Written by Lisa Malin
What is the Vegan Diet? The vegan diet is a 100% plant-based diet that includes only plant foods and foods made from plants.
What’s on the menu? Fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains and whole grain products including bread and pasta, dairy alternatives, and vegetable oils.
What’s off the menu? All animal products: This includes red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, and even honey. This also includes any products or foods made with these ingredients.
What are the benefits? Studies show that a well-planned whole food, vegan diet can be highly nutritious and reduce the risk of inflammation, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Naturally high in fiber and polyphenols, a whole-food, vegan diet promoted strong immune system, gut health and digestion.
What are the downsides? The Vegan Diet is restrictive and can be hard to sustain long-term. A poorly planned vegan diet, which includes lots of processed foods, can lead to nutritional deficiencies in many key vitamins and minerals. It is important for vegans to consume enough iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essentials to maintain a healthy body. The diet can be a hard one to follow on the road or when you eat out, leading to less nutritious choices and more processed foods.
The Bottom Line
When followed correctly, a vegan diet can be highly nutritious, satisfying and lead to strong health outcomes. Prioritizing whole plant foods and strictly limiting processed, packaged foods, added sugars and oils is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
That said, adding mindful amounts of lean meat, fish, and eggs to your plate from time to time can make this diet easier to follow and still allow you to gain the incredible health benefits associated with increasing the proportion of plants on your plate. Unless you follow a vegan diet for ethical, philosophical, spiritual, or religious reasons, you do not need to be 100% plant-based, 100% of the time to enjoy the many rewards a plant-based lifestyle has to offer.