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Veganuary is a challenge in which people try vegan diets for the whole month of January. If you want to give it a try, here's what you should know.
Veganism is not only a diet, as a matter of fact. It is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
For these reasons, the vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy.
People choose to follow a vegan diet for various reasons, which usually range from ethics to environmental concerns, but they can also stem from a desire to improve health.
Are all vegan diets alike?
Within veganism, there are a lot of different approaches. Here are some of the most popular ones, according to Healthline:
Whole-food vegan diet: Based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Raw-food vegan diet: Based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or plant foods cooked at temperatures below 118°F (48°C) (1Trusted Source).
80/10/10: The 80/10/10 diet is a raw-food vegan diet that limits fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens instead. Also referred to as the low-fat, raw-food vegan diet, or fruitarian diet.
The starch solution: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet similar to the 80/10/10 but that focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruit.
Raw till 4: A low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
The thrive diet: The thrive diet is a raw-food vegan diet. Followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.
Junk-food vegan diet: A vegan diet lacking in whole plant foods that relies heavily on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts, and other heavily processed vegan foods.
Is it risky to go plant-based?
Some studies show that vegans are at a higher risk of having inadequate blood levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium, and zinc.
One way to minimize the risk of deficiency is to limit the amount of processed vegan foods you consume and opt for nutrient-rich plant foods instead. Fortified foods, especially those enriched with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, should also make a daily appearance on your plate. Thankfully, as veganism is so popular nowadays, fortified food is not hard to find at all.
If you are concerned about your nutrient intake, you can also consider supplements like vitamin B12, Vitamin D, EPA and DHA, Iron, Iodine, Calcium, and Zinc.
What foods should a vegan eat?
French fries are vegan, so that is excellent news! However, if you want to stay on the healthy side, these are the foods you should consider:
Tofu, tempeh, and seitan: These provide a versatile protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs in many recipes.
Legumes: Foods such as beans, lentils, and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Sprouting, fermenting and proper cooking can increase nutrient absorption (34Trusted Source).
Nuts and nut butters: Especially unblanched and unroasted varieties, which are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E (35Trusted Source).
Seeds: Especially hemp, chia, and flaxseeds, which contain a good amount of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (36, 37, 38).
Calcium-fortified plant milks and yogurts: These help vegans achieve their recommended dietary calcium intake. Opt for varieties also fortified with vitamins B12 and D whenever possible.
Algae: Spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein. Other varieties are great sources of iodine.
Nutritional yeast: This is an easy way to increase the protein content of vegan dishes and add an interesting cheesy flavor. Pick vitamin B12-fortified varieties whenever possible.
Whole grains, cereals, and pseudocereals: These are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B-vitamins, and several minerals. Spelt, teff, amaranth, and quinoa are especially high-protein options (39, 40, 41, 42).
Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha often contain probiotics and vitamin K2. Sprouting and fermenting can also help improve mineral absorption (34Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source).
Fruits and vegetables: Both are great foods to increase your nutrient intake. Leafy greens such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress, and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.