In recent times, we’ve all heard the word veganism being thrown around everywhere. So what is it? Simply put, it is a way of life that actively seeks to avoid the consumption or use of food or products of animal origin.
While it is clear that vegans refrain from meat, fish and poultry, they also do not consume dairy, honey, gelatin whey, fish oil or even plant foods that have any kind of contact or treatment with animal products during their processing.
Although the expression came into existence in the early 40’s, the roots of veganism can be traced back to over 2000 years. In the present world, people choose to be vegans for environmental, spiritual, health or ethical reasons and most people who are vegans feel a deep sense of responsibility to contribute towards the establishment of a more humane and caring world.
Since veganism is directly linked with selective eating and food processing, it is very important for you to understand what you are getting into. In lack of suitable and complete knowledge or guidance, it is likely that you might develop nutrient deficiencies, like that of vitamin B 12 (Vit B12), vitamin D3 (Vit D3) and omega 3 fatty acids, at a later stage. Contrary to the common delusion that vegan diets may cause protein deficiencies, the real problem is that vegans eat too much protein. With a carefully planned and balanced diet, one can easily meet the daily protein requirements from lentils, tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts and different seeds.
If you have decided that you want to go vegan, you’ll have to start by making sure the change is a slow and gradual one. It is important to plan in advance and work towards adding more plant-based foods while cutting on animal foods simultaneously. Keep assessing the progress and your comfort with the changes for a successful and stable transition.
While shifting base from the non-vegetarian or non-dairy vegetarian diets to a vegan diet, you must consider a few important points:
Vitamin B12: This vitamin occurs naturally only in animal foods. Its deficiency causes symptoms like tiredness, constipation, loss of appetite, nerve problems and depression in severe cases. In order to ensure that you have a sufficient dose of this important vitamin, add non-dairy milk and cereals fortified with this vitamin. You may also take vegan B12 tablets to avoid the symptoms.
Omega 3: Upon the lack of practical diet planning, the vegans might have poor omega 3 intake and develop deficient omega 3 levels in their blood. Omega 3 fatty acids are linked to the prevention of heart disease and protect us against depression, ADHD, inflammatory disease and allergies. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil or algae derived omega 3 supplements are best to avoid its deficiency. Other sources are seaweed, beans, mustard oil, chia seeds and Omega 3 supplements.
Vitamin D: Vegans are at a greater risk than vegetarians to develop a Vitamin D deficiency. A lack of this vitamin does not only weaken the bones but also increases the risk of muscle weakness, infertility, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Our body can synthesize Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but in recent times the exposure rate has lowered, mainly for the urban population, due to the increased risk of harmful UV rays exposure. Vegans should, therefore, ensure sufficient Vitamin D intake through supplements like Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 supplements.
It also important to learn to decode food labels and choose the food that is truly suitable to be merged with your vegan diet. Look out for ingredients like casein, whey, gelatin, tallow or suet and carmine, cochineal or cochineal extract, as all these have their roots in dairy or meat.
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