A vegan diet consists of foods that are sourced from plants such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. It also includes foods that are made from plants.
Vegans do not eat any food that is sourced from animals including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey and gelatin. It can be a more restrictive diet than a vegetarian diet as so many common foods are excluded. Eating a purely plant-based diet has some challenges with regard to ensuring that the diet is healthy and contains all of the necessary nutrients required for a healthy body.
It is perfectly possible to eat healthily as a vegan and with some careful planning, a vegan diet can be very healthy. Around 3% of people follow a vegan diet and it has become more popular over recent years. Most vegans choose a vegan diet as they are against harming animals. They will choose not to use any animal products such as leather. Other people are beginning to see the health benefits of a vegan diet or want to protect the environment from the harm that is considered to be caused by animal farming.
If you are thinking about following a vegan diet you may wish to consider following one of our vegan meal plans featured on meal plan Abu Dhabi, or vegan meal plan Dubai to get you started and explore the different food suggestions. Using a healthy meal plan or a home food delivery service can help you to include all the whole foods that are essential on a vegan meal plan.
What can you Eat on a Vegan Diet?
There are plenty of healthy whole foods that are plant-based and can be enjoyed on a vegan diet.
- Nuts and Seeds
- Legumes e.g. peas, beans and lentils
- Grains e.g. Breads, rice, pasta, quinoa and oats
- Dairy alternatives e.g. soy milk coconut milk, almond milk and oat milk
- Vegetable oils e.g. olive, sunflower, coconut, rapeseed.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Studies show that there are many health benefits from following a vegan diet.
- Better Heart Health – Vegans have a reduced risk of developing heart disease.
- Weight Control – Vegans have a greater chance of having a healthy weight and are at less risk of getting obese.
- Cholesterol and blood pressure – Vegans have less chance of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Diabetes – Vegans have a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Cancer – Vegans have a reduced risk of developing some cancers such as cancers of the GI tract and breast and womb cancer.
- Life Span – Research shows that vegans may live for longer.
These benefits will only apply if a healthy vegan meal plan is followed where they control their weight and have a healthy BMI (Body Max Index). Vegan meal plans are often full of good nutrients from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. All these foods are rich in fibre and antioxidants which protect against diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Challenges of a Vegan Diet
It is possible to get all of your nutrients on a well planned vegan diet but you need to ensure that you get enough calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
Vegan sources of Calcium
Calcium is required by the body for healthy bones and teeth. Non-vegans generally get their calcium from dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt), but as these are from an animal source you will need to use alternative products.
Vegans can get calcium from the following foods:
- green leafy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage.
- sesame seeds
- dried fruits such as raisins, figs and apricots.
Vegan sources of iron
The body needs iron for the production of red blood cells. A vegan diet can be high in iron, but iron from plant-based food is not absorbed as well as iron from meat.
Good sources of iron for vegans are:
- pulses e.g. chickpeas and lentils
- wholemeal grains e.g. wholemeal bread and flour
- fortified breakfast cereals
- dark green, leafy vegetables e.g. watercress, broccoli and spring greens
- dried fruits e.g. apricots, prunes and figs
Vegan sources of vitamin B12
The body needs vitamin B12 for a healthy blood and nervous system. Many people get vitamin B12 from animal sources e.g. meat, fish and dairy products.
Sources for vegans are limited but can be found in:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified soya drinks
- vitamin B12 supplements