Going vegan/vegetarian has traditionally been an ethical choice amongst individuals. Most people that turn to these dietary lifestyles find that they are too disturbed by what passes as standard practice in the meat industry.
Beyond animal cruelty, the huge consumption of these products is quickly becoming a significant environmental and economic concern on a worldwide scale.
However, as of late people are considering adopting these diets and are purely motivated by all of the health benefits!
What is a vegan diet?
Going vegan means that you forego any products that have involved the use of an animal at any stage in its production. While this mostly equates to food: meat and fish are obvious but then cheese, milk, eggs and honey are also off the table.
Isinglass taken from fish bladders which is used in the clarification and fining of beer means that your favourite pint could be banned too! Many vegans extend this beyond diet and will avoid things such as leather belts or cosmetics that use animal products.
Each and every physical body is different to one another – therefore, what works for someone else may not work for you. Depending on your current dietary lifestyle and how you react to certain foods, experimenting with a vegan diet may be exactly what you need to boost your health!
Potential Benefits of a Vegan Diet
✓ Increased energy
Those who have come from a previous low-carb diet, whether that be intentional through fitness competing/a similar goal, may benefit from the increase of carbohydrates in your diet – this may be through rice, pasta and potatoes or simply the the boost of vegetable intake. Carbohydrates aren’t the enemy – in fact, introducing more carbs into your diet will prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue!
✓ Tons of protein… “Where do you get your protein from?!”
Nuts, nut butters, beans, soy, tofu, quinoa, rice, green leafy vegetables – these are just a few of vegan-friendly foods that are good sources of protein – believe it or not! This question arises A LOT – almost all natural foods you consume will contain some sort of protein. You needn’t worry about losing your lean muscle mass on a vegan diet, even if you’re a bodybuilder! Check out a few great sources of plant-based protein.
✓ Increase of antioxidants and vitamins
Many diets lack nutrients needed to effectively run your body and immune system properly – especially if you live an active lifestyle! Increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and maybe grains will provide an abundance of vitamins to not only boost the immune system, but have a positive effect on the regeneration of cells – for hair, skin, nails, etc!
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarianism is a term for someone who does not consume meat-products – those who include fish in their diets are often called pescetarians.
However allow themselves to eat animal-based products such as eggs, yoghurt, milk etc!
One of the main reasons people choose to go vegetarian is because they are against animal suffering, and view the slaughter of animals for human consumption as unethical. Some animals are treated in an inhumane way, and by going vegetarian, you can help combat this. Of course, not all meat is sourced inhumanely, so if you are a meat eater, be sure to know where your meat came from!
Potential Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet (in addition to some mentioned above!)
According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have a reduced risk of:
✓ Obesity & heart disease
✓ Colon cancer
✓ Adult-onset diabetes
✓ Lung cancer and breast cancer.
It’s also cheaper to eat green, since you aren’t spending a lot of money on meat. Fruit, vegetables and grains are much, much cheaper – it’s up to you to experiment!
But can I lose fat by going vegetarian/vegan?
The answer to this question is a bit complicated: you will be ruling out a huge amount of food that isn’t necessarily very good for you. Cheeseburgers and pizza, for example, aren’t vegan friendly. A ton of cakes, pizzas and ‘the naughty foods’ are vegetarian. But the same fundamentals regarding calories and macronutrient intake will still apply. You could opt for keto, maybe, or go down the road of high-carb raw vegans who can eat an industrial amount of fruit every day. The point here is that adopting one of these dietary lifestyles doesn’t put you above the rules of dieting.
Yes, you will be avoiding meat and for some, dairy – which can help you avoid stuff that isn’t ideal for losing weight – however, there are still plenty of foods that aren’t as typically “vegetable-based,” such as:
✓ Carb-heavy foods such as pasta and chips(!)
✓ Party rings
✓ Oreo cookies
✓ NUT BUTTERS… and these examples are valid for both diets!
There are plenty of recipes dedicated to adapting things like chocolate cake and other decadent desserts for vegetarians and vegans and, inventive though they are, they may or may not help you shed some weight – it’s a mix of common sense and checking out the nutritional details.
In fact, I can often tend to give myself a free pass with cheat foods and eat more of the stuff that I shouldn’t!
Before you dive straight in you will also need to think about supplementing Vitamin B12 which is tricky to get just from your food whilst none consuming meat. Fortunately it is very cheap to get a hold of and is present in most multivitamins.
Living a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle
Ultimately your choice of diet is not a golden ticket to success and your choices are still what matters most. Many vegetarians/vegans abhor the idea of people trying to go adopt their lifestyles as a “health choice” or to lose weight but, personally, I think that the more people that are aware and the more people that are trying healthier and more varied foods is a good thing!
If it helps turn people on to the ethical side of things as well then that is also great. People are inspired to do things in so many different ways so there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go vegan/vegetarian.
Take Home Message
Any diet requires planning, moderation and mindful choices. Whether you eat meat and dairy (or not!) you can always make these choices more diet-conscious whilst also adding in another portion of vegetables to each of your meals for more nutritional value.
Do remember that any diet also needs to allow for you to enjoy yourself once in a while.
You’ll be glad that you did!