Vegan Diet: Definition, Types, Health Benefits, Risks, and More


Vegan diet includes only plant-foods, fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Veganism emerged in 1944 when a group of individuals split from the Leicester Vegetarian Society in England to form the vegan Society. Beyond abstaining from meat, they adopted a lifestyle avoiding dairy, eggs, and all other animal derived products. The term vegan was coined by combining the first and last letters or vegetarian. By 1949 the first definition of veganism had been established. According to the latest definition from the vegan society veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle aiming to minimize animal exploitation and currently for food, clothing, or any other purposes. For more research you can also visit Healthline. 

What is the Vegan Diet?

Veganism is a lifestyle that aims to avoid any form of animal exploitation or cruelty, whether it’s for food, clothing, or other purposes. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy. People adopt a vegan diet for different reasons, including ethical beliefs, concerns about the environment and a desire to improve their health.

What are the Types of Vegan Diet?

It’s important to note that being vegan doesn’t necessarily equal health. The quality of a vegan diet depends on the foods that make it up. Thus, some vegan diets can have many health benefits while others may not be beneficial for your health. Here are a few subcategories of vegan diet that I’ve come across in my clinical practice over the last couples of the years:

Dietary Vegans:

Often used interchangeably with plant based eaters, this term refers to those who avoid animal products in their diet but continue to use them in other products such as clothing and cosmetics.

Whole Food Vegans:

These individuals favor a diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and walnuts.

Junk Food Vegans:

Some people rely heavily on processed vegan foods such as vegan meats, fries, and frozen dinners and desserts including Oreo cookies and non dairy ice cream.

Raw Food Vegans:

This group eats only food that is raw or cooked at temperatures below 118 F (48C).

Low Fat Raw Food Vegans:

Also known as fruitarians this subset limits high fat food such as nuts, avocados and coconuts instead relying mainly on fruit. They may occasionally eat small amounts of other plants. Whole food vegan diets tend to offer excellent health benefits. If you’re interested in trying a vegan diet, consider speaking with healthcare professionals to find the right diet for you.

What are the Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet?

Here are some potential health benefits of vegan diet, such as:

Weight Loss:

Vegans often have lower body weight and BMI compared to non-vegans. This is why more people are turning to vegan diets as a way to lose weight. The weight related benefits of veganism might also be influenced by factors beyond diet, like healthier lifestyle choices and physical activity. However, several controlled studies show that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss compared to other diets, even when factors like physical activity are considered. This advantage remains even when comparing vegans diets to whole food diets recommended by organizations like the American Dietetics Association and the American Heart Association. Individuals, participants on vegan diets tend to lose more weight than those on calorie-restricted diets, even when they’re allowed to eat until they feel full. This could be due to the higher intake of dietary fiber in vegans diets which helps you feel fuller with fewer calories.

Blood Sugar and Type-2 Diabetes:

Adopting a vegan diet may help regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Several studies indicate that vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels, improved insulin sensitivity and a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to non-vegans. Moreover, vegan diets have been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes much more effectively than diets recommended by organizations like the ADA, AHA, and NCEP. These advantages might be partly due to the higher intake of fiber in vegan diets, which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Additionally, the weight loss effects of a vegan diet may also contribute to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

Heart Health:

A vegan diet may contribute to a healthy heart. Observational studies suggest that vegans have a significantly lower risk of developing high blood pressure and dying from heart disease compared to non-vegans. Randomized controlled studies, considered the gold standard in research, support these findings. They show that vegan diets are more effective at lowering blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol compared to other diets. These effects are particularly beneficial because reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels may decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 46%.

Rich in Certain Nutrients:

Switching to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet involves cutting out meat and animal products. This change means you’ll depend on other foods. In a whole food vegan diet, these replacements typically include:

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Because these foods constitute a bigger part of a vegan diet compared to a typically Western diet, they can result in a higher daily intake or certain beneficial nutrients. Numerous studies have found that vegan diets generally offer fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also tend to be higher in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Vegan Diet Can Reduce Pain from Arthritis:

Some studies have shown that a vegan diet can have positive effects on individuals with various types of arthritis. In one small study, participants with arthritis were randomly assigned to either continue their omnivorous diet or switch to a whole food, plant-based vegan diet for 6 months. Those on the vegan diet reported feeling more energetic and experiencing better overall functioning compared to those who didn’t change their diet. Other studies suggest that a vegan diet may help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness, although more research is needed to fully understand this relationship. The higher antioxidant, probiotic, and fiber content of a vegan diet as well as the absence of certain trigger foods, could contribute to these potential benefits.

Other Health Benefits of Vegan Diet:

Vegan diets are linked to an array of other health benefits, including benefits for:

  • Cancer risk
  • Chronic arthritis
  • Kidney function
  • Alzheimer’s disease

It’s important to note that many of the studies supporting these benefits are observational, which makes it challenging to establish a direct cause and effect relationship between the vegan diet and the observed benefits.

Foods That Vegans Avoid:

Vegans avoid all foods of animal origin. These include:

Meat and Fishes: Such as beef, chicken, duck, fishes, and shellfish

Eggs: Whole eggs and foods that contain them such as bakery products

Dairy: Such as milk, cheese, butter, and cream as well as foods made using these ingredients

Other Animal-Derived Ingredients: Such as honey, albumin, casein, carmine, gelatin, pepsin, shellac, isinglass and whey

Eggs: from chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.

Checking food labels is generally the best way to determine whether a food contains animal derived ingredients. Many vegan foods are now also labeled as such making it easier to recognize them when you’re shopping.

What Do Vegans Eat?

Some essential foods people on a vegan diet tend to eat and avoid. Avoiding animal products doesn’t restrict you to eating salads and tofu alone. There’s a wide variety of delicious foods you can eat on a vegan diet. Here are some idea:

Beans, Peas, and Lentils:  Such as red brown or green lentils, chickpeas, split peas, black eye peas, black beans, white beans and kidney beans.

Soy Products:  Such as fortified soy milk, soybeans, and products made from them such as tofu, tempeh, and natto.

Nuts:  Such as peanuts, almonds, cashews, and their butters

Seeds:  Such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and their butters as well flaxseed hemp, seeds, and chia seeds.

Whole Grains:  Such as quinoa, whole wheat, whole oats, and whole grain brown or wild rice as well as products made from these foods such as whole grain bread, crackers and pasta.

Starchy Vegetables:  Such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, beets and turnips

Non-Starchy Vegetables:  Such as broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, radishes, and leafy greens these may be raw, frozen, canned, dried, or pureed

Fruits: Such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, mangoes, pineapples, oranges and tangerines, these may be purchased fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or pureed.

Algae: Spirulina and chlorella provide complete protein, while other varieties are rich sources of iodine.

Nutritional Yeast: Adds protein to vegan dishes and provides a cheesy flavor. Opt for varieties fortified with vitamin B12.

Whole Grains, Cereals, and Pseudocereals: These are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, iron, B vitamins, and various minerals. Options like spelt, teff, amaranth, and quinoa, are high in protein.

Sprouted and Fermented Plant Foods: Foods like Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha often contain probiotics and vitamin K2. Sprouting and fermenting can also enhance mineral absorption.

How to Minimize Them and Risk?

It’s crucial for everyone, not just vegans, to prioritize a well-planned diet that limits processed foods and includes nutrient rich options. However, poorly planned vegan diets can put individuals at a higher risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. Studies indicate that vegans may have inadequate blood levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium, and zinc. This deficiency concern is especially significant for individuals with higher nutrient requirements such as children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Genetic factors and gut bacteria composition may also affect how effectively derive nutrients from a vegan diet. To minimize the risk of deficiency, it’s important to focus on nutrient rich plant foods and limit processed vegan foods. Including fortified foods enriched with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 in your diet can also help. For better absorption of iron and zinc, consider fermenting, sprouting, and cooking foods. Using iron cast pots and pans, avoiding tea or coffee with meals, and combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can further enhance iron absorption. Including seaweed or iodized salt in your diet can help the recommended daily intake of iodine. Foods rich in omega-3s, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans, can aid the body in producing longer-chain omega 3s like EPA and DHA. Taking a daily algae oil supplements providing 200-300 mg of EPA and DHA may be a safer approach to prevent low levels of these essential fatty acids.

Why Some People go Vegan:

People chose to follow a vegan diet for various reasons. Often the decision involves a combination of ethics, health and environmental motivators. Eating more plants and either cutting back on or eliminating animal-based foods can have health benefits, including a lower risk of chronic diseases especially heart diseases, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. In fact, sugar levels compared with omnivores. In addition they had a 15 % lower risk of cancer.

Advantages for the Environment:

Some choose a veganism diet because they believe it’s more environmentally friendly. However, an Italian study that compared the environmental impact of omnivores, egg and dairy eating vegetarians and vegans found the vegetarian diet had the most favorable effect on the environment followed by the vegan diet. Researchers suggested this was because vegan diets often include more processed plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. Also vegans generally eat a greater quantity of food to meet their calorie needs.

Animals Welfare Concerns:

Besides health and environmental motivations strict vegans are also strongly in favor of animal welfare. They reject the use of animals for food or any other use including clothing. Vegans argue that modern farming practices are harmful and cruel to animals including hens. For example in commercial eggs producing poultry farms it’s not uncommon for hens to live in small, indoor cages, have their beaks clipped and undergo induced molting to regulate and increase their egg production.

Nutritional Benefits of Veganism:

With the exception of vitamin B12 which comes mainly from animal foods like meats and eggs a vegan diet can cover most people’s nutritional needs. However, veganism takes some planning to get enough or certain nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and iron. Vegans who include eggs in their diet may have an easier time closing the gap on all of these nutrients. One large whole egg provides small amounts of all these nutrients, along with some high quality protein. What’s more a vegan diet can be helpful for certain vegan populations who are at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Vegans vs. Dairy-Free, What’s the Difference?

Vegans and dairy free diets place limitations on which animal derived products if any you can consume. Although these diets share several similarities and are often confused with one another, they aren’t the same thing. As such you may want to know about their differences.

What is a Vegan Diet?

Veganism encompasses both dietary and lifestyle choices. Someone who decides to become vegan avoids products that use or exploit animals to the best of their ability. A vegan diet is based on plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. It excludes meat, fish, seafood, dairy eggs, and often animal derived ingredients like honey. A person might choose veganism for environmental, animal welfare, personal health, and ethical concerns. Vegan lifestyles also tend to exclude consumer products that contain animal-derived ingredients or have been tested on animals. These include certain cosmetics, clothing, and personal care items.

What is a Dairy free Diet?

A dairy free diet excludes all dairy products. This category includes milk from animals, as well as any product made from this milk such as cheese, yogurt, butter and cream. Yet people who follow this eating plan may still eat other animal foods like meat, fish, shellfish, and eggs. Dairy free diets are commonly chosen for health reasons such as a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance, a condition in which your body can’t digest the milk sugar lactose leading to diarrhea and gas after dairy is consumed.

Vegan Diet Plan for One Week:

To help get you started, here’s a simple plan covering a week’s worth of vegan meals:


  • Breakfast: Vegan breakfast sandwich with tofu, lettuce, tomato, turmeric, and plant-milk chai latte
  • Lunch: Spiralized zucchini and quinoa salad with peanut dressing
  • Dinner: Red lentil and spinach dal over wild rice


  • Breakfast: Overnight oats made with fruit, fortified plant milk, chia seeds and nuts
  • Lunch: Seitan, sauerkraut sandwich
  • Dinner: Pasta with a lentil Bolognese sauce and a side salad


  • Breakfast: Mango and spinach smoothie made with fortified plant milk and a banana-flaxseed-walnut muffin
  • Lunch: Baked tofu sandwich with a side of tomato salad
  • Dinner: Vegan chili on a bed of amaranth


  • Breakfast: Whole grain toast with hazelnuts butter, banana and a fortified plant yogurt
  • Lunch: Tofu noodle soup with vegetables
  • Dinner: Jacket sweet potatoes with lettuce, corn, beans, cashew, and guacamole


  • Breakfast: Vegan chickpea and onion omelet and a cappuccino made with fortified plant milk
  • Lunch: Vegan tacos, with mango-pineapples salsa
  • Dinner: Tempeh stir-fry with bok choy and broccoli


  • Breakfast: Spinach and scrambled tofu wrap and a glass of fortified plant milk
  • Lunch: Spiced red lentils, tomato, and kale soup with whole grains toast and humus
  • Dinner: Veggie sushi rolls, miso soup, edamame, and wakame salad


  • Breakfast: Chickpea pancakes, guacamole and salsa, and a glass of fortified orange juice
  • Lunch: Tofu vegan quiche with a side of sautéed mustard greens
  • Dinner: Vegan spring rolls

Be sure to diversify your protein and vegetable sources throughout the day, as each offers various vitamins and minerals essential for your health.

Healthy Vegan Snacks:

Snacks are excellent for maintaining energy levels and staving off hunger between meals. Here are some convenient and tasty vegan snack options:

  • Fresh fruit with a dollop nut butter
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Nutritional yeast sprinkled on popcorn
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Nut and fruit bars
  • Trail mix
  • Chia pudding
  • Homemade muffins
  • Whole wheat pita with salsa and guacamole
  • Cereal with plant milk
  • Edamame
  • Whole grain crackers with cashew nut spread
  • A plant-milk latte or cappuccino
  • Dried seaweed snacks

When choosing vegan snacks, aim for options rich in fiber and protein, as they can help you feel fuller for longer.


What do you eat when you are vegan?

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan
  • plant based milk, suck as almond milk or coconut oil
  • Plant based oils
  • Grains

What eats vegan?

A vegan diet includes only plant foods- fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. People who follow a vegan diet don’t eat any animal foods, including dairy, eggs, and honey. About 3% of Americans follow a vegan diet.

What is mostly vegan?

The term flexitarian usually refers to people who are eating mostly vegan or vegetarian diets but do include small amounts of meat or other animal products in the diet.

Can a vegan drink milk?

Milk is a product of cows or in some cases goats. No matter how the milk is produced even if it is organically farmed, it is not a product that a vegan will consume. There are a few reasons for this. Like a vegetarian. Vegans express animal rights concerns with all elements of farming.

How do vegans get protein?

Vegans can get enough protein through various plant-based food items. Beans, legumes, peas, soy products, grains, nuts, seeds are some of the base plant protein sources. Vegan protein contains essential amino acids to prevent muscle loss and aid in tissue repair.

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