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  • Writer's pictureJack Paschal

How to Become a Vegan: A Beginner’s Guide #HeartDisease

How to Become a Vegan: A Beginner’s Guide

Going vegan Vegan foods have gone mainstream, from oat milk at Starbucks to the announcement of the upcoming McPlant burger at McDonald’s.

Vegan claims on new food products doubled globally between 2016 and 2020, according to consumer research group Mintel.

And there’s no sign of the movement slowing down. That’s leading many people—yes, even meat eaters—to wonder about how to go vegan.

There’s a difference between eating vegan foods on occasion and going vegan.

Currently, fewer than 5 percent of Americans categorize themselves as vegan, based on a 2020 Gallup poll.

Yet it’s clear that more and more people are experimenting with veganism, or opting into vegan challenges that range from a week to a month or more.

At the start of 2021, more than half a million people signed up for Veganuary, a commitment to eat vegan for the month of January.

That number was a record for the nonprofit Veganuary group, which began in 2014 to promote veganism and has steadily grown since.

If you’ve been wondering how to become vegan, either in the short term or for the long haul, you probably have questions, and you’ll need resources.

We’ve got you covered.

Use this handy beginner’s guide to learn how to adopt a 100 percent plant-based eating routine—without sacrificing nutrition or enjoyment.

What is veganism?

Diet-wise, eating vegan involves excluding all animal-based foods.

That means no meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, or any ingredients derived from animal sources, including honey, collagen, and gelatin.

In this guide, we’ll be focusing on food only.

It’s worth noting that as a lifestyle, veganism extends to not using products sourced from animals at all.

This includes clothes made with leather, fur, wool, silk, and cashmere.

Household goods, like cosmetics and soaps, are also excluded if they are made with any animal-derived ingredients or tested on animals.

(Learn more about vegan clothing.)

Why go vegan?

A vegan diet that includes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is rich in fiber and health-protective phytochemicals and is low in saturated fat, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Plant-based diets are also more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products.

That’s because plant-based foods use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.

Health benefits of a vegan diet Several published studies have linked a vegan diet to improved health outcomes and lower chronic disease risk.

A 2015 randomized controlled trial published in the journal Nutrition compared five diets: vegan, vegetarian, omnivorous, semi-vegetarian, and pescatarian.

By the six-month mark, the vegan eaters had lost significantly more weight than those following the other diets.

Research published in 2020 in Medicina looked at the influence of a vegan diet on the gut microbiome.

Scientists found that a vegan diet can increase beneficial microorganisms in the gut and reduce levels of harmful pathogens.

These changes may result in reduced inflammation, and improvements in blood sugar regulation, cholesterol levels, and body weight.

Meanwhile, a 2014 study published in Nutrients concluded that compared to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, a vegan eating pattern offered additional protection against obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and death from heart disease.

For heart disease specifically, a vegan diet fared better than an American Heart Association–recommended diet in an eight-week randomized trial published in 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers found that a vegan diet led to 32 percent lower levels of high‐sensitivity C‐reactive protein, a blood marker for inflammation and heart disease risk.

(Learn more about the health benefits of a vegan diet.)

Risks of a vegan diet A vegan diet must be well planned in order to prevent nutrient deficiencies and will likely require supplementation (more on this in the FAQ...

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