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Vegan Lifestyle – What you Need to Know

 Thinking of going vegetarian? It has been suggested that one could reap big health benefits by making the switch to a vegetarian-type lifestyle simply by changing the way they eat on a daily basis and by adopting one of the vegetarian diets as their main source of nutritional intake; one of which is the vegan diet. There are some studies which suggest that vegans may have a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer; however, there are some important things to keep in mind about a vegan lifestyle before you commit to one.

- A vegan diet does not include any foods that come from animals. This means that meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy products are all avoided.

- Vegans are advised to consume 6 servings of grains per day. The best choices are whole grains, such as whole wheat, bulgur, quinoa and teff. Refined white flour does not contain many nutrients and vegans are normally advised to avoid them as much as possible.

- Every day, vegans are advised to consume at least 5 servings of protein. Sources include lentils, beans, tofu, soy, nuts and seeds.

- A healthy diet includes 4 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits per day.  Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is necessary for ensuring good nutrition.

- Healthy fats are necessary for good health, and a vegan diet normally includes two servings of these per day. Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and flax seed oil are the best sources for healthy fats for a vegan diet. Olives and avocados are all sources of healthy fats for vegans.

- Vegans are at risk for some nutritional deficiencies, including low vitamin D, iron, essential fatty acids and vitamin B12. Nutritionists often advise incorporating and adding nutritional supplementation into your diet to help address these and any other potential deficiencies. If you're adopting a vegan diet, you should talk with your doctor about having blood work done regularly to determine if you are lacking in any nutrients.

- There are other forms of vegetarianism to which some people have an easier time adapting. Ovo-lacto vegetarians include dairy products and eggs to their vegetarian diet, while lacto-vegetarian diets include dairy but no eggs. Pesco-vegetarians eat an ovo-lacto diet plus seafood.

- People who follow vegan diets are less likely to become obese than those who don't, but it is possible to be overweight and vegan. Consuming too much fat or not being careful about portion size can lead to weight gain, even if you're eating vegan fare.

There are a number of reasons why people opt for vegetarianism, but before deciding to suddenly switch to a vegan (or any other vegetarian) diet, talk to your doctor and schedule an appointment with a nutritionist. Your physician can tell you whether or not a vegan diet is ideal for your body's unique needs. With the help of a nutritionist, you can develop a healthy eating plan that will allow you to be friendly to animals (if that happens to be your particular reason for adopting this lifestyle, for instance) while ensuring that your body has everything that you need to thrive.


"Could switching to a vegetarian diet cure my diabetes?," Regina M. Castro, MD, Mayo Clinic, accessed August 21, 2013,

"Vegetarian diet: How to get the best nutrition," Mayo Clinic, accessed August 21, 2013,

"Tips for Vegetarians," U.S. Department of Agriculture, accessed August 21, 2013,

"Protein in the Vegan Diet," Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, The Vegetarian Resource Group, accessed August 21, 2013,

"Vegetarian Diets: Build on the Basics!" Scottie Misner, Ph.D. R.D., Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, The University of Arizona, accessed August 21, 2013,

"Being a Vegetarian," Brown University, accessed August 21, 2013,

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