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Health benefits and risks of a vegan diet

Being a vegan means you don’t eat animals and their products. Sticking on a diet based on plants only heightens your risk of undernourishment. This happens mostly when plant eating selection of food is not well planned. They don’t consume meat, fish, eggs, milk products or food containing them. A plant based diet relies on plant based foods like greens, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. This diet can be healthy and nutritionally adequate diet nevertheless, they must ensure they also get foods with proteins, calcium, iron, cobalamin and omega 3 fatty acids. The main difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that the former do not eat meat but consume other animal products while latter on the other hand do not consume meat at all.

Why Go Vegan

People might opt to consider eating plants because of several reasons. Some of these reasons are; to save animals lives. Health concerns contribute largely to this kind of lifestyle. It prevents the risk of stress and heart diseases. It reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure .Others do it because of environmental impact of animal agriculture.

The different types include: Dietary type who refrain from feeding animals and their products. They however continue using clothes and cosmetics made from animals. Whole Food types prefer a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, greens, nuts, seeds and wholegrain. Junk-food mostly rely on highly processed foods such as desserts, frozen dinner and non-diary ice creams. Raw Food types consume raw fruits, nuts and seeds as well as foods cooked under the temperature of 118 degrees Celsius. Low fat-Raw Food Vegans limit high fat foods such as nuts and avocados. They depend mostly on fruits and consume other plants on low amounts.

Vegans’ diet is composed of:

• Fruits and vegetables

These are basically the most common and frequent food category that they eat as they offer many different choices to try besides their high vitamin content. Single fruits salads, veggie sticks, dips, stir-fried veggies are just a few of the many choices you can decide to eat.

• Beans and Legumes

Since the plant eating diet completely lacks any animal protein, beans and legumes can function as good protein replacements. For example, you can eat white beans, kidney beans, peace, and black eyed peace. Lentils, broad bean and other legumes for your daily protein intake.

• Soya Products

Soy is very common in plant eating diets because it is a high protein and very versatile food that is used to make soy milk, yoghurts, cheese and other soy products you can use in your main meals like breakfast, salads, sandwiches and desserts.

• Grains

Grains like oatmeal, bread and pastas are great source of carb and fiber which helps in digestion and keeps you feel fuller for longer. However it’s advisable to go for whole wheat grains and not refined ones as they are the healthiest and contain most nutrients.

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Other foods that you can incorporate in your diet to boost your energy and nutrition intake are nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, pecans and sprouts.

A vitamin that many plant-eaters tend to lack is B12.It is mostly found in animal protein sources so when people take a full plant-eating diet, the levels of this vitamin will drop. However, you can take it by consuming fermented and fortified foods or diet supplements that contain b12.

Benefits of Being Vegan

The benefits associated with this diet include cutting off animal fats. Animal fats have been linked to a variety of sicknesses and other conditions including diabetes, arthritis, heart complications and various types of cancers. By cutting animal foods from the diet, the risk of one contacting such ailments is highly reduced. Fats extracted from plants such as olive oil on the other hand provide the required fatty acids without causing any health concerns.

Plant diet has been proved to lower the risk of cancer. It consists of greens, fruits, fiber and vitamin c which are believed to protect against cancers like colorectal and prostate.

Another benefit associated with plant-based diet is healthy bones. Bones require magnesium, potassium and vitamins D and Calcium is as well an important mineral for bones and teeth. Spinach, figs, black eyed peace and kales are a great source of calcium. Their alternative milk are also becoming widely available such as almond milk, soy milk and even soy cheese.

As a result of fewer calories contained in their diet, they lower the risk of contracting heart ailments unlike those on a normal diet. This highly lowers body mass index and reduces the risk of one contacting diabetes. A lower body mass index lowers the general concentration of LDL cholesterol and reduces blood pressure as compared to those who consume dairy products. They also have a lower risk of deaths associated with heart ailments and stroke as compared to those who consume meat.

Plant-eating diet offers protection against chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The bioactive compound found in plant foods are capable of controlling biological factors which can work against the genetic factors associated with some chronic diseases.

Vegan Deficiencies

A plant-eating diet is healthy but comes along with some nutrition deficiencies. A person who is considering to start the full diet is advised to stop consuming animal products slowly. Many nutrients lack in plant-based diet which are critical to a person’s general health. As you take your transition to the diet, consider the following deficiencies in diet.

• Vitamin B12

This vitamin is created by a bacteria that is mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. Also known as cobalamin, this is a nutrient that is not found in a plant-eating diet. The vitamin is crucial in nerve protection and red blood cells, and specific types are only available in animal products. A deficiency in cobalamin leads to a condition known as pernicious anemia. However, cobalamin fortified plant like soy, cereals and seaweed can replace lost consumption. You can also opt to take supplements.

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• Zinc

Zinc supports our immune system and contributes largely in protein and DNA synthesis. Low intake of zinc can lead to loss of hair, delay in sexual maturity in children, weak immune system and dermatitis among other conditions. Soy products, legumes and whole grains are rich in zinc. It is important however to note that these plants contain phytic acid that can most likely hinder the absorption of zinc. However one can reduce the level of this acid by soaking the grains before cooking. You can as well consider taking zinc supplements to boost the intake.

• Iron

It is important to get enough iron in your body to ensure that your hemoglobin level is within the normal range. If your cells do not get sufficient oxygen, they are incapable of functioning properly. The two types of iron are known as heme and non-heme. The former is the most available iron for our bodies and is found only in meat. The latter is not easily absorbed and is found in eggs, diary and plant foods. Plant eaters are able to only get non-heme iron. Iron enhances absorption of oxygen into the blood and transporting it to other cells in the body. One can get iron from dried beans and dark greens. You can also use cast iron skillet in preparation of meals for absorption of more iron into the food.

• Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The diet is deficient in two omega 3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaeoic acids. Omega 3 fatty acids like fish oil are vital for the general health of the heart, eyes and brain functioning. EPA cannot be obtained from the diet, DHA and ALA can be obtained from walnuts, ground flax seed and soy products among others. Fish oil supplements can also be consumed to boost the level of Omega 3 fatty acids. If your diet however consists of pumpkin, soy and flax seeds, your body will get sufficient omega 3 fatty acids called alphs-linolenic acid, which is later converted by your body to the other two forms. Pregnant women on this diet should consult their health providers to ensure that they obtain sufficient omega 3 during the pregnancy.

• Calories.

A plant-eating diet highly reduced the intake of calories. While too much calories can lead to overweight problems such as diabetes, too low intake can also lead to underweight disorders. Anyone considering to go on the diet must be ready to supplement it with calories.

• Vitamin D

This is the sunshine vitamin. Vegan diet has insufficient vitamin D as well. It protects against some cancers and other chronic diseases, and help to strengthen teeth and bones. This diet has insufficient vitamin D as well. Some great sources of vitamin D as a plant eater include mushrooms that have has exposure to ultra violet light. Consuming more foods with vitamin D and sun basking can boost its levels. However, one can still get adequate vitamin D from available supplements.

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• Calcium

Our bodies consist of one or two percent of calcium. It is an essential mineral not only for our bone density but also for muscles to function efficiently, secretion of hormones and transmission of nerves. Calcium that is extracted from plants is not well absorbed into the body leading to deficiency. With time, low calcium intake increases your risk for weak bones and osteoporosis. If we do not consume enough amounts of calcium, our bodies are forced to absorb it from our bones. It is vital for the development and general health of the bones. You can eat more greens to boost your calcium intake. Also you can take calcium supplements in case it is not adequate in your diet. A daily calcium supplement is recommended mostly in children and women.

• Creatine and Carnosine

Creatine is a molecule that is found in animal foods. It is a substance found in muscle cells. It assists the muscles in producing energy when lifting objects or during exercises. Athletes and body builders occasionally take it as a supplement to get more energy. Creatine is so similar to amino acids. Plant eaters have a low amount of it in their diet and for this reason they use supplements. The body can naturally produce it from arginine and amino acids glycerin.

Carnosine is an antioxidant that is found in the brain muscles. It is critical for functioning of muscles.it is however only found in animal products. It is however not essential since it can be formed by the body from beta-alanine and amino acids. Meat and fish are the major sources of Carnosine. They have less of it in their muscles as compared to meat eaters. Most of them use Vegan beta-alanine supplements to boost its level.

In conclusion, it is advisable to limit the quantity of processed red meat in our diet. People should be encouraged to replace meat with other healthy greens. Everybody cannot become a vegan though clear warnings have been given about meat and cancer. Processed meat and red meat cause cancer and it does not contain any nutritional value that you cannot find in healthy foods. Meat also contains little carbohydrate and no fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels and protects against heart diseases and bowel cancer. Health organizations as well recommend consuming less saturated fat available in meat and dairy foods and instead consume more unsaturated fats found in avocadoes, nuts and seeds. A number of people also consume more protein than they need. This is harmful. You can consume enough proteins in a plant-eating diet which makes it easily to achieve the required level of protein. On the other hand, the diet has a drawback of lacking main nutrients. Therefore, plant eaters are advised to build a diet composed of all important nutrients. They should eat a variety of foods, including fruits, wholegrain, greens and fats.

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