If you are considering changing the meat and cheese of your diet for vegetarian burgers and broccoli, you're not alone at all. Nearly 23 million Americans consume diets with a vegetarian tendency, according to a study conducted by Vegetarian Research Group in 2012 and more than 7 million can be called vegetarians. A million more have gone a step further and have become vegan, meaning that they reject all food (and products for the home) derived from animals.
The vegan lifestyle attracts me for the triple benefit it offers: it is excellent for my health, it promotes compassion for animals and does not mean such a big burden for the precious resources of our planet as a meat diet.
Dina Aronson, registered nutritionist of Montclair, New Jersey and vegan.
Unlike vegetarians, who normally consume some animal products such as cow's milk, eggs or honey and also use animal objects such as leather, beeswax and certain household cleaners, Vegans do not use any of these products. What is left? The plants.
"The vegan lifestyle appeals to me because of the triple benefit it offers," says Dina Aronson, a registered nutritionist in Montclair, New Jersey and a longtime vegan. "It's great for my health, it promotes compassion for animals and does not mean such a large burden for the precious resources of our planet as a meat diet. "
This "triple benefit" mentioned by Aronson, co-author of "Minerals from Plant Foods: Strategies for Maximizing Nutrition", includes the main motivators behind the plant-based regime: objection to killing and consumption of animals based on belief that such practices are not necessary for human survival and disapproval of the treatment of intensively reared animals, which are normally enclosed in small, dirty spaces.
You are also likely to want to leave a lesser ecological footprint. A study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2006 showed that a diet loaded with animal products generates 1. 5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet, which also uses less water and land than production. of food of animal origin.
More plants, more health
The possible benefits of veganism are broad. Research published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2009 related to vegetable-based diets with lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, leaner body mass (compared to diets made up of animal products) and lower overall risk of suffering from cancer and chronic diseases.
"Only one diet has managed to reverse heart disease by opening the arteries without drugs and without surgery," says Dr. Michael Greger, a clinical nutrition professional in Gaithersburg, Md. "Only vegan diets have proven to be able to reverse the main killer of men and women in the United States. "
A healthy vegan diet provides plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants that help fight disease and fiber, a non-digestible carbohydrate that promotes satiety, glycemic control, digestive wellness and heart health. One cup of cooked beans or lentils provides approximately 15 to 16 grams of fiber, which meets half of the recommended daily requirements of 25 to 38 grams. On the contrary, a grilled chicken breast sandwich on a bread made with refined flour provides less than a gram of fiber.
Most plants are also naturally free of cholesterol and virtually lack saturated fats that could clog the arteries. Beans and lentils, for example, are rich in protein and have no saturated fat or cholesterol, which makes them ideal staple foods for the vegan diet, according to Greger.
Does not exceed risks
Like any lifestyle, a poorly planned vegan diet may lack important nutrients. Consuming mainly rice, mixed vegetables and vegan ice cream, for example, does not provide the high protein content of legumes and the calcium available in green leafy vegetables, such as kale.
"A healthy vegan diet is based primarily on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains," says Aronson. "Foods like vegan energy bars, soy sausages and vegan coconut ice cream have their place, but as in any diet, meals for special occasions should be consumed in moderation. "
Vegetables, fruits and whole grains are relatively low in calories and at the same time produce satiety. Poorly planned vegan diets, therefore, could be low in calories and nutrients, particularly if you consume 100% of raw foods, says Aronson.
A lack of calories and nutrients can bring complications such as fatigue, headaches, confusion and a slow metabolism. If you have difficulty obtaining the necessary nutrients from food (which are the best source of nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic) consult your doctor or nutritionist about the possibility of needing dietary supplements.
"Another challenge that arises is when people forget that plant foods should be tasted, accepted and experimented with," says Aronson. "A vegan diet is a joy, not a punishment, and should include Delicious and tasty dishes The idea that a vegan diet consists of a pile of steamed, steamed vegetables accompanied by boiled legumes and brown rice is simply wrong. "
A Healthy Transition
Six Vegan Superfoods
While variety and balance are the pillars of a healthy diet, emphasizing particularly on the nutritional elements can greatly help you meet your wellness needs.
Vegetables with dark green leaves. Both cooked and raw, green vegetables are full of good bone nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin K. "Surprisingly, consumed in large quantities also provide small but important amounts of protein and omega fatty acids -3 ", says registered nutritionist Dina Aronson of Montclair, New Jersey." They also have large amounts of fiber and antioxidants. "
Legumes. Beans, lentils and peas are plants that come from a pod and are of a unique class characterized by their high content of proteins, fibers and antioxidants. Dr. Michael Greger, a physician from Gaithersburg, Maryland calls legumes "the protein superstars of the plant kingdom."
Berries. The richest sources of fiber among fruits, berries (like most colorful agricultural products) provide antioxidants that stimulate the immune system. Most Americans do not meet daily fruit requirements, which is a minimum of 2 cups, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2010.
Nuts and seeds. Important sources of healthy fats and antioxidants, such as vitamin E, nuts and seeds also contain protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Aronson recommends emphasizing varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax and chia seeds and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and promote proper brain function and heart health.
Peppers, carrots and tomatoes. These foods are as nutritious as they are colorful, according to Greger. Consuming fruits and vegetables of various colors routinely helps obtain a wide range of nutrients, since each one provides its own combination.
Quinoa. The seed produced by quinoa is an important source of protein and is also rich in fibers. It also provides all the essential amino acids (lean tissue blocks that support brain function) and improves blood sugar and helps control appetite.