Vegan Diet, Is it for You?

More and more Americans are pursuing a vegan diet. While many benefits may come from reducing serving sizes, one should carefully consult with their Doctor and a Dietitian in order to better understand their own  biochemical make-up before taking up a Vegan Lifestyle.
Let’s begin by examining a Vegan Lifestyle. Vegans, like vegetarians, never eat meat. But vegans are stricter, shunning not only meat, but fish and shellfish (which some vegetarians will eat), eggs, milk and other dairy products — any food with an ingredient coming from: an animal,  a cow, or an insect. (Insects? Yes. For example, cochineal, which makes many red food dyes, has only recently been required to be listed on ingredient labels, but it’s always been made from insects.)  Vegans and vegetarians have to take special care to get enough vitamin B12 and protein, but like anyone, they can get all the nutrients they need from a varied diet of plants and grains, which must be consumed in one meal in order to achieve maximum intake of required protein.

Here’s a look at some more of the foods avoided by vegans:
1. Meat. All meats.
2. Fish and shellfish. No shrimp,  fried fish stick, nor wild Alaskan salmon.
3. Dairy products. No milk and yogurt to cheese and butter.
4. Eggs. No mayonnaise or anything made with eggs (yes, most brownies and cakes, too!).
5. Honey. Bees are animals. Bees make honey. Honey is therefore not part of the Vegan diet.
6. White sugar. Some white sugar is processed with bone char. (PETA) No sugar.
7. Most beer. Guinness is filtered using tiny amounts of gelatin derived from fish bladders.  While some beers are vegan, others are filtered using egg whites or sea shells.
8. Some breads. While many simple breads, containjust four ingredients (flour, yeast, water, and salt) other types of  breads and baked goods are made with whey (a dairy product) or with butter, eggs, or sugar.
9. Marshmallows. These and other foods, like gummy candies and Frosted Mini Wheats cereal, are made with gelatin — a protein made from boiling skin, bones, and other animal parts. Surprisingly, though, a lot of junk food qualifies as vegan, even if it is unhealthy.
10. Salad dressing. Salads are great for vegans, but not necessarily the dressing. Scan the ingredient list, and you’ll often find lecithin, which helps keep oil and vinegar from separating, and can be derived from animal tissues or egg yolk.

Vegan Diet  

At the top of the pyramid in small amounts. Protein: Nuts, Seeds, Flax Seeds, Vitamin B 12, Legumes
Second Level: Dark Green Vegetables, Soy, Tofu
Third Level: All fruits and Vegetables
Fourth Level in larger amounts:  Whole Grains, Wheat Germ

If choosing to pursue the Vegan Lifestyle after a medical consultation, meet with a Dietitian who can counsel and establish a meal plan that meet the body’s nutritional needs; expect the following area’s to be reviewed before prescribing a new meal plan.
1. Fish (healthy fat) are a strong source of Omega-3, Phosphorous and Calcium, assists in keeping organs or wound healing, healthy, increases HDL and reduces inflammation in the body brought on by stress.
2. Red Meats (protein), Whole or Multi-Grain Breads (carbohydrates) promote HDL and reduction in plaque build up. They are an excellent source of Vitamin B in which the brain and central nervous system gets much of their nourishment.

Saturated fats need to be consumed in reduced amounts

3. Eggs (protein) contain the secret for complete protein. An egg holds all 21 amino acids,which are protein building blocks critical for maintaining healthy skin, eyes, nails, hair, organs, muscles, bones etc.
4. Dairy products provide Vitamin A, D, B12, Calcium, Phosphorous, Riboflavin all contributors of healthy: brain, bones, enzymes, skin, red blood cells (avoid anemia).
5. Honey has wound healing and antibacterial capabilities. Know also for reducing swelling, sore throats and boosts the immune system.

While the benefits of the vegan diet is advantageous in that the focus on fruits and vegetables are abundantly consumed, one should carefully consider how to replace necessary vitamins and minerals before taking on a new lifestyle.

Kim Crocker-Scardicchio