What does it mean to be Vegan?

If you’re trying to understand what diet helps you best, it’s important to first identify your end goal: Do you want to be healthy? Do you want to be muscular? Do you want to be skinny? Do you want better skin? Once you can identify what your end goal end, finding a diet that works for you isn’t challenging at all. For those contemplating going vegan, here are some important facts to keep in mind.

What does it mean to be vegan?

A vegan diet eliminates any food that might have come directly or indirectly from an animal. This means no meat, dairy, eggs and in some cases even honey. Vegan bakers substitute animal milk with nut milk or soy milk and animal gelatin with agar agar (make sure to check the gelling agent used when purchasing prepackaged cake mixes or icing).

How does one make the shift?

Vegan diets deprive the body of certain vitamins, proteins and nutrients because they exist in natural form only in animals. Therefore, you will need to take certain precautionary measures to ensure your body stays in equilibrium.

  • Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids supplements must be added to your diet. While Vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in animal products, flaxseeds are a great alternative source of omega-3 fatty acids. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are easily available at all drug stores.
  • You must increase your iron intake either through supplements or by adding more food items that are rich in iron, e.g., legumes, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, vitamin C rich foods, etc.
  • Depending upon your lifestyle and physical activity levels , you might need to take protein supplements to help with muscle regeneration. Best vegan sources of protein include soy, quinoa, beans, lentils, seitan, etc.
  • While soy is a great substitute in vegan diets, too much of soy can be bad for you. You must make sure to measure and limit your intake of soy products. Opt for food items that have soy naturally present in them like edamame beans, miso, tempeh, tofu, etc. instead of mock meats, canned food and prepackaged meals.

What are the benefits of going Vegan?

Vegan diets are relatively simple to adopt, light on the pocket and not restrictive in anyway. Most grocery stores across the world stalk vegan alternatives, making cooking or even re-heating (packaged meals) fairly simple.

Going vegan automatically reduces one’s intake of processed foods and saturated fats, thereby aiding weight-loss. An increased intake of natural products like fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains improves your digestive system which in turn is likely to give you better skin and make you more energetic.

Is it worth the fuss?

Restricting meat intake is definitely a step towards a healthier and fitter life. Many ethnic communities in India have been following vegan diets for generations and have lived healthy fulfilling lives. However, the complete elimination of any food group is bound to have a counter effect on your body, especially so when you have consumed it in the past.

Therefore, to ensure you can maximise the benefits of a vegan diet, it is best to follow it under the guidance of a nutritionist and be cognisant of how your body is reacting to the changes. Every body is unique and so what might seem like an ideal diet for your favourite pop star may not be best for you.

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