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Vegan diet: is it healthy?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 124 views

No meat, no eggs, no milk, no honey: the vegan diet (veganism) avoids all animal products. Vegans only eat plant-based foods. But is that healthy or do deficiency symptoms quickly appear? Read here the advantages and disadvantages of a vegan diet and which foods belong to it.

What does vegan mean?

The term “vegan”, which is made up of the beginning and the end of the word “vegetarian”, probably goes back to the Englishman Donald Watson.

It bothered him that vegetarian diets included dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo-vegetarians). In 1944 he founded the English “Vegan Society”. Veganism was also called consistent or radical vegetarianism at the time .

As a result, vegans not only avoid fish and meat, but also foods such as milk, cheese, eggs, honey and gelatine. For many people, veganism also means avoiding leather, fur and non-vegan cosmetics.

According to Statista, around 1.13 million people in Germany were vegan in 2020, and the trend is rising. Vegan diets are also common among allergy sufferers and people with food intolerance. In addition, the need for a sustainable lifestyle plays a major role for some vegans.

A vegan diet is seen as a benefit for the climate. The reason: Cattle emit methane during digestion. Since the animals are often fed with soy, rainforests, which are important CO2 stores, are cut down for its cultivation.

But: Meat substitutes for vegan diets are often made from soy. Those who pay attention to their CO2 footprint are therefore better off covering their protein needs with nuts and legumes.

Vegan diet: These foods are allowed!

Vegetable margarine instead of butter , tofu instead of meat: Vegans eat plant-based. This means that all the food they consume is free from animal ingredients.

In recent years, the range of vegan products has increased. In addition to fruit and vegetables, there are numerous plant-based spreadable pastes as a topping, meat and sausage made from soy or seitan , cheese substitutes, plant-based milk and vegan cosmetics and clothing.

A vegan scrambled egg can be made with silken tofu, for example. When baking, vegans often use flaxseed, mashed avocado, applesauce, or mashed bananas instead of eggs.

The book market has also reacted in recent years with numerous cookbooks that deal exclusively with the preparation of vegan nutrition. In the meantime, especially in big cities, there are supermarkets that are completely geared to the needs of vegans.

The most common vegan foods include:

plant milk

Whether for muesli or coffee: plant milk is an alternative to cow’s milk that more and more non-vegans are turning to. The best-known variety is soy milk. Variants with oats, almonds, cashews, rice, hemp and coconut are also available.

Vegan dairy products such as yoghurts and puddings are also often made with soy, coconut and almond milk.

Vegan Cheese

The basic ingredient for vegan cheese is plant milk. There is a large selection of types: in addition to creamy cream cheese, you will also find grated cheese for pizza and pasta as well as some slices in the refrigerated counter.

The cheese without cow’s milk is not only popular with vegans. People with lactose intolerance also like to grab it. Beware of the additives , however . In vegan cheese there are sometimes additives like carrageenan or xanthan gum .

Tofu

Tofu is made from soy. The meat substitute contains, among other things , protein , calcium, iron and magnesium. It is very low in fat and has hardly any calories.

There are usually two types in the supermarket:

  • Natural tofu has no taste of its own and can be varied with different spices and herbs.
  • Smoked tofu tastes spicy. It is well suited to savory dishes.

Tempeh

Tempeh is also an important source of protein for vegans. The meat substitute originated in Asia. Like tofu, it is made from soybeans – but the production process is different. For tempeh, the soybeans are combined with a mold and then fermented. The result: a slightly nutty taste.

I argue

Like natural tofu, seitan has no taste of its own. The meat substitute consists of wheat protein (gluten) and has a meat-like consistency. It is also rich in protein, has only a low fat content and has almost no cholesterol .

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