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What is the Vegan Diet?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A vegan diet is a diet that involves a decision to avoid eating animal products. Although the definition of the vegan style diet is fairly simple, this kind of dietary choice can be complex and difficult in practice. There are also a wide range of types of vegan diets and similar diets.

An individual can choose a vegan style diet for weight loss, or as a result of a personal philosophy. The vegan diet is more restrictive than a vegetarian diet, where participants avoid eating meat. In a vegan type of diet, participants avoid not only meat, but all other animal products including “lacto ovo” (milk and egg) products.

Consumer research shows that many people find the idea of cutting both meat and dairy products to be severely restrictive, and reject this kind of dietary plan based on issues of practicality. Those who actually practice a vegan diet are often very dedicated to restricting their diet in these ways. Food science does show some specific benefits of this type of diet.

A vegan style diet usually reduces the amount of cholesterol that builds up in the body. These diets are often relatively low in fat. In addition, vegans point to meat consumption as a primary factor in many types of degenerative conditions that relate to the buildup of either bacteria or toxins in the body.

In the past, many critics of the vegan diet have asked how this kind of diet can allow for sufficient protein to allow the body to function well. Some nutritionists have come to the aid of vegans, explaining how this kind of diet can provide necessary protein levels. According to these scientists, plant proteins can provide the levels that humans generally need.

There are a number of different groups within the general vegan community. Some practice a raw diet, where foods must be consumed raw without being cooked. Raw food vegans say cooking food leaches out beneficial vitamins and minerals, and that eating raw foods promotes a healthier lifestyle.

A vegan type of diet plan can be helpful in decreasing a person’s weight and leading to healthier eating. It’s important to make sure that any diet contains the full range of nutritional elements that the body needs. Someone who has complications with a vegan diet can consult with their family physician and a trained nutritionist for the best chance at developing a workable personal diet plan.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Dec 27, 2011

@ysmina-- Vegans don't eat fish either. They don't eat anything that is made of or comes from an animal. Fish might not be "meat" but it's still an animal so it's out of the question.

Vegans also don't eat foods like honey, jello or quorn because honey is the product of bees, it's actually the comb where bees live. Jello has gelatin in it which comes from animal fat, so that cannot be eaten either. And quorn has eggs in it.

This doesn't just apply to food either, it also applies to clothes and any household products. For example, leather clothes cannot be worn, emu oil (from the emu bird) cannot be used and so forth.

Vegan is not just a diet, it's a lifestyle where animals are not harmed or abused in anyway.

By fify — On Dec 26, 2011

@MrSmirnov-- You don't need to worry. There is actually plenty of non-meat sources of protein for the vegan diet. Especial beans, lentils, soy beans and nuts are packed with protein and are completely suitable for vegans. I recommend lots of nuts and things like hummus, tofu and soy milk to replace the lost protein from meat sources.

For calcium requirements, carrots, dark green vegetables, sesame (ex: tahini paste) and again soy products have calcium in them. Your daughter might not be able to eat these foods every day, so make sure that she takes a multi-vitamin, a calcium supplement fortified with vitamin D, and also goes for doctor check-ups every six months to check vitamin B12 levels.

I've been a vegan for ten years and this is what I eat and I take my supplements regularly. Once every 2 years, I receive a vitamin B12 infusion and that's it.

By ysmina — On Dec 25, 2011

For the longest time, I thought that vegan and vegetarian was the same thing. Now I think of vegan as a sub-category of vegetarianism because both refuse to eat meat in general. I know there are also vegetarians who don't eat meat but eat eggs and dairy products or who don't eat either but eat fish. I don't know what vegans think about being called vegetarian though.

By the way, do vegans eat fish? Or are there also sub-categories for vegans eating and not eating seafood?

I'm actually having people over for dinner next week and I don't know some of my guests' dietary restrictions. A friend said that a couple of them might be vegan. What kind of food can I serve that's safe for both non-vegans and vegans? I wouldn't want to put any of my guests in a fix by serving things they can't have.

I would love to hear from any vegans out there!

By MrSmirnov — On Dec 25, 2011

My daughter has recently started a vegans diet and I am a bit concerned about the vegan diet nutrition content. Do you know if a vegan diet has calcium in enough quantities to keep a person healthy? Also, does a vegan have protein in their diet?

I was always under the impression that most of our calcium and protein came from animal product sources. Now I am worried my daughter is going to end up with brittle bones and weak muscles. I just can't see cutting out entire food groups to be healthier. As a meat and potatoes guy myself it all seems a bit strange.

By lonelygod — On Dec 24, 2011

@Mae82 - If you are looking for some really great vegan diet recipes I would start buy reading what they have at vegweb online. The site offers peer reviewed recipes so you can get some real feedback about the recipes before you try them.

Another great online source is at savvy vegetarian which has lots of vegan diet information, as well as recipes for vegetarians. I like that the vegan diet nutrition information is easy to find with these sites. Of course there are dozens more, so hopefully you will have no trouble finding all the vegan diet information you are looking for.

By Mae82 — On Dec 24, 2011

Where is the best place to view vegan diet menus and vegan diet recipes for free?

I have been a vegetarian for a few years now and have really seen an improvement in my health. I think I am ready to go the next step and cut out all dairy products as well to see if that further improves the way I feel. While I love cheese I know it is loaded with fat, and I am sure it isn't very good for me. I am hoping that by finding some new and appealing vegan diet meals that I will be able to make the switch to being a vegan without too much trouble.

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