Vegan diet for beginners: Top benefits, foods list, and sample meal plan

vegan diet for beginners

Are you a vegan diet beginner and have all sorts of questions occupying your head like…

“What exactly is a vegan diet? What to eat on a vegan diet i.e what vegan foods to eat and what not? What is a strict vegan diet? What are the pros & cons of a vegan diet?

And these questions does not end here!

They go on further like these…

 How a vegan diet is different from a paleo diet?, and even you might wonder if a vegan diet weight loss results (as you might have come across online testimonials) are true actually?”

If you are looking for answers to these all your questions, then next 5-10 minutes of your time on this post are very important.

So let’s dive in and put together A-Z about the vegan diet in detail in front of you just in the language of a beginner.

What is a Vegan diet: foods to eat & benefits

what is a vegan diet?

No questions about that as a vegan diet has become insanely popular in recent times but what does a vegan diet mean?.

Essentially, the vegan diet is derived from the “Veganism” ideology which defines a way of living and consumption excluding all forms and shapes of animal cruelty and exploitation for obtaining any kind of clothing, food or any human purpose.

Another important reason for becoming vegan is environmental health concerns and other ethical issues. So, the final shape of a vegan diet is that it is devoid of any sort of animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat, etc. to say the least

 

Foods to eat on a vegan diet

 Since vegans are health-conscious, their diet is plant-based devoid of any animal products. So their vegan-based diet sources are as below

  • Whole grains and cereals. Foods like Spelt, teff, amaranth, and quinoa are which are very good high-protein options and a lot of vitamins in them.
  • Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Foods like Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha, etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables. For them, all fruits are a great source of important multivitamins and minerals, especially iron and calcium. Vegetables they like are leafy green such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress, and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Foods like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs in many recipes.
  • Legumes: Foods like beans, lentils, and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients.
  • Nuts and nut butter: these nuts and nut butter are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E 
  • Seeds: seeds like hemp, chia, and flax seeds are a good source of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
  • Calcium-fortified plant milk and yogurts: These are required for their calcium requirements
  • Algae: algae like Spirulina and chlorella are good examples of algae that serve their protein needs.
  • Nutritional yeast: This is helpful in increasing their protein content and add some tasty flavor to their diets.

Foods to avoid on a vegan diet

Since vegans avoid any sort of food which is derived from animals, so all types of animal products are prohibited for them. The list of such products include:

  • Eggs: all types of eggs from chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.
  • Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
  • Animal-based ingredients: all animal-derived ingredients like casein, egg white, gelatin, carmine, shellac, L-cysteine and all kinds of omega fatty acids and much more.
  • Meat and poultry: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
  • Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
  • All kinds of dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.

Vegan diet benefits

benefits of a vegan dieet

The following are some of the popular vegan diet benefits that vegan lovers swear by, according to Healthline.

1. Vegan weight loss – A vegan diet can help you lose weight

vegan diet can help you lose weight

You will generally find vegans to be overall thinner than non-vegans. This might explain why most of the people like a vegan diet because they want to lose weight.

Research evidence

One reason for this type of result can be explained by the fact that vegans took a lot of fibers in their diet which is an appetite suppressor. So naturally, they took lesser calories, and yet they felt fuller for extended periods of time.

2.Vegan diet can be helpful in blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.

vegan diet can help against diabetes

Having a vegan diet may help keep your blood sugar in check and prevent 2 diabetes.

Research evidence:

Several studies have found that vegans benefit lower blood sugar levels and up to 80% of low risk of having type 2 diabetes.

Also, vegans diet research found that their blood sugar levels were low as compared to diets recommended by the ADA, NCEP. The researchers explained that this could be because of their high fiber intake which counters the high blood sugar levels.

A vegan diet’s weight loss effects may further contribute to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

3. Vegan diets can be good for your Heart Health

Vegan diet can be good for your health

A vegan diet can be a blessing for your heart

Research evidence.

Many studies report vegans may have up to an 80% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and a 40% lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Also, many reports have found that vegan diets can be effective in lowering blood sugar levels, LDL, and total cholesterol levels as compared to many other types of diets.

Other Vegan diet benefits

  • Low cancer risk: Vegans have been found to have a 15% lower risk of developing a deadly cancer 
  • Prevents Arthritis: Vegan diets can be useful in minimizing the symptoms of arthritis such as pain, joint swelling, etc.
  • Healthy Kidney function: Diabetics who replaced meat for plant protein may lower the risk of kidney damage.
  • Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease: many observational researchers have found that some aspects of a vegan diet can keep the risk of Alzheimer’s disease away.

Important note
Don’t take these studies as final because they are just observational studies but they don’t establish perfect causation. For that controlled studies are required to arrive at a credible conclusion.

Risks associated with a vegan diet

Common risks associated with a vegan diet

While we have talked about the amazing benefits of a vegan diet, but it’s not devoid of some of the harms/cons attached to it. Let’s find these out and give you the opportunity to make an informed opinion about it

1. A vegan diet can cause a deficiency of vitamins

A vegan diet can cause a deficiency of vitamins in body

In fact, studies have found that vegans are at a greater risk of having low blood levels of 

  • vitamin B12, 
  • vitamin D, 
  • long-chain omega-3s, 
  • iodine, 
  • iron, 
  • Calcium 
  •  zinc

Tips to minimize these side effects

  1. Always try to opt for more nutrient-rich plant foods and limit the quantity of processed vegan foods.
  2. Regularly consume foods full of vitamin D, calcium, vitamins B12, and other fortified foods. Furthermore, vegans can also try fermenting, sprouting and cooking foods to meet their calcium and iron requirements.
  3. Avoid tea or coffee after meals and using a source of vitamin C can increase your overall iron intake.
  4. Add some seaweed and iodized salt to your diet to fulfill your iodine intake

Sample vegan diet menu for a day

Sample vegan diet menu

For a sample of vegan diet menu, I will be giving you three days menu to just sort of help you understand what kind of vegan diet menu you should choose to not only fulfill your nutrients requirement but also to avoid any deficiency thereafter.

Monday

  1. Breakfast: A Mango and spinach smoothie made with fortified plant milk and 
  2. Lunch: A baked tofu sandwich with tomato salad.
  3. Dinner: Vegan chili on with amaranth.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Whole-grain toast with hazelnut butter, and a fortified plant yogurt.
  • Lunch: Tofu noodle soup with some vegetables.
  • Dinner: sweet potatoes with lettuce, corn, beans

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: vegan chickpea made with fortified plant milk.
  • Lunch: Vegan tacos with mango-pineapple salsa.
  • Dinner: Tempeh stir-fry with bok choy and broccoli.

A little reminder: Never forget to keep your sources of protein and vegetables changing as each source has different minerals and vitamins for your health. Furthermore, the above-mentioned menu items are for understanding purpose only; don’t take them as the final menu for your vegan diet

Vegan Diet types

Vegan diet types

A vegan diet is not just one type of diet, there are quite a number of different types of diets associated with a vegan diet that has its own followers.

1. Whole-food vegan diet 

This type of vegan diet is based on, as the name indicates a long list of wholesome plant foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts & seeds.

 

2. Raw-food vegan diet

This type of vegan diet based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, foods cooked at low temperatures like below 48 degrees Celsius or below 118 F.

 

3. 80-10-10 vegan diet

This type of vegan diet is a raw-food vegan diet that restricts fatty plants such as avocados and nuts and instead relies on raw fruits and soft greens limits. This vegan diet is known is other names like fruitarian diet, raw food diet, or low-fat diet.

 

4. The starch solution vegan diet

 This type of vegan diet is similar to the 80/10/10 mentioned above but its main focus is only cooked starches sources of food like rice, potatoes but no fruit at all.

 

5. Raw till 4 vegan diet

This kind of a vegan diet is a low-fat diet inspired by 80/10/10 and starch solution diet. The idea is to consume your raw foods until 4 p.m. but you have the choice to have a delicious cooked plant-based meal for your night dinner.

 

6. The thrive diet

The thrive diet is another kind of vegan diet based on raw food. The lovers of this diet are supposed to eat whole foods, plant-based, and minimally cooked at very low temperatures.

 

7. Junk-food vegan diet

This diet as the name indicates is made up mainly of junk food with a good mix of vegan elements like a vegan sandwich etc.

Important note:

This post deals with a vegan diet as a whole not based upon some of the above-mentioned diet types.

 

Popular Vegan diet Myths debunked

common vegan diet myths debunked

Nutritional advice can be confusing and rightly so. We want to eat healthy to fuel our bodies, but at where we should start?

In other words, some common diet myths often trip us up and keep us second guessing our dietary choices, so it’s important to understand what’s truth and what’s not.

While I did all that learning independently so that you won’t have to.

Below, I’ve debunked six of the most common myths about plant-based nutrition. Read on if you have concerns or have any of these myths that you want to be addressed.

Myth 1: Plant-based diet does not give you enough protein

Myth1: plant-based diet does not give you enough protein

This is, by far, the most common myth regarding vegan diets. A lot of people have these sorts of pressing questions like “Where will I get my protein?” or “Do I need to combine foods to get adequate protein?”

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein for most people is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of healthy body weight. This is easily achievable while following just a plant-based diet.

There are a number of plant foods that are rich sources of protein. These include:

  • tofu
  • lentils
  • beans
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • whole grains

Even individuals who require more protein, such as highly active adults, seniors, and children, can successfully increase their intake by consuming these foods so that you need any exclusive protein source to replace them.

Myth 2: Plant-based diets are too expensive to afford

Myth 2: plant-based diet are expensive to afford

Often, most people think that since following a vegan diet can be expensive, following a whole-food, plant-based diet is expensive too.

This, however, isn’t necessarily the case most of the time.

Since plant-based nutrition focuses mainly on minimally processed foods, those vegan ice creams, cheeses, and salad dressings, which you might think cost a pretty penny, are the irrelevant part which you don’t necessarily want to focus on in this diet.

So how to save money on plant-based diet?

First and foremost, fruits, veggies, and legumes can all be purchased frozen or canned — if you always try to opt for low-sodium options where possible

That means, not only does this mean paying less, but these versions can be stored for long periods of time.

Moreover, fruits and vegetables can also be purchased seasonally from farmer’s markets at a much lower cost than off-season produce at grocery stores.

And if you add a few of your favorite spices, all of these options can be transformed into a variety of exciting and delicious dishes.

Myth 3: plant-based diet will made you hungry

Myth3: plant-based diet makes you Hungry

Often, clients, patients, or friends stay away from a plant-based diet simply based on the fear of being hungry.

There reasoning is simple: because plants are low in calorie density, it subjectively seems as though they can’t be satisfying.

But they forget the point that since fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all high in fiber — which is likely to leave you feeling fuller, for longer — this shouldn’t be a concern anymore.

And while only 5 percent of Americans get this food component enough, this particular macronutrient has been linked to a number of other benefits, like improved gut health and lower blood sugar levels etc.

So it is always best to start your day off with oats and your favorite fruits, pack up some baked tofu and veggies for lunch, and enjoy a bean chili dinner.

I bet that it doesn’t get tastier or more satisfying than this.

Myth 4: A plant-based diet doesn’t supply enough vitamins and minerals

Myth4: plant-based diet doesn't supply enough vitamins & minerals

This is another popular vegan diet myth but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth of the matter is plants are, by far, the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. Let me explain in detail below.

For instance, leafy greens and legumes are rich in calcium, iron, and zinc, berries are extremely rich in vitamin K and manganese, and tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapples are very high in vitamin C.

Ultimately, the more variety in your diet, the better — not to mention, expanding your palate is exciting for your taste buds.

With that being said, plant-based eaters should try to supplement with vitamin B-12, as this vitamin comes purely from the soil. In fact, this is the only vitamin you can’t get on a plant-based diet.

Myth 5: Vegan diet is too hard and strict

Myth5: vegan diet is a very strict diet

Well, this is a fact that for a diehard steak lover or a fish fanatic, going vegan can be a difficult adjustment at first which is very much understanable.

However, this does not mean you can’t have a vegan diet. Messina says that if you’re interested in going vegan or eating less meat for your health, you can start by slowly cutting out animal products and replacing them with new vegans foods.

Moreover, she advises that soy or nut milk in cooking and on cereal, meat substitutes made with soy protein, wheat gluten or ready-to-eat vegan soups, and vegan mayonnaise and salad dressings are perfect places to start.

Furthermore, according to here since the average American family has 7 to 10 dinner menus that they eat over and over again it’s not completely unrealistic to try to incorporate one vegan dinner every week and gradually increase that number if one chooses.

Myth 6: Vegan diet is a dream diet for weight loss

Myth6: vegan diet is a dream diet for weight loss

While it may seem intuitive to believe that a plant-based diet is a made-in-heaven-recipe for weight loss, but Norris and Messina caution that becoming vegan to lose weight is certainly not a guaranteed thing.

While it is true that a 2006 study at the University of North Carolina found that vegan women lost more weight over a two-year period than women on a non-vegan low-fat diet, nutritionists warn that making the wrong choices, even if they’re vegan-based, won’t help in favor of weight loss.

“It all boils down to what particular foods you’re eating and your body,” Norris says. “Certainly eating more plants and fewer processed foods can lead to weight loss, but if you’re still eating junk as a vegan, you probably won’t always lose weight.”

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