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Changing to a vegan diet is possible with planning

Getting enough nutrients is a concern for many

January 23, 2013|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Vitamin D status is also of concern for vegans, because the supplemental form is not absorbed as well as the animal-derived form. The same absorption factor leads to consideration for risk of zinc deficiencies in vegan diets, but it is also stated that overt zinc deficiency is not evident in Western vegetarians. Lastly, studies suggest that vegans who do not consume key sources of iodine, such as iodized salt or sea vegetables, may be at risk for iodine deficiency, because plant-based diets are generally low in iodine.

What are the benefits of becoming vegan?

In general, vegans tend to have lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. They also tend to have lower risk of cancer and lower BMI (body mass index, a measurement of weight).

Vegans also have higher consumption of whole grains, soy and nuts, which all help protect the heart. Though there is a potential lower risk of cancer, further research is needed to provide more conclusions. An example of a benefit to being vegan is a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Red meat and processed meat consumption are often associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Vegans do consume considerably more beans, fruits, vegetables, fiber and vitamin C, which also help protect against cancer.

There are also some nutrients that are more highly consumed in vegan diets. These include fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, E, folate, carotenoids, flavanoids and other phytochemicals. All of which are beneficial to build and maintain a healthy, functioning body.

What are some mistakes people make when they transition to vegan?

Some vegans begin eating the same amount as their pre-vegan days and complain of hunger. They may not be eating enough, because when they move to more whole-plant foods, they now have to eat larger quantities of food, due to the lower caloric density of typical vegan foods.

People also commonly mistake that just because its vegan, it's very healthy. They may load up on processed veggie burgers, cheese, veggie hot dogs and other processed veggie-based foods. Some of these foods aren't providing the nutritional benefits given from whole, nonprocessed foods.

It's also important to not forget to pack snacks when away from the home. Many restaurants now have plenty of options for plant-based eaters, but not all of them. So it's wise to carry snacks (like nuts) if people find themselves in a place where they have nothing substantial to eat. It's also very important to remember to pay attention to the physical needs of one's body. Alterations in diet patterns take time for your body to adjust. Cravings can be a sign that your body needs specific nutrients. Assessing the craving helps to see what is lacking. For example, if a new vegan has been living off salads and is craving fat or salt, they may need to include more healthy fats like avocado or olive oil in their diet. The key is to listen to the body and what it needs.



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