What's This About a Vegan Diet?

Most of us have heard about a vegan diet.  Does it sound kind of “far out” for you?  Some consider it extreme or boring.  Would you consider trying it if you felt it offered you significant benefits?

What is a vegan diet?  It is a diet that is like a vegetarian diet except it excludes any food that sources from an animal.  In addition to avoiding meat (as a vegetarian does), the vegan diet also excludes any dairy product such as milk, cheese or eggs.  Some vegans also exclude honey.  Vegan diets are entirely plant-based.

Anything Left to Eat?

Does that leave you anything to eat?  Yes!  In fact, it leaves you with most foods!  The long list includes fruits, vegetables, beans, including soy, grains, and nuts.  Many processed foods are also vegan.  Examples include some breads and pastas.

We do need to note that not all vegan foods qualify as healthy foods.  Potato chips, French fries, and some cookies are vegan but do not qualify as health foods.  It is possible to adhere to a vegan diet and still eat very unhealthy food!

A sensible vegan diet does provide many health benefits, including: 

1.     Helping to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis.  According to WebMD, the answer is yes.  “Studies suggest that plant-based diets – specifically vegan diets – can help control RA symptoms”.  Study participants also reported less joint swelling and less morning stiffness, too.

2.     Boosting your metabolism.  If you, like me, are on a constant crusade to keep your weight under control, a plant-based diet could become your -based diet best friend, according to an article published in Medical News Today.   “According to the research results, switching to a low fat, plant-based diet could boost the body’s metabolism enough to burn excess weight and fat – even without vigorous exercise.”

3.     Reducing your risk of heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world.  “Groundbreaking research shows that a plant-based diet doesn’t just prevent heart disease but that it can manage and sometimes even reverse it.”  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

4.     Reducing you risk of cancer.  Researchers studied nearly 70,000 volunteers about their diet and tracked them over time.  They discovered that the lowest cancer rates were found among vegans.  Mayo Clinic.

5.     Improving cognitive benefits.  A plant-based diet may prevent or slow the decline in our mental capacities.  Medical News Today.

6.     Enhancing kidney function.  The National Kidney Foundation says eating more plant-based foods in place of animal-based foods …may help prevent and slow the progression of Chronic kidney disease, Type
2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Do any of these benefits sound helpful to you or a friend or loved one?  If so, how might you take a serious look at trying a vegetarian or vegan diet?  Maybe the following suggestions will help.

Ø  Make a list of healthy (remember potato chips don’t count!) vegan or vegetarian foods you enjoy.

Ø  Try starting by eating one vegan (or vegetarian) meal that you enjoy.

After a few days or a week, add a second, similar meal. 

The important thing to remember is to move slowly.  This is not a race.  Try to stay within your comfort level.  Just hear those healthy foods say, “Bite me!”  It’s your life, your pallet.   A major change to your diet can be intimidating so again, go slowly.

The benefits can provide a gratifying and healthful future for you, so please give it your best shot!

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