Veganism is "a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose as defined by the Vegan Society". In connection, vegans avoid using products made from animal sources such as fur, leather and wool, in addition to not eating meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or dairy. They even avoid cosmetics and toiletries that are made from animal by-products.
Only few people can stick to this diet because of the extreme commitment and discipline required. For this reason, it is practiced less commonly and by fewer people. A vegan is the term that denotes a person who practices veganism diet.
So if they don't eat any animal products including dairy foods, what are left for them to eat? Basically, they only eat plant-based foods. And they follow this strictly. Any food that creates confusion to vegans, on whether they can eat it or not such as honey, is better off not eaten at all.
Nutritions and Benfits
When it comes to nutrition, a well-planned vegan diet is healthful and nutritionally adequate according to the American Dietetic Association. In fact, vegan diet provides many advantages and health benefits to our body. Since a vegan diet is low in saturated fats, cholesterol and overall fats, but high in fiber, antioxidants and most vitamins and minerals, it can provide prevention and treatment of certain diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. Vegan diet is also linked to lower cataract risk.
However, there are some nutrients that are richly found in meat and other animal products such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, protein, iron, calcium and omega 3 (which is abundant in fish). What vegans commonly do is to find alternative sources that contain these essential nutrients in plant.
Alternative sources are:
- fortified soy products for Vitamin B12
- nuts, legumes, and soy products for Zinc
- fortified foods such as fortified soy milk and cereals for Vitamin D
- legumes, nuts and soy for protein
- soybeans, legumes and chickpeas for Iron
- dark green leafy vegetables for Calcium
- flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soy for omega-3 fatty acids
Getting into a vegan diet can be applied at any age. It is best to talk to a registered dietician especially to those who know very well about vegan diets to get appropriate advice and to know various ways of preparing meals and knowing different plant sources for specific nutrients. As mentioned earlier, this diet needs commitment and discipline. One must have a lifelong goal of sticking to this diet without always having second thoughts.