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Popular Diets Part 2: Going Vegan

"A vegan diet has been shown to provide many health benefits versus the typical western diet."

In today’s part two video of the three-part series on popular diets, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, is going to talk about going vegan. You’re going to learn more about vegan diets and why it is commonly mistaken as the vegetarian diet. These two are not the same, though they are generally grouped together. You’re also going to learn about the health benefits of going vegan and the negatives as well. So the pros and cons of going vegan, together with potential nutritional deficiencies that can occur if “going vegan” isn’t done right. You will also get to know the most common type of vegan diets that are delicious and so easy to make.

Video Highlights

  • 3:59: What is a vegan diet?
  • 5:06: Differences between a vegetarian and a vegan.
  • 5:40: Common vegetarian related diets.
  • 7:09: Why go vegan.
  • 8:22: Examples of common vegan diets.
  • 19:43: Health benefits.
  • 24:56: Misconceptions of a vegan diet.
  • 26:50: Plant-based protein sources.
  • 31:47: Negative aspects to the vegan diet.
  • 38:41: Simple vegan snacks you can make at home.
  • 46:38: Wrap up.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is a way of eating that excludes all animal products. It takes all the animal products and the animal byproducts out, including meat and eggs, dairy, honey, and other food sources that come from or are produced by an animal.

Vegan diets have become really popular over the last couple of years all over the world. Vegan and vegetarian diets are not, contrary to some misconceptions, just for hippies.

Difference between a vegetarian and a vegan

Vegans eat no animal products or byproducts at all. Vegetarians, on the other hand, don’t eat animals directly, but they may eat products that come from animals, such as dairy (milk from cows, and eggs from chicken, etc.). There are also varying degrees of vegetarian diets.

Common vegetarian related diets

The more common vegetarian related diets that people follow today are:-

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian — This is probably the most common type of vegetarian.Lacto means dairy, andovo means egg. Therefore, these types of vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, but avoid eating any type of meat, poultry or seafood. Similarly,lactoonly vegetarians eat dairy products but no eggs, meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Ovo-vegetarian — They eat eggs but not dairy products. Not meat, not poultry or seafood.
  • Pesco vegetarians/pescatarians — Pesmeans fish, so pescatarians or pesco vegetarians, don’t technically meet the common definition of vegetarian. These eat fish and other seafoods but do not eat poultry or meat.

Why go vegan

Most people who decide to go vegan, do so for one or all of the following reasons:

  • Ethical – Some people choose to go vegan because they cannot bear to think of harming another living creature. The live by “do no harm” to any being on this earth.
  • Environmental – These are people who typically are really committed to supporting the environment and realize how much erosion, how much wasted energy and excess pollution is created by factory farming of meat from cows, from pigs, and from poultry.
  • Health – Others decide to do it for the many plant-based health benefits associated with vegan diet.

Examples of common vegan diets

Like any type of diet or eating plan, there are always variations, and this is true with vegan diets as well. A few of the more common vegan diets include:

  • Whole food vegan diet – This is a diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Raw food vegan diet - This is a diet where vegans basically feed on raw fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, or plant foods cooked at a temperature of 118° or less and it’s considered raw.
  • 80/10/10 diet – This is a raw food vegan diet that limits fat rich plants intake and protein intake to 10% each of their total caloric intake. It relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens for the remaining 80% of the calories. This is also referred to as low fat raw food vegan diet or often called afruitarian diet.

Of the three variations, thewhole food vegan diet is the most popular.

Vegan foods are often plant-based. However, there are some processed plant-based foods like tofu and others that are included to make it practical. So a vegan diet menu would look like the following:

  • Breakfast: Whole grain toast with nut butter, a banana, fortified plant-based yogurt
  • Lunch: Tofu noodle soup with vegetables
  • Dinner: Baked sweet potato with lettuce, corn, beans, cashews and guacamole

In addition to the fruits and vegetables, other typical foods incorporated in this type of vegan diet include:

  • Processed soy proteins such as tofu and tempe. These provide a versatile, protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry, and eggs in vegan recipes. However, it is important to take caution because too much of any type of soy, GMOor non-GMO, can really have negative effects on the body. They can be estrogen mimickers and put in way too much unnecessary estrogen in the body and create toxins. For this reason, use minimal processed soy products.
  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils and peas. All of these are excellent sources of proteins. Lentil beans and black-eyed peas and black beans are some of the best plant nutrient sources of proteins.
  • Nuts and nut butters. These include hazelnuts, almond nut butter, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Unblanched, unroasted, unsalted varieties are the best sources of protein, plus iron and fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E as well.

  • Seeds. Seeds such as hemp seeds can be used in smoothies or pancakes, as well as a sprinkled on top of salad. Flax seeds, which are better when they are ground into powdered form, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds, are all great. You can make a chia seed pudding after soaking them in some warm water or plant-based milks to make them easy for digestion. All these seeds contain really great amounts of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Calcium fortified milks or yogurts from plants. These are minimally processed and help with a variety of different ways to satiate you with the protein. They come in many different varieties such as oat, cashew, and almond milk. There is also flax seed milk, or rice milk. Make sure you always read the contents in the bag if you’re not making your own milk. Make sure that sugar is zero and no preservatives are added.
  • Algae. If you can just eat one food that will sustain you, algae is an optimum choice. Algae is beneficial for protein and iodine. Spirulina and chlorella are the best options and they come in jars or capsules, and powdered form. You can plop them in your smoothies for a great protein boost. It’s 12 grams of bioavailable plant protein per serving, (or two tablespoons).
  • Nutritional yeast. This is different from brewer’s yeast but it is very, very good. It has a cheesy, nutty flavor and it’s very high in antiviral and antioxidants. It is very good for your immune system and has lots of protein as well.
  • Whole grains and complex carb options. There are lots of whole grains and great complex carb options that are filled with fiber, chock full of fiber, high in iron, B Vitamins, and several essential minerals in a healthy vegan diet. We do differ from the vegan diet when it comes to the heavy consumption of grains, especially the ones that contain gluten. Many vegans eatseitan which is a high protein meatless meat. It’s not meat, it’s soy and it’s processed and derived from wheat gluten. At Smarter Nutrition, we really suggest avoiding that product.
  • Sprouted and fermented plant foods. These include sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha. These can be put on top of your salads soups.

Health benefits

Assuming you’re eating a variety of these foods, with lost of fruits and vegetables, a vegan diet has been shown to provide many health benefits versus the typical western diet. These include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Improved blood sugar.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Decreased triglycerides and cholesterol.
  • Decreased levels of inflammation in the body, which is the key to real vibrant health.

If you are a vegan or if you’re planning to go vegan, we strongly suggest addingSmarter Curcumin by Smarter Nutrition. This can help encourage a normal daily inflammatory load. Often there are more carbs in a vegan diet than our recommended anti-inflammatory diet, so Smarter Curcumin can really help support a more balanced diet, which is crucial when considering the amount of carbs and excess inflammatory foods that are consumed on a daily basis.

Since 100% of plant-based diets contain plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegans tend to have higher stored levels of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fibers. Healthy vegan diets are also super rich in vitamins B1 and C and E, folic acid, magnesium and iron, while also being extremely low in cholesterol and saturated facts.

Healthy vegan diets have also been shown to improve overall health and significantly reduce the risk of developing a number of serious health conditions, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes – Several studies show that vegans benefit from lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin and sensitivity, and up to 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as compared to non-vegans.
  • Cardiovascular disease — A vegan diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and stroke. Vegans have up to 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Several studies also demonstrate that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL (the bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol than other diets.
  • Cancers including prostate and colon cancer — A recent international study showed that people following vegan diets are merely 40% less likely to develop cancer than people who eat meat on a regular basis.
  • Weight loss — Vegan diets can also effectively support weight loss if done right.

Misconceptions about the vegan diet

One of the most common misconceptions associated with vegan diets is that a plant-based diet doesn’t provide protein. Well, this is certainly the case for individuals who may not be eating the right type of plant-based foods. For example, if you don’t like vegetables, a vegan diet for you might consist of things like french fries and organic breads, which will ultimately be an inflammatory diet. In other words, just because it’s technically vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. For this reason, it is important to educate ourselves, and examine what we’re thinking we’re doing right and then adjust so that we’re being optimal.

Top plant-based protein sources

There are many excellent plant-based protein choices to choose from. Take a look at our body and what it needs. There are some misconceptions regarding how much protein everyone needs. Protein is important, of course, but you don’t necessarily 100 grams of protein per day, or need to be anxious about packing in the protein. But let’s look at some top plant-based protein sources that also have the fiber and all of the nutrients that some animal-based foods don’t have.

What is the highest amount of protein that you can eat from a plant? What plant gives you more bioavailable plant protein than any other plant out there?

The answer is Swiss chard. Swiss chard has the highest amount of protein of any plant. This is followed by:

  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Broccoli

Other great sources include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, edamame (a soy bean that is popular in Japan and sushi bars in the U.S.), peas, beans, and blackeyed peas.

Negative aspects to the vegan diet

A diet that is based exclusively on plant-based foods may in some cases increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies of a number of vitamins and minerals, such as:

Vitamin B12

The solution is to look for plant-based foods that are fortified with B12, like nutritional yeast. This comes in granules or flakes and it has a cheesy, nutty flavor and it’s really yummy. You can sprinkle it on pretty much anything. Nutritional yeast is high in protein and it’s good for your immune system, and you can buy at any store. Supplementing with a vitamin B12 vitamin is a viable option as well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

For non-vegans I recommend getting a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids from non-vegan sources including fatty fish like salmon and eggs. However, there are plenty of plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids including the chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. As a vegan dieter you have to be conscious about all of these and you have to add them into your diet.

Zinc

Vegans have to make sure that they’re getting the adequate amount of zinc by eating beans, legumes, and whole grains. These include black beans, lentil beans, blackeyed peas and whole grains.

Iron

Iron from plant-based sources is not easily absorbed. However, eating foods that have a variety of rich whole plant-based foundation, including dark green vegetables like spinach, whole grains, lentils, peas, and dried fruits, usually ensures that you can consume enough iron. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include broccoli, kiwi, pineapple, and oranges. These are also going to help vegans improve absorption of iron.

Simple vegan snacks you can make at home

Eating a vegan does not have to be boring. It doesn’t mean you need to miss out on all the exciting and delicious foods, or that you can eat only carrots and celery sticks for the rest of your life. There are literally thousands of delicious, mouth-watering, vegan recipes that you can prepare in your home. Here is an example of two of our favorite vegan snacks:

Roasted chickpeas 

These are so easy to prepare. It is best to buy raw chickpeas, instead of the canned variety. First you have to sprout them to make them more bioavailable and cause less tummy irritation. This can be done by soaking them in spring water or filtered water and putting them in a mason jar or the refrigerator for 12 hours. Then you take it out, dump out the water, and it’s sprouted. The enzymes are now activated. You can do this with every single one of your raw nuts and seeds that haven’t been treated with heat. You can also do this with beans. Dump out the filtered water and then heat it up or boil for about an hour (or whatever the package instructions say), and then drain it. Put in a roasting pan and toss it with olive oil or any seasonings. You can make it spicy by using chili powder; or make it savory with turmeric or garlic powder, or just use Himalayan salt. Bake them in a pan or on a baking sheet 450° for 40 minutes until they’re crunchy. They are so delicious, crunchy, and filled with protein.

If you are sensitive to chickpeas, sprouting them helps. If you sprout them, they become lighter and fluffier, almost like whipped cream and they are much easier on your digestive system. This helps alleviate many symptoms like gas, cramping and bloating that can occur if you’re sensitive to beans. Don’t take all the beanos and the anti-gas medications. All you have to do is sprout them.

On the go fruit and nut bars, and granola

You’ve heard of Lara Bars and Kind Bars. The bars you make at home are made with very minimal natural ingredients and are less processed. They are great on the go, kids love them, and you will love them. They’re very good and you will love them and you can put them into little containers, and take them with you wherever you are. Super easy, super healthy. This is all you need to do:

Combine 1-2 cups of nuts, 1-2 cups of your favorite dried fruit and ¼ cup of maple syrup. You can also do this with 2 cups of gluten-free oatmeal. You can use sprouted oatmeal, sprouted grain, or gluten-free oatmeal. You can add in cinnamon, or whatever you want to make it sweet or savory: garlic, turmeric, or salt, and you can add in some seeds if you want. What binds it all together is maple syrup, or brown rice syrup. Pour in ¼ of a cup of syrup and knead it together. Spread that mixture in a greased baking pan and bake it for 20 minutes at 325°. Once it is cool, you can cut it into bars or break it off in chunks. The beauty of this is that you can have it any time you want as a really great pick-me-up snack.

Wrap Up

Previously, as part of our popular diets series, we talked about paleo. Today, we talked about the pros and cons of going vegan, why people choose to go vegan, and the benefits and the possible negatives of going vegan. Vegetarian and vegan diets are not the same: vegans eat no animal products at all, while vegetarians may eat the products that come from the animal like dairy and eggs, even though they don’t eat animals directly. Many people decide to go vegan for ethical, environmental, or health reasons.

Vegan diet plans are associated with many great, documented health benefits, including weight loss, improved blood sugar, decreased levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decreased triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Vegan diets are more than just fruits and vegetables though. When planning to go vegan and planning your vegan meals, you need to make sure that you include enough protein sources like nuts and nut butters, seeds, beans, and quinoa. The diet also includes a number of other great foods like fermented food and fiber-rich whole grains.

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