With all of the diets we hear about, it’s hard to decipher which ones are worth our attention and which ones are best left alone.
I think I can help you understand more about these diets and how to eat well – from the perspective of a doc who knows how food works in your body.
What is Vegan?
It seems like a lot of people are becoming vegan these days. You might have a friend who is vegan. Maybe you’ve visited a vegan restaurant, opened up a vegan cookbook, or seen the term “vegan” on a food label.
Like vegetarians, vegans don’t consume meat. In addition, they exclude eggs and dairy from their diet. Many vegans also avoid the consumption of any food that is processed using animal products. And some refrain from purchasing products that are made from leather, fur, wool and down. More than just a diet regime, veganism can be a lifestyle choice.
What do Vegans Eat?
Vegans eat a plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, roots, and legumes.
As with most ‘diets’, when you are consuming foods that contain less saturated fats, that are often raw, and high in vitamins and minerals, you will see positive effects on your body.
The health benefits of being a vegan are said to include:
lowered blood pressure
alleviation of allergies
clear skin (keeping it clear of acne)
improved sleep patterns
Should I go Vegan?
Maybe you’re wondering if you should go vegan. While these health benefits do seem exciting, I haven’t seen enough conclusive studies to cause me to recommend a vegan diet. And, I have concerns that, for many vegans, it is hard to take in adequate nutrition.
As you know, I’m a big fan of any diet that makes liberal use of the rainbow of fresh vegetables. I’m also a big fan of any diet that asks you to drop your intake of dairy (I have recently had several patients lose unexpected weight and drop their blood sugar by as much as 20 pts upon giving up dairy). This can start seeming a lot like veganism.
Where I have concerns with veganism is when dieters use grain to replace meat. I think everyone should carefully check the protein/carbohydrate profile of the grains they eat. It’s well known that carbohydrates turn into glucose in our bodies…and I’m not a fan of excessive glucose.
I’m not a vegan, I eat fish, chicken, turkey and other meats, but I have begun leaning towards a vegan diet. As I begin to sample vegan dishes and seek out vegan food options, I am finding that I enjoy meals made with beans, edamame, tempeh and hemp hearts as the sources of plant proteins.
Preparing vegan meals has me excited about cooking. I love vegan cookbooks. Nowhere else have I seen fresh produce look as delicious and satisfying as it does in a vegan cookbook. Check out Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. It’s a great place to start thinking about the power of veggies in your diet. The Hungry Hottie Cookbook is similarly inspiring. My daughter’s favorite from this book is bean enchiladas with corn tortillas (or try eating them on romaine leaves).
Best of all, I have been finding that a more vegan diet has made it easier for me to maintain my weight without losing muscle.
If you decide that you want to go vegan, start slow. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Try cutting out one food at a time or eating vegan a few days a week. Search out inspiring cookbooks, and set yourself up for success.
Here’s to your health, happiness, and passion,
Dr. Jen, Hormone Expert MD