Vegans take things a step further by avoiding all meats and animal byproducts. Nutritionist Rosalee Brown advises those interested in taking on a vegan lifestyle to do some research and seek support and professional guidance before adopting it.
The primary concern about veganism is whether it provides enough protien. Vegans consume a lot of legumes and cereals for this reason, but some plant foods have less than adequate amounts of some of the amino acids which cannot be synthesised by the body. Although variety is encouraged, the bulk of the diet should be grains followed by peas, beans, nuts and seeds, then fruits and vegetables.
The vegan diet can also be deficient in iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine. Although plant foods are good sources of iron and calcium, these minerals are not as readily utilised in plant form as they are in forms from animal. Meal combining can assist in some respects. For example, foods high in vitamin C will assist in the absorption of plant-based iron. Vitamin D may not be an issue for many persons in the tropics exposed to sunlight, but can be an issue for those heavily clothed because of religious reasons or house bound. The vegan diet would not permit fish-liver oil supplements intake to offset vitamin-D deficiency.
Although this diet can be given to children, very careful planning and monitoring is necessary as the period of childhood demands large amounts of nutrients and calories, and irreparable damage can be done, resulting in stunting, underweight and poor cognitive development. Care should also be taken with this diet in pregnant women and in others with increased nutrient and caloric demands.
Some vegans are even stricter, eating only ‘living foods’ which have not been cooked, typically above 112 degrees Fahrenheit or approximately 48 degrees Celsius. Those who eat a raw food diet claim that it gives them more energy, enhances mental acuity, purifies the body of toxins, reverses diseases, strengthens the immune system, improves hormonal and reproductive health, reduces stress and more.
The raw vegan diet typically includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, dried fruits, legumes and avocados (pears). Raw vegans prepare their meals by juicing, blending, drying/dehydrating, food processing and freezing their ingredients. There are many creative meal ideas available online. Some may even surprise you.
However, detractors have raised the same concerns noted above, and others point to the fact that cooking actually releases more of the lycopene and other carotenoids (the pigments in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables). The same goes for green, leafy vegetables such as callaloo, which makes the nutrients from more easily absorbed by the body.