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People are eating vegan food in increasing numbers and are avoiding products that are animal based. This includes not only meat, sausage, and cheese, but also all other dairy products, eggs, and even honey. The exact number of vegans in Germany is not exactly known. However, in a survey conducted by ProVeg (formerly VEBU) in 2016, around 1.3 million Germans stated that they predominantly eat vegan. Eight years ago, only about 80,000 people called themselves vegans.
What does vegan actually mean?
Veganism is a special form of vegetarianism. While vegetarians mostly do not eat meat, sausage, and fish, vegans go a step further and consume no animal products whatsoever. Many vegans do not limit their veganism to food. They also live vegan. This means that they not only remove animal products from their diet, but also avoid clothing of animal origin (e.g. clothing made of leather or wool) as well as cosmetic products and medicines containing animal substances.
Reasons for a vegan diet and lifestyle
There are many reasons to live vegan. Here are just a few of them:
- Animal love: Respect for animal welfare
- Protection of the environment which is adversely affected by large-scale livestock farming
- Fear of antibiotic-resistant germs due to the overuse of antibiotics in animal fattening
- Health aspects: Reducing the risk of developing diseases of civilisation associated with a meat-heavy diet
Vegan nutrition: Which foods are allowed and which are not?
Vegans generally reject all animal foods and eat a purely plant-based diet. The diet usually includes many fruits, vegetables, cereal products, pulses, seeds, and nuts. Additionally, vegan replacement products are increasingly finding their way into the kitchens of vegan households.
Since food choices for vegans are constantly growing, it is now easier than ever to eat vegan and, at the same time, have a healthy and varied diet. Not only is the number of vegan restaurants steadily increasing, almost every supermarket now also a variety of vegan products from spreads to almond milk to vegan schnitzel. As with any other form of nutrition, it is recommended that vegans eat as much fresh food as possible. Highly processed foods contain fewer nutrients and often contain many preservatives. Whether vegan or not, the following rule of thumb applies to all finished products: The shorter the list of ingredients, the better the product.
Risks of a vegan diet – what should be considered?
Those who eat a balanced vegan diet consume less saturated fatty acids and cholesterol while getting more fibre and secondary plant substances. This has a positive effect on health. However, nutrition scientists warn against possible deficiency symptoms as a result of insufficient nutritional intake. Some nutrients and vital substances are seen as particularly critical for vegans. These include vitamin B12, iodine, iron, calcium, zinc, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. If you want to eat vegan food and prevent possible nutrient deficiencies, you should design your diet very carefully and make sure you are diversifying your nutrient intake. A regular medical test of your blood can help vegans know if they are at risk for vitamin deficiencies.
When is a vegan diet not suitable?
There are risk groups that nutrition experts strongly advise against a pure vegan diet. Among these are the following groups:
- Women in pregnancy and during lactation
- Children and adolescents
- Seniors with limited resorption capacity
It is not only seniors that can be affected by limited absorption capacity which denotes the insufficient absorption of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from foods. The absorption capacity of people with chronic intestinal diseases intestinal diseases is also usually limited. In order to get a better idea about the health of your intestines, the scientists from BIOMES recommend an analysis of your intestinal flora using INTEST.pro. With the help of the intestinal test, you can quickly find out whether your intestinal activity may be impaired and whether the microbial balance of your intestinal flora is healthy. Additionally, you will receive concrete recommendations for improving your diet.
Vegan or not vegan – the decision is yours
Whether you want to eat and live vegan is your personal decision. There are many reasons for veganism, but the risks of malnutrition should not be ignored. If you are not part of a high-risk group and if you plan your diet with great care, there is nothing to stop you from switching to a vegan diet.