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The term “vegan,” or, “veganism” has become very common in today’s society, but there still exists much confusion regarding what veganism truly is; some people think it’s just a fancy word for being a vegetarian, and others have an idea of how veganism works, but are confused about what goes into a vegan diet. Contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet includes much more than salad and fruit, and in many cases varies very little from a typical omnivorous diet. Many plants and legumes have protein which takes the place of meat, and there are a number of vegan milks on the market made up of almond or soy. However, it’s understandable that there could be some confusion regarding what exactly makes up a vegan diet, as it does often vary quite a bit from more commonly followed diets.
What is “Veganism”?
Veganism is very similar to vegetarianism, however there are a number of key differences which set the two apart. Vegetarians typically exclude only meat, fish, and poultry from their diets, but will still consume substances such as milk and eggs. Vegans do not believe in eating anything that comes from an animal, meaning that their diets do not include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or milk, and many will not use products such as leather or fur in order to further protest the use of animal byproducts. This means there are a number of things vegetarians eat or use that vegans don’t, making the diet much stricter.
How do Vegans get Protein?
Perhaps the biggest question vegans get asked on a daily basis is how they get enough protein out of their meat-free diet. Luckily, nature provides protein in many ways, most of which not involving animal byproducts. Protein-rich foods include beans, lentils, peanut butter, almonds, kale, and potatoes – all of which are fairly easy to come by, and all of which can be made into delicious recipes.
What Else Makes Up a Vegan Diet?
While these sources of protein make up a large part of vegan diets, they also include a wide array of other foods that some may not expect. What we eat largely depends on what we need nutritionally, as we much include certain foods or certain types of foods in our diets to stay healthy.
One key mineral many vegans find trouble getting enough of is iron; when your body does not have enough iron, it becomes anemic. When a person is anemic, they will often feel weak or lacking energy, which can spell trouble over time. In order to prevent this, it’s important that vegans get a proper source of iron, as it’s often found in meat for omnivores. Some common sources of vegan iron include dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, or dried beans. These food have more iron than meat (based on serving size), meaning that vegans often have no trouble maintaining good iron levels as long as they eat these food.
Vegans get calcium through a number of ways as well; many believe that the best source of calcium for the human body is found in milk, but this is far from true: cow’s milk cannot be digested properly, meaning that the human body cannot take advantage of the calcium it provides. However, dark green vegetables, soy milk, tofu, and orange juice are all very high in calcium, and are a much better source of the mineral than milk of any kind.
Being a vegan takes great dedication, and excellent self-control. Being able to monitor nutrition levels and eat what is needed to stay happy and healthy can be difficult, but is extremely rewarding in the end. Vegan diets can be much healthier than omnivorous or vegetarian diets, but it does require dedication to follow properly. By not properly following a vegan diet, a person can become ill quite easily, as it takes excellent management to ensure that the body is getting the nutrition it needs. The three biggest issues most new vegans have is getting enough protein, iron, and calcium, but by following the guidelines listed here, any vegan will find themselves getting proper nutrition without any help from animal byproducts.