The topic of choice for this project is the vegan diet. The choice is motivated by general observation that vegan diet continues to increase in popularity, especially in American society. Historically, the diet was coined as a diet in 1844 by a vegetarian society in England as a nutritional avoidance of fresh in the Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies (Suddath, 2008). The overall way of life for a person taking a vegan diet was called veganism in 1944. However, the concept has even further historical background, as Greek philosopher – Pythagoras had called it vegetarianism (Suddath, 2008). Since the 1940s acknowledgment of the vegan diet, it is celebrated every first of November as a World Vegan Day. Notably, veganism and vegetarianism are similar concepts, only that the latter is an extreme form.
A vegan diet is purposefully devoid of animal products such as fresh, skin, eggs, milk, and other edible products. Instead, vegans choose to eat plant products; that is, vegetations, hence the word vegan. Some of the reasons that motivate people to choose a vegan diet range from philosophical, religious, lifestyle, to health. For instance, the major reason has been coined to reduce animal suffering. Other reasons include maintaining lean weight, becoming healthier and happier, and allegedly saving the planet, among other reasons.
There are various forms of a vegan diet, as it does not comprise a definite measure or species and parts of plants. For instance, a whole-food vegan diet is a mix of whole plant foods such as vegetables, seeds, whole grains, and legumes (Petre, 2016). Petre has found other vegan diets such as Raw-food, which entails the raw or slightly cooked plant foods, the 80/10/10 dish, limiting the amount of fat-rich plant foods, and the Starch solution with low fat to carbohydrates ration. Also, Raw till 4 is a raw foods dish taken at 4 p.m. The junk-food vegan diet is the fancy part that entails desserts and highly processed vegan foods. Nevertheless, the vegan diet critiqued in this project is the whole-food vegan diet.
As mentioned above, people choose a vegan diet for philosophical, religious, lifestyle, or health reasons. That way, the diet has pros and cons, depending on which reasons one chooses or does not choose veganism. It is imperative noting that the vegan diet is not good or bad, but can give or limit certain opportunities.
Regarding pros, a vegan diet has many health benefits. Craig (2009) found that vegans had lower total cholesterol levels and fairly low blood pressure. The importance of these metrics includes a reduced risk for cardiovascular complications and obesity. This is because vegan diets are rich in fibre, folic acids, and antioxidants, among other chemicals that regulate the body’s cholesterol level. Craig (2009) cited that a vegan diet has a deceased rate for cancer cases and bone-related injuries. This is also good for exercises as a vegan diet has low calories, improving muscle build-up and protein synthesis. A systematic review by Medawar, Huhn, Villringer & Veronica Witte (2019) concludes that generally, a vegan diet has increased metabolic measure in health and diseases. Such evidence-based conclusions reveal that choosing the vegan diet reduces the risk of several diseases and illnesses.
Other pros for the vegan diet have been acclaimed as to save the world. There is critical environmental degradation, which goes down to the resources consumed and those produced. Notably, livestock production is the single largest pollution source to the environment (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). Other animal consumption systems have similar impacts at a lower ration compared to livestock. That is why shifting to a vegan diet is acclaimed as among the most effective ways of restoring the ecosystem. Commercial production of animals reduces especially cattle plant cover significantly, and thus, lack of it would go along way restoring plant cover and reducing the carbon content in the environment.
Additionally, a vegan diet has economic beneficence, as it is cheaper than mainstream diets and saves on one’s total dietary budget. According to the world economic forum, a vegan diet is economically responsive (Eswaran, 2018). He cites other studies indicating that if the US did not follow a vegan diet, utterly, it would cost an additional cost between $197 and $289 per year. The forum also finds that mainstream diets that are mostly meat-based cost the global economy up to $1.6 trillion in 2015. This cost accounts for environmental impacts and control costs, resources acquisition, production, and processing, which can be avoided over a vegan diet.
Nevertheless, a vegan diet has cons that are associated with lifestyle. Vegans are at an increased risk for deficiencies of certain nutrients that are exclusively in mainstream diets. For instance, iron, critical in oxygen transportation, is not adequately available in a vegan diet. Besides, some plat products are iron inhibitors, as Hurrell & Egli (2010) explained, thus increasing the chances for a vegan to suffer anemia. Also, a vegan diet is devoid of animal proteins, which are essential sources of amino acids. Partly, this risk vegans bone strength and general body strength. Thus, a vegan diet has some health ramifications.
Also, a vegan diet requires rigorous planning and manageability techniques. For instance, once needs a vast array of vegetable options and cooking techniques to make a vegan diet. Besides, some diets are time-based, like the Raw till 4, which adds a scheduling burden. In some regions, vegetarian plant options are unavailable or costly to acquire, which causes affordability issues or access. Overall, the following vegan diets require increased dedication, as manageability and planning are not straightforward compared to mainstream diets.
Vegan Diet Experience
This project entails the vegan diet experience, gaining a firsthand perspective, and making evidence-based conclusions. Thus, I dedicated to a vegan diet in four weeks and came up with the following summary and assessment. I utilized a vegan meal plan to ensure the accuracy of the assessment. As a starting point, I adopted the vegan meal plan sample provided by Link (2018) at www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-meal-plan.
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The Weekly Meal Plan
|Oatmeal with fruit and flaxseeds
|Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms
|Greek yoghurt with chia seeds and berries
|Tofu scramble with sauteed peppers, onions and spinach
|Whole-wheat toast with avocado and nutritional yeast
|Smoothie of kale, berries, bananas, nut butter and almond milk
|Kale and sweet potato hash
|Grilled veggie and hummus wrap with sweet potato fries
|Zucchini boats stuffed with veggies and feta with tomato soup
|Farro salad with tomatoes, cucumber and feta with spiced lentil soup
|Burrito bowl with brown rice, beans, avocado, salsa and veggies
|Marinated tofu pita pocket with Greek salad
|Red lentil veggie burger with avocado salad
|Bell peppers stuffed with tempeh with zucchini fritters
|Tofu banh mi sandwich with pickled slaw
|Chickpea curry with basmati rice
|Eggplant parmesan with a side salad
|Vegetable paella with a side salad
|Quinoa-black-bean meatballs with zucchini noodles
|Flatbread with grilled garden vegetables and pesto
|Black bean tacos with cauliflower rice
I used this plan for four weeks throughout September 2020. I also used a nutritional intake plan for vegan foods provided by the BBC (Torrens, 2019).
Week One Summary
Through the first week, the dishes felt relatively inadequate, such that I felt hungry early than when taking mainstream diets. Also, I felt challenged by the daily exercises, but I was able to complete each of them successfully. Vegan foods were not large in quantity, and the nutrition intake guide was clear concerning the quantity of foods to eat. Overall, the nights of the first week were fairly regular. Although I had deliberately chosen to follow the vegan dietary plan, the first week generally felt challenging to adapt to the new tastes and breaths, avoiding mainstream junks and favorite yogurts.
Week Two Summary
The quantity of food felt adequate and satisfactory levels had risen. Probably, I had gotten used to the amounts. I did not have any challenges preparing or sourcing the parts of the recipes. I had more ease doing exercises than week one. However, my sleep had begun to reduce. It took me longer to fall asleep.
Week Three Summary
In week three, I felt stronger, and found my daily exercises relatively simple. I had a noticeable increase in endurance. For instance, on Saturday, I jogged four more miles than the usual distance. Also, I felt mostly happier, which I cannot ascertain that was a consequence of the program or sense of pride for making it to the third week. Amusingly, I had lost 10 pounds since the beginning of the program, which was a major achievement. I even looked a little changed in outlook. However, my general sleeping duration had reduced by about one hour, taking me either longer to fall asleep or waking up before schedule.
Week Three Summary
The fourth week has similar experiences as week three, only that I lost only two pounds of body weight.
I could not follow the plan 100% due to emerging issues such as sophisticated preparation methods. For instance, preparing the first day (Monday) dinner – Tofu banh mi sandwich with pickled slaw was not straightforward. I made sure to consult recipes and cooking tutorials from Pinterest and YouTube. Also, some recipe parts were not available in the nearby stores, and had to improvise with related parts (nutritionally) or skip them. Preparation for each meal took about half an hour, which is relatively easy to manage. I also noted that vegan dishes are not costly compared to mainstream dishes. Some meals costed me as less as two dollars, although the prices may vary depending on where one lives. One used to the diet, which took me about one week, there was no awkwardness; in the change of tastes, I felt energetic, lighter, and motivated to do my daily exercises. While I felt more active and healthier, my sleeping duration was reduced from the second week onwards. Overall, a vegan diet is easy to prepare, manageable using a dietary plan, healthy like or more than mainstream diets, and relatively cheaper.
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Craig, W. (2009). Health effects of vegan diets. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), 1627S-1633S. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736n
Eswaran, V. (2018). Vegetarianism is good for the economy too. Retrieved the first of October 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/vegetarianism-is-good-for-the-economy-too/
Hurrell, R., & Egli, I. (2010). Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 91(5), 1461S-1467S. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674f
Link, R. (2018). The Vegetarian Diet: A Beginner’s Guide and Meal Plan. Retrieved 1 October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegetarian-diet-plan
Medawar, E., Huhn, S., Villringer, A., & Veronica Witte, A. (2019). The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry, 9(1). doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0552-0
Petre, A. (2016). The Vegan Diet — A Complete Guide for Beginners. Retrieved the first of October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-guide
Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992. doi: 10.1126/science.aaq0216
Suddath, C. (2008). A Brief History of Veganism. Retrieved the first of October 2020, from https://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/
Torrens, K. (2019). A balanced diet for vegans. Retrieved 1 October 2020, from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/balanced-diet-vegan