To Vegan Or Not To Vegan?

Studies show more than 7 million Americans are vegetarians. Veganism is one of the strictest forms of plant-based dieting, but is it right for you?

No meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no honey! Could you be a vegan?

Clinical Dietician at the University of Washington, Judy Simon, MS, RD, CD, CHES, says a vegan diet can be healthy, but not always.

"Some vegans don't eat many vegetables, so they may be eating processed grains, rice, crackers and breads," Simon told Ivanhoe.

Other negatives: you might not get enough omega-3's. Nuts and chia seeds have some, but Simon says they only provide a fraction of what you get from fish like salmon. It's also more difficult to eat out if you're a vegan, you might have to pack your own food. Also pregnant women may not get enough vitamin D or calcium from a vegan diet.

"The fetus will actually take calcium from the mother, so if her intake is low anyways, it may not be sufficient enough for the baby," Simon told Ivanhoe.

However, there are plenty of vegan pros: the plant-based diet can lower your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. People who eat vegan also have a lower body mass index.

"For many people it allows them to eat more fruits and vegetables," Simon told Ivanhoe.

Recent research also shows vegan dieters had healthier guts than those who consumed meat.

Simon told Ivanhoe, "We're finding that they have more of the healthy bacteria that can actually be heart-healthy and prevent heart disease."

So to vegan or not to vegan? It's a choice you'll have to make, with every bite you take!

The Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit company, offers tips for eating and cooking vegan. You can learn more at VRG.org. 

BACKGROUND: The term veganism was coined in 1944, when a British woodworker named Donald Watson created the term to describe those vegetarians who also did not eat dairy or eggs. The year before, tuberculosis had been found in 40 percent of British dairy cows and Watson used this fact to prove that the vegan lifestyle protected people from tainted food. He began the first Vegan Society and started with just 25 followers. Veganism quickly spread to the United States, and the first American Vegan Society was formed in 1948. By the time Watson died in 2005, more than 200,000 British men and women and two million Americans who identified themselves as vegan. Celebrities, such as Woody Harrelson and Jessica Chastain, have popularized the lifestyle in American pop culture.    (Sources: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1854996,00.html, http://www.americanvegan.org/history.html , http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/celebrity-vegetarians-stars-who-wont-be-eating-turkey-on-thanksgiving_n_2167341.html )


LIMITATIONS:  Some have chosen veganism for health reasons, while others choose the vegan lifestyle for moral reasons. Traditionally, vegans do not eat any animal products. They also do not wear materials like leather or wool or use cosmetics or soaps derived from animals or animal products. Some examples of things that vegans avoid include:

·         Meat

·         Eggs

·         Cheese

·         Honey

·         Fish

·         Whey

·         Silk

·         Products that have been tested on animals

(Sources: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/vegan.htm, http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1854996,00.html, http://animalrights.about.com/od/animalrights101/a/Veganism.htm )


PROS AND CONS: With high-profile celebrities endorsing the vegan movement, it's easy to get swept up in the growing trend. Studies of veganism have shown that the lifestyle can help you lose weight, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Veganism can give rise to deficiencies if you aren't careful. Vegans must find ways to work in Omega-3, Vitamin D, and calcium into their diets.   (Source: http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegan-diets-pros-cons.php )


* For More Information, Contact:

Judy Simon, MS, RD, CD, CHES

Clinical Dietician

University of Washington

4245 Roosevelt Way NE

Seattle, WA  98105



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