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In the search for a healthier lifestyle, diet is often one of the things that a person changes or makes adjustments to. For some, that means considering vegetarianism as an option. For people who want to eliminate animal-based foods entirely, they may consider going vegan. Veganism is a subset of vegetarianism in which a person does not eat fish, poultry, or meat of any kind, and they also do not eat honey, eggs, or any food item that comes from an animal. Often, people turn to this lifestyle for reasons such as concern for the environment, a desire for a cruelty-free diet, or simply to improve their health. This can be a major alteration in one’s life, which means people should make an informed decision to ensure that it is the right choice for them.
The Importance of Getting All of Your Nutrients
When adopting any type of new diet, getting the proper vitamins and minerals is crucial. For vegans, the primary concerns involve not getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. To ensure that their bodies are getting everything that they need, vegans must make sure that they eat the right foods. For example, eating plenty of high-calcium foods such as broccoli, kale, and other dark, leafy vegetables, tofu, soybeans, and calcium-fortified orange juice can help meet the 700-to-1,000-mg daily requirement. To get omega-3 fatty acids without consuming fish, vegans should eat flax seeds and walnuts. Sunlight is a source of vitamin D that everyone can take advantage of; in addition, vegans may drink fortified orange juice. The daily recommended amount of vitamin D is 600 international units or 15 micrograms for adults 19 to 70 years old. Women need 18 mg of iron, while men need 8 mg. A cup of cooked soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans, or lima beans can help, while eating 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses provides as much as 7 mg of iron. The average recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 for an adult is 2.4 mcg. Soy milk fortified with B12 can help, as will fortified cereals and nutritional yeasts.
The Expense of Going Vegan
Expense is a common concern when considering a vegan diet. Often, people fear that it will be significantly more expensive than buying traditional meat-based foods. In general, a vegan diet is considered to be a moderately priced diet. When compared to purchasing items such as eggs, sweets, white bread, lunch meats, and other processed foods, it can be more expensive to buy specialty foods such as mock meats and soy-based items. Alternately, fruits and vegetables are typically less expensive than cuts of meat such as steak.
It is becoming increasingly easier for vegans to find meals that fit within their dietary guidelines. Most often, restaurants offer guests vegan options on their menus. In some cities, it is possible to find restaurants that cater specifically to vegetarians, including dishes prepared for vegans. Like restaurants, ballparks, arenas, and stadiums often offer vegan foods to people attending sporting events. These dishes may include mock meats and specialty sauces. While eating out is easier, it can be difficult when attending a party or eating dinner at someone’s home. When visiting someone’s home, one can politely ask what is being served. If there are no vegan choices, let the person hosting the party know and offer to bring a vegan dish. The host will either accept the offer or discuss vegan options that they can make. Even if the host offers to make a special vegan dish, bringing a personal favorite is a way to introduce others to the variety of vegan dining.
The Health Pros and Cons of Being Vegan
As with every diet, there are positives and negatives associated with veganism. Saving the lives of animals is on the pro side of veganism. By eating a non-animal diet, animals are spared abuse and inhumane slaughter practices. One of the most positive and compelling reasons to go vegan is the health benefits. These benefits include lower cholesterol and the reduced risk of certain types of diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and hypertension.
When it comes to the negative side of being a vegan, there are several things to consider. If a person has certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis or diabetes, it can be a complication if they are not working with a dietitian who can ensure that they are eating the right foods and getting the nutrition that they need. The lack of certain nutrients may also be considered a negative. Another downside is the lack of choices when eating out. While more restaurants have vegan options, many lack the variety that new vegans are accustomed to. Veganism can also be confusing for some people when they first change their eating habits. They must learn to carefully read labels and understand what items can and cannot be eaten.