and butter, are included.
Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products – and foods that contain these products.
Some people follow a semi-vegetarian diet that is also called a flexitarian diet which is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
In general, a vegan diet is stricter than a vegetarian diet. Vegans eat only phytogenous products (though, some also eat honey). As a rule, vegans don’t drink milk, kefir (kind of yoghurt), don’t eat curd, cheese, yoghurts, etc.
These nuances comprise the answer to the questions “what is vegan diet?” and “what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian diet?” But we can take a look a bit further, not only at the food aspect of the matter. There are far more reasons to become a vegan – ethical reasons. By reason of ethics vegans not only exclude animal meals, they also don’t use the things that are somehow connected to animal abuse in everyday life. Vegans don’t wear wool or leather, don’t visit zoos, circuses, and dolphinaria; they are against any animal abuse and exploitation.
Benefits of vegan diet
Vegans have lower cholesterol level than meat eaters. As a consequence, they suffer from heart diseases less. Vegan dishes are low in saturated fats and contain little or no cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in meat, dairy, and eggs – and a common vegan diet doesn’t include these products. On the contrary, the type of protein common for a vegan diet has its advantages. Lots of studies have shown that if a person replaces animal protein with a plant one it lowers the cholesterol level even if the number of consumed fats remains the same.
In the 1920s there were conducted many studies, revealing that vegans’ blood pressure is lower than that of non-vegans’. If the patients with high blood pressure switch to a vegan diet, there is no need to take meds anymore.
If the vegan diet is rich in carbohydrates and cellulose (which can be found in plants only) and low in fats it is the best tool to control diabetes. The diet that includes vegetables, bean foods, fruit, and cereals means a lower amount of sugar and fat. And very often the necessity to take meds is lowered or even there’s no need in it. It also lowers the risk of getting a heart disease. The vegan diet helps to prevent cancer. The death rate is much lower among vegans than meat eaters. Breast cancer rates are dramatically lower when the diet is plant-based. Colon cancer is more closely associated with meat than any other product.
How do vegan products help to prevent cancer? First of all, they contain fewer fats and more cellulose than any meat-based diet. Secondly, plants contain essential cancer-fighting substances – phytochemicals. Excluding from your diet dairy products can significantly lower the risk of prostate and ovarian cancer.
Replacing animal products with plants reduces the loss of calcium.
Vegan diet plan
It is not a difficult task to plan a vegan diet that would completely and utterly supply your organism with every necessary element. Grains, bean foods, vegetables are rich in protein and iron. Green leafy vegetables, haricot, lentil, tofu, corn tortillas, and nuts are great sources of calcium, as well as soy milk and fortified juices. Vitamin D is normally produced in the body when we’re sunbathing. People with darker skin and those who live in northern latitudes have less opportunity to produce vitamin D. So it can be obtained from soy milk, commercial breakfast cereals, and multivitamins. It’s very important to take B12 vitamin regularly. It can be found in multivitamins, fortified cereals and soy milk, some nutritional yeast. Read the list of ingredients – B12 can be indicated as cyanocobalamin.
To start your vegan diet, try to think of 3 vegan dishes you already know and love. It can be tofu with grilled vegetables, or a stew with vegetables, or pasta primavera. Then try to think which 3 recipes you commonly cook and like can be transformed into vegan ones. For example, you can replace meat with beans in your chili recipe, or meat with vegetables in your hamburger. And finally look for books with vegan recipes or just surf the internet looking for more dishes and experimenting with your cooking.
Don’t mistake the vegan diet for some kind of asceticism or “withdrawal from food”. On the contrary, it is the feast of taste, which has been proven multiple times in vegan cookbooks and restaurants.