healthy nutrition

Vegan Diet: What It Is, What Its Benefits And Everything You Should Know!

Vegan bratwurst, meat loaf or even steaks – the range of animal-free products and foods on the market is becoming ever larger and more diverse. According to the latest statistics from the “Vegetarian Association of Germany”, around 1 million German citizens have a purely plant-based diet. However, for some people this is not just a diet, but more of a lifestyle. They do not use care products that contain ingredients of animal origin or only buy vegan clothing. When it comes to whether the vegan diet is healthy, opinions often differ. But that’s what we’re here for – in this article we explain everything you should know about the vegan diet. What can we eat, what advantages or disadvantages does it have for our health and much more!

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With the vegan diet, animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy products, gelatine and even honey are not consumed. In principle, a plant-based diet is very rich in fiber, vitamins C and E, magnesium, potassium and many secondary plant substances. Compared to other diets, it contains much less saturated fat and for this reason most vegans tend to be leaner. However, the right planning is essential for a purely plant-based diet. If you do not eat a healthy and balanced diet, the risk of certain nutrient deficiencies is significantly higher. Therefore, all vegans should make sure that they eat a nutritious diet or take appropriate supplements in the form of tablets. Vitamins B12 and D, omega 3 fatty acids and calcium are of particular importance.

Vegan Diet – Which foods are allowed?

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Many people think that vegans only eat salad and fruit. But that’s not true at all – the choice of food is incredibly diverse. Below is an overview of what you can eat on a vegan diet.

  • Tofu, sides and tempeh are included in many vegan recipes and are an excellent protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
  • Legumes – Foods like chickpeas, beans, lentils, and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients.
  • Nuts and Nut Butter – Raw nuts and nut butters in organic quality are particularly rich in fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin E..
  • Seeds – Hemp, chia and flaxseed in particular contain large amounts of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

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  • Fortified with calcium Vegetable milk and yogurt help vegans meet recommended dietary calcium intake. Opt for varieties that are also enriched with vitamins B12 and D if possible.
  • Nutritional yeast is very rich in protein and gives dishes an interesting cheesy taste.
  • Whole grains and cereals such as spelled, rice, quinoa, and amaranth are great sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, and various minerals.
  • Fermented foods – Tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, cucumber, kimchi and kombucha contain probiotics and vitamin K2.

For which products is it advisable to read the food labels??

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Manufacturers are not obliged to label all products that have been used in food production. In other words – animal ingredients that have been used for a short time are not always indicated on the packaging. While cheese and milk are clearly not vegan, there are also products that you should be careful about.

  • Certain breads: With some types of bread, the baking ferment is sometimes mixed with honey and in softer types such as brioche there may be eggs and milk. To save money, some cheap bakeries use L-cysteine ​​(E920), which is made from pork bristles. If in doubt, we recommend that you ask about the ingredients.
  • Fried foods such as onion rings are mostly fried in an egg batter or in animal fat.
  • Spices, dressings and sauces from the supermarket – Especially when buying pesto, you should check that it doesn’t happen to contain cheese.

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  • Gummy candies, marshmallows and muesli – These delicious sweets almost always contain gelatin, which is extracted from the bones and skin of pigs or cattle.
  • Roasted, Salted Nuts – Gelatine is also used here so that the salt sticks to the nuts.
  • Certain alcohols – With clear schnapps and beer that was brewed according to the German purity law, you don’t have to worry. However, you have to take a closer look at wine and foreign beers, for which animal clarifiers are sometimes used. This can be either gelatine or fish bladder, also known as isinglass.
  • Fruit juices from the store are unfortunately often clarified with gelatin.

Is the vegan diet healthy??

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The fact that the vegan diet brings benefits has been confirmed and proven several times by various scientific studies. And not only that – by switching to a wholesome and balanced plant-based diet, some chronic diseases can be stopped or even completely reversed. The vegan diet significantly reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, migraines, certain types of cancer and other serious diseases.

  • Vegan diet for type 2 diabetes – Diabetes is the most common disease in the world. Vegans generally lead healthier lifestyles than meat eaters. Animal foods contain harmful compounds that can trigger inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition, the saturated fatty acids in meat and dairy products have a negative effect on insulin levels. According to the “China Study” – one of the largest studies on the vegan diet – the risk of type 2 diabetes increases significantly through the consumption of animal products. The people who ate less meat during the study were able to reduce the risk of diabetes by as much as 38% and those who did not eat it by 51%. Those who started a plant-based diet have decreased their chances of developing it by 78%. It has even been proven that a vegan diet is much more effective in treating diabetes than the diets of the “German Diabetes Society”. The plant-based diet is very rich in fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which ensure lower blood sugar levels. For this reason, this form of nutrition is not only suitable for prevention, but also for treating diabetes.

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  • Lower cancer risk – Cancer has been linked to animal products several times. The vegan diet consists of higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fiber and vitamin C, which protect against a variety of cancers. A study funded by the National Cancer Institute found that vegans have a 16% lower risk of cancer. The risk of some types of cancer specific to women, such as ovarian cancer and breast cancer, is even 34% lower. Another study found that vegans who started eating a serving of chicken once a week tripled their risk of colon cancer.
  • Vegan diet for high blood pressure – Hypertension is primarily associated with the way we live and eat, and it harbors many health risks. The main risk factors are tobacco, alcohol and saturated fatty acids. In addition to the excessive consumption of red meat, the high consumption of products containing sodium, salt and cholesterol also leads to increased blood pressure. Ready meals such as cheese, sausage and meat products are often very fatty and salty. On the other hand, foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium have a positive effect on blood pressure. Nuts, spinach, fennel, kale and most types of fruit are perfect for this.

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  • Healthy heart through vegan diet – A high consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grain products and nuts reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by around 40%. A study conducted in the US found that men who consume meat every day had their risk increased by 27% and women – by as much as 50%. But not only meat, but also the increased consumption of dairy products and eggs can lead to heart failure.
  • Prevention and treatment of kidney disease – High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes can often lead to kidney failure. A high intake of animal proteins and fats can have a negative effect on existing kidney diseases. It has been scientifically proven several times that reducing protein consumption delays the progression of kidney disease. The vegan diet has a positive effect on the cholesterol level, blood pressure and fatty acid metabolism, which in turn significantly reduces the risk of kidney failure.

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  • Vegan diet for weight loss – According to the latest statistics, 66% of men and 52% of women in Germany struggle with being overweight. One of the reasons the plant-based diet has become so popular is that it is an easy and healthy way to lose weight. Many studies show that vegans have a lower BMI index compared to meat eaters. The BMI (Body Mass Index) determines whether you are overweight or underweight. A higher BMI is mostly associated with an excessive consumption of animal fats and proteins. A purely plant-based diet provides the body with a lot of fiber and complex carbohydrates, which ensure a longer feeling of satiety.
  • Strengthens the immune system – A healthy and balanced diet, physical activity and adequate sleep are very important for a strong immune system. In particular, the secondary plant substances and vitamins, which are contained in most types of fruit and vegetables, help keep our body healthy. Whole grain products also have a positive effect on the immune system.

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  • Longer life expectancy –  Researchers at the “Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health “found that a balanced vegan diet leads to a longer life expectancy. They came to this conclusion after analyzing the eating habits of around 80,000 people over a period of 12 years.
  • Fight migraines and headaches with the vegan diet – Stress, weather changes, new medication or diet – these are the most common reasons for migraines or headaches. While foods like cheese, chocolate, alcohol, cow’s milk, and processed meat can worsen symptoms, a purely plant-based diet always has a positive effect.

What do the studies say about the plant-based diet?

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The two largest and most important studies that have dealt with the benefits of the vegan diet are the “EPIC-Oxford Study” from England and the “Adventist Health Study 2” (AHS-2) from the USA. Both are prospective cohort studies in which large numbers of vegans and meat eaters have been observed over many years. About 100,000 people took part in the AHS-2 study. About 5000 vegans were compared with 4 other groups: meat eaters, semi-vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians and ovo-lacto-vegetarians. The following are the results of the two studies so far:

  • Vegans have a 42% lower risk of heart disease compared to the rest of the population.
  • The BMI index, the risk of type 2 diabetes and the blood values ​​were the lowest among vegans.
  • The death rate among vegans is 35% lower than among meat eaters.
  • Vegans have a 50% lower risk of high blood pressure.
  • Vegans are 16% less likely to develop cancer.
  • Vegans who consumed less than 525 mg of calcium per day were at an increased risk of breaking bones.
  • 52% of vegans had a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Successful prevention of vitamin B12 deficiency

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While the vegan diet is rich in a lot of vitamins and minerals, all vegans should pay particular attention to the adequate intake of vitamin B12. According to a German study, 86% of the examined vegans were affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency. The reason for this is that the vitamin is mostly found in animal foods and herbal products are not a safe source for it. The deficiency can lead to anemia, nerve damage and other serious illnesses. Although there are some vegan foods that contain traces of vitamin B12, the levels are too low to meet your daily requirement. With a plant-based diet, vitamin intake through certain preparations is an absolute must.

And what about the iron?

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When it comes to a vegan diet, it is often not only about vitamin B12 that is discussed, but also about other essential minerals such as iron, iodine and zinc. Iron is the central component of hemoglobin and is responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. Fortunately, there are many herbal alternatives that are high in iron that can cover the recommended levels.

  • legumes
  • nuts
  • Dried fruits like dates, peaches and apricots
  • Grains – brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, amaranth, millet and spelled
  • Whole grain bread
  • Vegetables – broccoli, zucchini, arugula, endive, raw fennel, and lamb’s lettuce

Plant-based nutrition and omega-3 fatty acids

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Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish such as salmon. They play a big role in a healthy heart and heart and brain function. The EPA and DHA levels in the blood tend to be lower in people who eat plant-based foods. Fortunately, there are also enough vegan alternatives to supply the body with the essential omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Walnuts and flax seeds
  • Soy-based foods like tofu
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Fish oil supplements in pill form

Prevent iodine deficiency

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Whether vegan or omnivore – in Germany around 30% of the population suffer from an iodine deficiency. And here, too, fish and seafood are the foods that have a high iodine content. Nevertheless, there are good vegan alternatives.

  • use iodized table salt – With just 5 grams of iodized table salt, you already cover half of your daily requirement.
  • seaweed such as nori, aramae or wakame are excellent natural sources of iodine.
  • Other foods that also contain a little iodine include broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds. However, you have to eat very large amounts of it for a sufficient supply.

Vegan nutrition – benefits for the environment and our planet

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Veganism is no longer just about diet. More and more people see it as a lifestyle and only use cosmetics without animal testing, resort to clothing and shoes made of artificial leather and avoid animal wool. One of the main reasons for this is that the vegan diet protects our environment.

  • CO2 footprint – According to the United Nation, meat and dairy products are responsible for around 15% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That roughly corresponds to the emissions of all forms of transport on the planet – all planes, cars, trains, buses and even ships put together. Researchers at the University of Oxford came to the conclusion that not eating food of animal origin can reduce the carbon footprint of a single person by up to 70%.
  • Go vegan for the animals – It is actually clear that a plant-based diet saves animals. But did you know that every vegan saves around 200 animals a year? Currently, more than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour. But even the production of milk and eggs cannot do without killing animals. For example, all male chicks are sorted out immediately after hatching and either gassed or thrown into a shredder.

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  • Water consumption – Animal farming is one of the largest consumers of water in the world. It consumes between 120 and 180 billion liters annually, which is around 90% of all water consumption in the United States. About 15,000 liters of water are needed to produce just 1 kilo of beef. For 1 kilo of potatoes, on the other hand, only 100 liters are necessary.
  • Global food supply – Enough food is currently grown to feed around 10 billion people, but on average 10% of the world’s population is malnourished – in some areas that figure exceeds 50%. How come? More than 60% of the world’s grain is used as feed for farm animals.

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