Wrote by Sînziana Roberta Plăcintă – 3rd Year BNYS student, School of Naturopathic and Yogic Sciences “SVYASA Yoga University”

You are probably familiar with the term !veganism” as it became more popular in the last few years, but the question is what does veganism really mean?

By definition, veganism is a way of living in which people exclude, as much as possible, all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty. There are many ways to vegan living. Yet, what is common to all vegans is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish and sea foods, dairy, eggs – as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.

Why do people go vegan?

There are mainly four reasons why people chose to become vegan and these are as follows.


People who chose veganism for ethical reason strongly believe that all living creatures have the right of life and freedom. Thus, they oppose to killing animals in order for them to eat or dress (like fur and skin clothes) or the abuse of animals in farms, research purposes or circus.

This concept is found in the yogic philosophy, named !ahimsa” or !non-violence.” Ahimsa means !non-injury” and !non-killing.” It implies the absolute avoidance of harming any kind of living creatures not only by actions, but also by words and thoughts. This principle also is one of the reason why people go vegan for spiritual reasons.


One common reason why people become vegan is because of the health benefits that come with it.

Diets high in meat (especially red meat) have been linked to cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while plant-based diet has been associated to lower risk of prematurely dying from diseases.
Research has also shown that a vegan diet can improve your digestion and reduce your risk of Alzheimer”s disease.

Plant based foods are richer in fiber, while animal products contain almost no fiber at all. Thus, veganism is associated with better digestive health.

Animal products are the main dietary sources of saturated fats. Hence, eating foods that contain these type fats raises cholesterol levels and leads to high risks of heart disease and stroke.

Type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome, can be reduced by following veganism. Research has shown that by eating vegan food, there is increased insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. It maximizes the triglycerides metabolism and insulin pathway signaling.

People on a vegan diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than other people. One study has reported that vegan diets were more effective for weight loss than any other vegetarian diet.

The high fat content and hormones found in animals products like milk, cheese, and other dairy products can lead to breast cancer. Research funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Cancer Research Fund, found that women who consumed 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cow”s milk per day had a 30% increased chance for breast cancer. One cup per day increased the risk by 50%, and 2-3 cups were associated with an 80% increased chance of breast cancer. But the study cites research showing that vegans, but not lacto-ovo-vegetarians, experience less breast cancer than nonvegetarians.

Regular consumption of dairy products has also been associated to prostate cancer and higher risk of hip fracture in old age after they have consumed milk at a younger age. Also, a 12 year long Harvard Health Study found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy foods broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk.


The production of meat and other animal products places is becoming difficult on the environment- from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transportation and other processes required. The food required to feed animals (mostly grain) results in deforestation, habitat loss and species extinctions. This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving poverty-stricken populations to grow crops for feeding animals, rather than food for themselves. On the other hand, considerably low amount of crops and water is required to sustain a vegan diet, thus keeping the negative impact on the environment low.


As I have mentioned above, veganism is compatible with a nonviolent lifestyle. Veganism are important aspects of spirituality and the return of the soul to its own realm. Spirituality is not only concerned with our own inner growth, but it”s also a way of life in which we love and care about all life in creation.

The spiritual motivation of becoming a vegetarian is to prevent having our spiritual consciousness lowered by the vibrations of the animals we consume.

Eating plant food that”s alive affects our energetic beings on a physical, emotional and spiritual levels. It raises our vibrations, as opposed to when we eat the dead flesh of an animal (that did not want to die). On the other hand, eating animals that suffered and died in a violent, traumatic way literally becomes part of us and negatively affects our spirit.

Vegan vs. vegetarian

Main difference between these two is that vegetarian people consume dairy products, eggs, or both, whereas vegan diet excludes all products provided from animals.

Types of vegan diets

Whole-food vegan diet – These individuals favor a diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole food-vegans also try to avoid processed food.

Junk-food vegan diet – In this type of diet people rely on processed vegan foods such as mock meats, fries, frozen dinners, and desserts, like ice creams and cookies.

Raw vegans diet – In this diet, people consume uncooked food or food cooked below 48°C. They consider the fact that cooking at high temperature will cause loss of vitamins and minerals.

Frutarian vegan diet – In this type people consume mainly fruits, nuts and seeds. They might as well eat grains and veggies, however the main food consists of fruits.

What do vegans eat?

Beans, peas, and lentils: such as red, brown, or green lentils; chickpeas; split peas; black-eyed 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: peanuts, almonds, cashews etc., and their butters
  • Seeds: such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and their butters, as well as flaxseed, hemp seeds, and chia seeds
  • Whole grains: such as quinoa, whole wheat, whole oats, and whole grain brown or wild rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta
  • All types of veggies and fruits
  • Other plant-based foods: such as algae, nutritional yeast, fortified plant milks and yogurts, and maple syrup

Vegan sources of important nutrients

  • Iron – dried beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, soy beans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, tempeh, black beans, prune juice, beet greens, tahini, peas, bulghur, bok choy, raisins, watermelon, millet, kale
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts.
  • Vitamin B12- tempeh, miso, seaweed, fortified foods, fortified nutritional yeast, vitamin B12 supplements
  • Calcium – soy milk, rice milk, green leafy veggies, kale, tahini, almonds, broccoli, boy choy

Smart food swaps for your cooking

You could swap meat-containing dishes for meal containing beans, tofu, tempeh, lentils, nuts and seeds.

You can replace dairy products with plant milks (like soy milk, almond milk, oats milk), replace scrambled eggs with scrambled tofu and raw eggs with flaxseed or chia seeds.

Egg as a binder can be replaced by soft tofu blended, smashed banana, applesauce, cornstarch.

Buttermilk can be replaced with soured soy or rice milk (For each Cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup soy milk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar.)

You can also choose from the ready-made vegan products like vegan meats, vegan cheese etc, but you have to keep in mind that they may be highly processed, thus they are only good in moderation, not excess.

Top 3 myths about being vegan

Myth 1: You don”t get enough protein

Vegans get a whole load of plant-based protein from beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, broccoli,

nuts, seeds, quinoa and more. Protein is the !building block of life” that keeps you full longer, gives you energy, and helps you build muscle. A vegan diet will provide enough for your diet.

Myth 2: Being vegan is restrictive

From a first glance it may seem restrictive as many usual products that people eat are not included in this type of diet. Instead of focusing on what you can”t have, focus on what you can- there are a bunch of food varieties you can discover and food options and possibilities, which could include trying new flavors, spices and cooking methods.

Myth 3: Being vegan is expensive

Yes, prepackaged foods can sometimes seem expensive vegan or not. But, when you consider vegan don”t eat meat ( one of the priciest food item), you might see you will save some money. Also, the basic staples of vegan diet- whole grains, rice, legumes, veggies and fruits are very affordable. It all depends on your choice.


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