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The Benefits of Veganism and the Nutrients to be Mindful of

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Veganism isn’t a new fad diet. It’s been around for decades. But, it has been receiving some much-needed attention lately. Let’s learn more about it in the following sections.

What is Veganism?

Veganism is presently defined as a practice or way of living which advocates minimises or removes all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation. People who follow this way of life are called vegans. Unlike vegetarians, vegans opt not to consume eggs, dairy or any other products (like clothing) derived from animals, in addition to not consuming meat.

Why follow a Vegan Diet?

People follow a vegan diet for different reasons. Below are some of them:

  1. Some people choose it for ethical reasons. Animals have a right to live and should have freedom from any form of cruelty.

  2. Some do it for the environment. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), animal agriculture is the leading culprit of climate change. Animal agriculture contributes greatly to nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide emissions. All of which are bad for the environment.

  3. Some children inherit veganism as a way of life from their vegan parents. They were brought up that way.

  4. Some are allergic to meat.

  5. Some people prefer the taste of plants compared to animal products.

  6. For health reasons.

The Importance of a Well-Balanced Vegan Diet

As a vegan, you’ll be staying away from all animal-derived foods. It’s essential that you have a well-balanced vegan diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies which can affect your health in the long run.

A well-balanced vegan diet serves to PREVENT the following:

  • A diet LOW in EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA stand for eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid respectively.

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Zinc deficiency

These two tables highlight foods and nutrients to incorporate into your vegan diet.

Eat more of these foods:

FoodComments and Examples
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Super seeds like hemp, flax, and chia, but the fatty acid present in these is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which has to be converted to DHA and EPA in the body.

A vegan DHA and EPA supplement from algal sources may be more convenient.

Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful to balance omega-6 fatty acids. Too much omega-6 has a proinflammatory effect on the body.

Seaweed is a natural and rich source of iodine. Other nutrients provided by seaweed include omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and phytonutrients.
Whole foodsA significant number of vegan foods are processed and marketed as healthy. Unfortunately, several additives and preservatives are incorporated. Aim for whole foods, particularly those which are homemade and free from additives like sugar. Take care with processed vegan foods such as vegan ‘bacon’ and textured vegetable protein (TVPs); always read the ingredients to look for additives.

Almonds, broccoli, buckwheat, sesame seeds, tahini, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, molasses, turnips.
Choline-rich foods

Choose from quinoa, lecithin, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower), nuts, seeds and whole grains.
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Include these nutrients in your diet:

Protein powder
A vegan protein powder can guarantee that you get all 20 amino acids (including the 8 essential ones) in adequate amounts.

Food sources: Beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, seed butter, chickpeas (yummy), quinoa, chia seeds, lentils, seaweed, sacha inchi (mountain peanuts), and nutritional yeast.

Vitamin B12Methylcobalamin is the activated form of vitamin B12. The sublingual form of this supplement is the most absorbable form.
ZincMake sure zinc is available by increasing your intake through diet or supplementation. Pumpkins seeds are especially rich in zinc.
­IronIron supplementation provides additional non-heme (plant) sources of iron for vegans who do not get enough from their diet. Get your doctor to test your levels first to check if you are low.
Vitamin D3Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the most active (therefore useful) form of this vitamin. Try lichen-based vegan vitamin D3 supplements, especially if you’re not having regular sun exposure.
IodineIodised salt contains some, as do sea vegetables. But supplementing with extra ensures that your body gets adequate iodine.
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The Verdict

A vegan way of life may be hard for some people to embrace. Rest assured, it’s a fulfilling, healthy, and fun-filled one when followed correctly. Use the supplements and foods we suggested to make sure all your bases are covered.

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