by A. Grano on April 1st, 2011 at 7:00 am
If you’ve been near a newsstand recently, you’ve likely seen a few magazine covers with celebrities getting on the ‘vegan bandwagon’ to lose weight. For anyone who follows a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, the recent surge in popularity surrounding these long-established ways of eating may be a little irritating, as most supporters did not adopt the vegan or vegetarian diet for weight loss purposes, but rather because of personal beliefs or motivations.
Vegan vs. vegetarian
For those not familiar with both of these plant-based diets, vegans (sometimes referred to as ‘strict vegetarians’) do not eat any products that are derived from animals, including dairy products and eggs. Some vegetarians do allow for these exceptions in their diets, but otherwise follow a plants-based diet.
Both vegans and vegetarians may struggle to consume enough protein, iron, zinc and calcium in their diets, but vegetarians who allow dairy and eggs may not have as much difficulty. Anemia is a common a concern; however, there are many plant-based sources for these essential nutrients- it just takes a little more creativity and effort.
Many foods are now fortified with iron, zinc and calcium, including cereals, bread, and pasta. Foods naturally rich in iron include nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and dark green vegetables such as spinach. Some good sources of protein include soybeans, avocadoes, peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa. Calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice are also good options.
Potential health benefits
Many studies suggest that vegans and vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body mass indexes than participants who ate meat. However, it is important to note that there likely are other lifestyle factors that may be influencing some of these studies. In addition, the American Dietetic Association stresses that meal planning is key for both vegans and vegetarians to ensure their meals are adequate in essential nutrients.
Taking into consideration other factors that influence overall health is important regardless of whether you choose to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, including managing stress, exercising and getting adequate sleep.
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