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Starting a vegan diet can be challenging for a beginner. The wealth of resources and information regarding how to approach the transition can be overwhelming. Often, it’s easy for individuals to feel lost on what to do, and for some, the way to get it right is through trial and error. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

As health-conscious individuals – such as Richard Mallet, a vegetarian who’s followed the diet for years – know all too well, embracing a vegan diet requires a proper understanding of what it entails.

What Is a Vegan Diet?

The vegan diet advocates the consumption of plant-based foods and beverages while eliminating all animal-based foods. This is quite different from the vegetarian diet, which allows the consumption of eggs and dairy. Vegans avoid consuming any animal by-products and foods that use animals in their processing methods.

For some individuals, going the vegan route is about more than just the diet. The vegan lifestyle extends to product choices as well; many vegans will also avoid personal care items, clothes, entertainment options, and even medications that use animal products or involve the exploitation of animals. People who chose this lifestyle do so for a variety of reasons, ranging from ethical concerns to a desire to live a healthy lifestyle.

Types of Vegan Diets

Different types of vegan diets exist, including:

  • Raw-Food Diet: Individuals who subscribe to this diet consume raw plant-based foods that are cooked at temperatures less than 48°Celsius
  • Whole-Food Diet: This vegan diet relies on whole plant foods, for example whole grains, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits.
  • 80/10/10 Diet: This diet is also known as the low-fat, raw-food diet and encourages the consumption of more soft greens and raw fruits over fat-rich options such as avocados and nuts.
  • The Thrive Diet: The thrive diet is similar to the raw-food diet, but any cooking of the raw foods is done minimally at low temperatures.
  • The Starch Solution: This is a high-carbohydrates diet that encourages the consumption of cooked starches and less fruit.
  • JunkFood Vegan Diet: The foods considered ‘junk’ in the vegan lifestyle are actually normal plant-based foods that are heavily processed or designed to resemble conventional junk food options such as fries, cheeses, meats and desserts.
  • Raw Till 4: Followers of this diet consume raw foods until 4 p.m. Meals consumed afterwards can be cooked.

Why Go Vegan?

People who choose to become vegans do so for a variety of reasons. For starters, the effect of eating whole, plant-based foods over time can help with weight loss. Researchers report that people who embrace vegan diets can lose more weight than those who follow other diet-based methods for shedding weight, such as calorie-restricted diets.

Others embrace veganism for its ability to keep blood sugar levels in check and therefore reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Part of this is because of the high consumption of fibre that can blunt the blood sugar response. Good heart health is another reason why the vegan diet is popular, with studies showing that those who subscribe to the diet reduce their risks of developing high blood pressure and death from heart disease by up to 75 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Is Veganism for You?

The choice to go vegan is mostly an individual one. However, as with any dietary choice, the context within which the decision is made is very important. Individuals who exercise regularly and have a clean bill of health due to regular check-ups probably don’t need to change their diets. From a health perspective, the vegan diet is best for someone concerned about their health that wishes to see what a plant-based diet can do for them.