What is vegan diet

What is vegan diet? (Complete guide)

Published on February 12, 2020

A Vegan or plant-based diet may remind you of eating salads and vegetables all the time, but that is way different! Vegan diet provides a lot of protein, minerals, and vitamins that a body needs. The main foods in the vegan diet are fruit and vegetables, bread, cereal, nuts and seeds, legumes, etc. And there is no meat!

People who choose the vegan diet rarely experience chronic diseases and can lose weight easier than other people with other diets.

There might be several reasons when someone decides to be a vegan, such as health benefits and weight loss, environmental concerns, animal rights, religious beliefs, etc.

What is vegan diet?

Among all the different diets, vegan is a form of vegetarianism that avoids all the products derived from animals. So, vegans avoid seafood, dairy products, meat, eggs, and honey. Instead, they eat plant-based foods, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, grains, and vegetables.

Why should you go vegan?

Actually, by being a vegan, you will reduce cholesterol intake and saturated fat, which is effective for reducing chronic diseases. Here are other possible reasons for being a vegan:

  • Preventing animal slaughter
  • Preventing farm animals from suffering in agribusiness
  • Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Saving the environment (even a little!)
  • Lowering the blood sugar levels
  • Improving kidney functions
  • Lowering the risk of heart diseases
  • Reducing pain from arthritis
  • Preventing cancers
  • Having a better mental health
  • Lowering the stress
  • Having more harmony with nature

How to be healthy on vegan diet?

Knowing that what makes up a healthy and balanced vegan diet is a really helpful way to get all the nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. Try to plan the vegan diet in the best way so that you can get essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, etc. Here you can see essential nutrient and vitamins in a glance with their benefits and sources:

Healthy vegan diet - infographic

What should vegans eat for their meals?

As we mentioned earlier, vegans don’t eat animal-based foods and products such as meat, yogurt, etc. But it shouldn’t end up vegans in nutrient deficient. So, here are some ideas and food groups for vegan’s diet:

  • Legumes such as peas, lentils, and beans
  • Vegetable oils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Rice, bread, and pasta
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy alternatives such as coconut milk, almond milk, and soymilk
  • Grains
  • Tofu
  • Plant yogurt
  • Seaweed
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Cereals
  • Choline-rich foods
  • Fermented plant foods

What snacks can vegans eat?

Eating a healthy snack on mid-morning or mid-afternoon is a good idea to stay fit. At first glance, you may think that vegans are limited in choosing snacks, but that’s not true! There are countless delicious snacks for vegans. Let’s know some vegan snack ideas:

  • Fruit
  • Fruit leather
  • Nut butter
  • Avocado
  • Nut bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Vegan dark chocolate
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Veggie smoothie
  • Oatmeal with nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Veggie chips
  • Baked tofu
  • Marinated mushroom

How to switch to vegan diet?

The number of people who decide to be vegan is increasing every day. People tend to change their lifestyle in the most beneficial way, including their diet.

Based on the researches, people who have diets with fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds will hardly experience some issues such as heart disease, heart-related issues, and hypertension.

veggie die

If you are going to switch to vegan diet, here are the tips and steps you should follow:

  1. Don’t rush
    It is not necessary to switch all your foods to the plant-based foods in the first place. Just start is small until you are really into the vegan diet. Add the changes gradually and try to have a plan for the change.
  2. Be familiar with vegan recipes
    Search the web, read cookbooks, or ask your vegan friends about the vegan meal recipes and choose some recipes and give them a try. After a short time, you will become familiar with vegan meal ingredients.
  3. Add vegetables to your meal
    Well, you don’t have to give up eating meat or any animal-based product at once, though; start adding vegetables to your food and reduce the amount of meat in each meal gradually. For example, you can add cucumber, cabbage, and tomato to your meal.
  4. Choose a specific day for just being a vegan
    At the begging, you may find it hard to skip meat in your meals, so here is an idea! Choose a specific day of the week, for example, Sundays to eat only the plant-based meals and snacks. Then increase it to twice and three times a week until you feel you are ready to be a vegan for all days of the week.
  5. Get in touch with vegans
    Knowing that other people, such as your family members, friends, or coworkers, are going through the same process is encouragement and helps you reach your goal soon. Then you can share recipes, experiences, and advice with each other.

What are the risks of being a vegan?

Since vegans avoid eating meat, eggs, dairy products, etc. they may face lack of certain essential nutrients that might be harmful to the body, and the damage might be irreversible! Vegans may eat less vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin B12, and they should find a way to substitute the necessary vitamins and nutrients.

So, you should keep in mind that being a vegan doesn’t work for everyone!

Unfortunately, the lack of vitamin B12 in the body can cause serious problems such as anemia, nerve damage, weak immune system, etc. Therefore, eating oysters is highly recommended to vegans because it contains zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.

Also, people may experience depression if they get low omega-3 fatty acids, and to prevent such issues, vegans must find substitutions to consume.

On the other hand, many people benefit from being vegan by having plans and caring about what the body needs. So, it all depends on you!

What are the differences between vegan and vegetarian?

Some people may think that vegan and vegetarian are the same, but they aren’t, and they have a lot of differences! The basic difference is that vegetarians only avoid meat, while vegans avoid all animal-sourced products such as dairy, honey, and eggs. However, both diets tend to eat more plant-based food.

Considering the fact that both vegan and vegetarian diets are healthy, vegans and vegetarians should be mindful of nutrition deficiencies and substitute the needed nutrients and vitamins with the plant-based foods and products.

Here you can see the main difference between vegans and vegetarians:

vegetarian vs. vegan

Can a vegan diet help you lose weight?

Definitely yes! Weight loss might be one of the reasons that people choose to be vegan. Actually, the researches show that vegan dieters lose weight five pounds more than vegetarians. All you need to do is following some tips that are mentioned below; then you can easily experience weight loss!

  1. Fill your plate with vegetables
  2. Mind your portions
  3. Avoid processed foods
  4. Cut out added oil
  5. Eat fiber-rich foods
  6. Avoid junk foods
  7. Do exercise
  8. Eat enough protein
  9. Drink healthy
  10. Care about your intake calorie

Vegan diet and Nuts

Vegan diet attracts many people, especially young girls, who care about their body fitness a lot and want to stay in good shape. But being a vegan mustn’t end up people in nutritional deficient. Therefore, adding some nutritional components such as nuts should be added to the vegan diet. 

You may hardly find iron from plant-based foods, but don’t worry about it! You can easily absorb iron from nuts such as almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and cashews.

What are the health benefits of nuts?

Nuts are rich in fiber, protein, and fat such as omega-3, omega-6, vitamins, minerals, and magnesium that eating them is highly recommended, especially in vegan diet.

How to add nuts in a vegan diet?

Nuts are nutrient and full of health benefits for the body; they are easy to eat and can be taken anywhere. Now, let’s know the ways of adding nuts in a vegan diet:

  1. Add nuts to the salads
  2. Spread nuts on toast and biscuits
  3. Combine nuts and dried fruits for a breakfast
  4. Add chopped nuts to the cereal and enjoy the taste
  5. Keep a jar of seeds on the counter
  6. Use nuts and seeds to garnish
  7. Eat nuts as a snack

What are the best nuts and seeds for vegan diet?

Nuts and seeds contain numerous essential nutrients and health benefits such as fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, copper, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorous, etc. that help the body stay healthy. Moreover, nuts and seeds prevent or lower the risk of heart diseases and body issues. So, try to add the following nuts and seeds in your diet.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecan
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds (aka linseeds)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

How to add nuts in a vegan diet?

Nuts are nutrient and full of health benefits for the body; they are easy to eat and can be taken anywhere. Now, let’s know the ways of adding nuts in a vegan diet:

  1. Add nuts to the salads
  2. Spread nuts on toast and biscuits
  3. Combine nuts and dried fruits for a breakfast
  4. Add chopped nuts to the cereal and enjoy the taste
  5. Keep a jar of seeds on the counter
  6. Use nuts and seeds to garnish
  7. Eat nuts as a snack

What are the easy to cook vegan recipes?

  • Falafel burgers
Falafel_burgers
Recipe source: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/falafel-burgers-0

Ingredients

  • 400 g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley or curly parsley
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1⁄2 tsp harissa paste or chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. Natural Moreish plain flour
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
  • toasted pitta bread, to serve
  • 200 g tub tomato salsa, to serve
  • green salad, to serve

How to cook Falafel burgers?

  1. Drain a 400g can chickpeas and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Tip into a food processor along with 1 small roughly chopped red onion, 1 garlic clove, a handful of flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp harissa paste or chili powder, 2 tbsp plain flour and a little salt.
  3. Blend until fairly smooth, then shape into four patties with your hands.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the burgers, then quickly fry for 3 mins on each side until lightly golden.
  5. Serve with toasted pitta bread, 200g tub tomato salsa, and a green salad.
  • Vegan brownies
vegan_brownie
Recipe source: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/vegan-brownies

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp coffee granules
  • 80g vegan margarine, plus extra for greasing
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 70g ground almonds
  • 50g Natural Moreish cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp Natural Moreish baking powder
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp Natural Moreish vanilla extract

How to cook vegan brownies?

  1. Heat oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3½.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Combine the flaxseed with 6 tbsp water and set aside for at least 5 mins.
  3. In a saucepan, melt 120g chocolate, the coffee, and margarine with 60ml water on low heat. Allow cooling slightly.
  4. Put the flour, almonds, cocoa, baking powder, and ¼ tsp salt in a bowl and stir to remove any lumps. Using a hand whisk, mix the sugar into the melted chocolate mixture, and beat well until smooth and glossy, ensuring all the sugar is well dissolved. Stir in the flaxseed mixture, vanilla extract, and remaining chocolate, then the flour mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  5. Bake for 35-45 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean with moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the tin completely, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container and eat within three days.
  • Vegan pizza

Ingredients

– Vegan pizza dough

  • strong white bread flour 250g
  • fast-action dried yeast 1 tsp
  • sea salt flakes 1 tsp
  • caster sugar 1 tsp
  • olive oil 2 tbsp

– Vegan pizza topping

  • garlic 2 cloves, crushed
  • olive oil 2 tbsp
  • dried chili flakes a pinch
  • sweetcorn 195g tin, drained
  • vegetable stock 50ml
  • chestnut mushrooms 400g, thickly sliced
  • smoked paprika 1 tsp
  • red onion 1, halved and thinly sliced
  • basil a handful of leaves, chopped

How to cook vegan pizza?

  1. Put the flour, yeast, and sea salt in a bowl. Measure out 125ml of warm water, then stir in the sugar and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Gradually add this liquid to the flour, mixing until it forms a dough (you might not need all of the liquid). Tip onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth.
  2. Put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove somewhere warm for 1 hour.
  3. To make the topping, fry the garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes, then add the chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the sweetcorn and cook, stirring, until heated through. Tip into a high-powered blender and whizz, adding a little stock until you have a creamy consistency.
  4. Fry the mushrooms in another pan with a splash of olive oil and lots of seasoning until the liquid, has evaporated and they’re starting to crisp. Sprinkle over the paprika, toss and take off the heat.
  5. Knock the dough back and divide in half. Roll and gently pull each piece out into a 26cm pizza base on sheets of baking paper.
  6. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Put two heavy baking sheets on shelves near the top of the oven and leave them to heat for at least 10 minutes
  7. To finish the pizzas, spread the sweetcorn cream over the bases, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Top with the mushrooms and the red onion. Lift each baking paper sheet with the topped pizzas onto the heated baking trays. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until the bases are crisp and tops bubbling. Scatter with basil, drizzle with a little more oil then cut into slices to serve.

All in all

Vegans avoid eating meat, eggs, dairy products, and seafood while they enjoy a lot of health benefits such as better heart health and weight loss.

Whether you are following a vegan diet at the moment or just want to begin it, try to follow the mentioned tips to have a healthy body.

Enjoy your new lifestyle!

About the author Edward is a food writer, photographer and restaurant reviewer and meal planning maestro. He is all about fresh everyday wholefoods ingredients. He has made a few attempts at keeping a blog over the years. He has always loved cooking, even though baking is – and will always be – his first love.

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