Published February 21, 2012
Those following a vegan diet do not eat animal products. In addition to meat and fowl, vegans do not eat eggs, dairy and honey. Some people may choose to become vegan for health, cultural, religious or ethical reasons.
Becoming a vegan can be a giant lifestyle change. How strict and dedicated you want to be is up to you. Your body may need time to adjust to your new way of eating, so it is best to ease into veganism. Try out different vegan recipes to find what you like. Learn how to read labels and recognize common additives and ingredients, like gelatin, that are made from animals. Here are some pros and cons of adopting a vegan diet:
Veganism may reduce your risk of some diseases. According to the American Dietetic Association, appropriately planned and nutritionally suitable vegan diets may lower your risk of certain diseases. It is common for vegans to have lower BMIs than non-vegetarians, which lowers the risk of heart disease and other obesity-related conditions. Vegans have been found to have a lower rate of hypertension than other kinds of vegetarians, and soy-based vegan diets may slow the progression of kidney disease. However, switching to a vegan lifestyle does not guarantee that you will lose weight.
Going vegan also helps save animals and the environment. Animal abuse and animal rights are motivations for becoming a vegan. Some believe that livestock farming and animal agriculture has a negative effect on the Earth and has been linked to river and groundwater pollution, greenhouse gas production and acid rain.
Vegans need to make a conscious effort to eat the right quantity and combinations of food to get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Cutting out dairy may result in lower calcium intake, which may put you at risk for bone fractures. Turn to dark green vegetables like kale and broccoli, as well as calcium-fortified soy products and juices. Iodine is an essential nutrient found naturally in sea food and dairy that is important for proper thyroid function. Vegans can use a little salt with iodine on their food or when they cook.
The body does not absorb iron from plants as well as it does with iron from animal products. Vegans should eat iron-rich plant foods paired with vitamin C to improve iron absorption. Vegan sources of zinc and magnesium include whole grains, soy products, nuts and legumes. You may need to take vitamin supplements or find specific vitamin fortified foods to make sure you are getting enough vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a key component of good health, are found in eggs and fish, so look into taking supplements to receive the nutritional benefits.