Vegan diets are a sub-type of vegetarian diet that restricts all animal products and their derivatives. Per a study in Frontiers in Nutrition, there are also different types of eating patterns under the vegan umbrella. For example, while all vegans exclusively eat plant-based products, whole food vegans focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, while limiting processed foods and added refined oils. In contrast, aside from restricting the use of added refined oils, raw vegans also avoid cooked foods, meaning that legumes and processed foods are a no-go as well.
According to a review in Nutrients, people who opt for a vegan diet often do so for ethical and environmental concerns. However, veganism is also linked to numerous health benefits. For instance, vegan diets promote heart health due to their characteristically high intake of fiber, antioxidants, and blood-pressure-lowering minerals like potassium and magnesium. Vegans also have a 24% reduced risk of heart disease compared to meat eaters. The diet helps manage body weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
Yet, despite their promising health benefits, vegan diets can easily lead to deficiencies in iron, vitamins D and B12, calcium, zinc, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. The reason behind vitamin D and B12 deficiency is that they’re only found in animal sources. Regarding the remaining deficiencies, for the most part, they’re caused due to the presence of anti-nutrients that hinder nutrient absorption. For this reason, oral food supplements and fortified foods are highly recommended for vegans.