Interest in the vegan lifestyle is steadily rising worldwide. The global shift away from animal product consumption and toward a plant-based diet appears to be rapidly gaining acceptance. The research firm GlobalData reported a 600 percent increase in Americans identifying as vegan in the last three years. Within the last decade, veganism increased by 350 percent in the U.K. and 400 percent in Portugal. Impressive increases were also found in Israel, Australia, Canada, Austria and New Zealand. More evidence suggests that a plant-based diet is not a fad, but a growing trend that is steadily becoming more acceptable and mainstream. An increasing number of believers perceive an ethical and sustainable lifestyle to be an important component of their wellbeing, as many report increased energy, more restful sleep, better mood, proper weight, and a genuine feeling of overall wellness.
Evidence suggests that an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, a largely plant-based diet that includes eggs and dairy products, offers protection against cardiovascular diseases, some cancers and total mortality. Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources decreases. Vegan diets appear to offer additional protection against obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular mortality. Those who follow a vegan diet tend to have lower body weight, lower serum cholesterol and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of developing heart disease. A vegan diet with increased intake of fruits and vegetables provides high levels of protective nutrients and phytochemicals, minimizing the dietary factors implicated in certain chronic diseases.
Those new to plant-based diets should be careful not to trade animal protein for processed foods that provide calories but little nutritional value. Some who consider a plant-based diet worry about protein intake. However, a well-balanced varied diet can provide many sources of plant-based protein, including soy products, quinoa, wild or black rice, millet, legumes, nuts, beans, seeds, mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables. and many dark colored, leafy greens. Vegans and vegetarians do need to plan ahead to ensure they get all the essential amino acids typically obtained from animal protein, as well as calcium, nonheme iron, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin B12 and fatty acids. Regular intake of B12 is essential with a vegan diet. Although tempeh, miso and some fermented foods provide a limited source of B12, to ensure B12 sufficiency care should be taken to supplement the diet with multivitamins, nutritional yeast or fortified foods and drinks. Chlorella, spirulina, moringa and sprouted legumes/seeds can provide additional protein and nutrients.
Sufficient calcium can be obtained from dark green leafy vegetables, beans, calcium- fortified juice or soymilk. Iron is plentiful in whole grains, beans, olives, prunes, nuts, seeds, lentils and soybeans. As plant-based non-heme iron is more difficult to absorb than iron found in animal products, consuming foods rich in vitamin C along with plant foods can help increase absorption. Vitamin D fortified foods and daily vitamin D supplementation can ensure adequate vitamin D status. Vegans should regularly consume plant foods rich in the fatty acid ALA, such as ground flaxseed, walnuts and hemp-seed based beverages, and can also benefit from DHA-rich microalgae supplements. Whole grains, legumes, soy and zinc-fortified foods can provide sufficient zinc intake.
Potential vegans who try to eliminate all animal products at once are the least likely to maintain a vegan diet long-term. Switching to a vegan diet can be done gradually by adding more plant-based foods and meals to your diet as you eliminate animal products. Transitioning to a vegan diet should be smooth, steady and adventurous. Acquiring a vegan cookbook or two that provide recipes for quick and easy home cooked meals is highly recommended, as diet diversity must be considered when switching to a plant-based diet. Veganizing your diet helps to eliminate some of the unhealthier processed foods you might be eating but be wary of substituting these foods with too many processed vegan foods.
Once on an all vegan diet, you may feel hungrier and may need to eat more often, as whole plant-based foods are nutrient dense but low in calories. Consuming more complex starchy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, root vegetables and whole grains, can help keep hunger pangs at bay and support steady energy production. While a proper vegan diet consisting of unprocessed single ingredient foods is health promoting, a poorly planned vegan diet may often result in nutrient deficiencies. Vegans must take nutrition seriously to ensure an adequate intake of nutrients, including essential vitamins and minerals. Even with a diet based around nutrient-rich whole plant and fortified foods, many vegans look to intelligent supplementation to maximize their nutrition in support of optimal health and function.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality supplements in support of optimal nutrition:
Vitamin B12 by Designs for Health: Each berry flavored lozenge provides 5000 mcg of highly bioavailable vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin. Gluten-free, Non-GMO formulation.
Blood Builder® by MegaFood®: This synergistic whole food product delivers iron, vitamin C, folate and B12 in support of healthy red blood cell and energy production. Free of gluten, soy and lactose. Non-GMO, kosher vegan formulation.
B12-Active™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: These natural cherry flavored chewable tablets provide B12 as methylcobalamin, a highly bioavailable form that doesn’t require conversion by the body to be utilized. Free of gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, soy, animal products, preservatives and artificial ingredients. Vegetarian formulation.
Essential Aminos by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic supplement provides free form amino acids in support of the building and repair of heathy muscles and tissues. Essential Aminos provides the essential amino acids that may be limited or lacking in the diet. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Vegan 1-a-Day Multivitamin by Deva® Nutrition: Specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of vegans and vegetarians, this high-potency, balanced multiple vitamin and mineral formula is enriched with whole green foods, vegetable powders and botanicals. Free of yeast, wheat, gluten, starch, sugar, salt, hexane, dairy, egg, fish, artificial flavor or fragrance and animal products, byproducts or derivatives. Certified Vegan formulation.
O.N.E.™ Multivitamin by Pure Encapsulations®: This comprehensive, hypoallergenic, vegetarian formulation provides highly bioavailable forms of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/
Vegetarian Foods: Powerful for Health. https://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-foods-powerful-for-health
Health effects of vegan diets. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1627S/4596952
21 Vegetarian Foods That Are Loaded With Iron. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iron-rich-plant-foods
Top 15 Calcium-Rich Foods (Many Are Non-Dairy). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods