What Is a Vegan Diet? A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

A vegan diet attempts to avoid all animal products including meat, eggs, honey and dairy products like milk and cheese and focuses on including plant-based foods. Veganism believes in excluding any form of animal exploitation and cruelty. People may go vegan for ethical, environmental or health reasons.

A vegan diet may be a smart choice for people of all ages including children, pregnant and lactating women as well as athletes. This diet can improve your health and prevent or help control many health conditions as you rely on nutrient-rich plant-based foods.

Types of Vegan Diets

There are different types of the vegan diet and the most common include −

  • Raw food vegan diet − This diet includes raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and plant foods which are cooked at temperatures below 118 degrees F or 48 degrees C. You may also include sprouted foods to maintain the calorie intake.

  • Whole food vegan diet − Here, you can consume whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

  • High carb, low fat (HCLF) − In this diet, you can eat carbohydrates in form of fruit, grains and vegetables. You need to consume low amounts of fat by reducing your intake of nuts, seeds, avocados, oils and other plant foods which have high-fat content.

  • 80/10/10 diet − This diet follows the parameter of consuming 80 per cent of calories from carbohydrates, 10 per cent from protein and 10 per cent from fat. This is a raw vegan diet which relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens. It limits the intake of fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and is also known as low fat, raw food vegan or fruitarian diet.

  • Raw till 4 − This is a low-fat vegan diet which is inspired by an 80/10/10 diet. In this vegan diet, you can consume raw foods till 4 pm with an option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.

  • Thrive diet − Here, vegans can eat plant-based whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.

  • Starch solution diet − This is similar to the 80/10/10 diet which is low fat and high carbohydrate vegan diet. The only difference is that it depends on starches like potatoes, rice and corn instead of fruit.

The central idea of any vegan diet irrespective of its type focuses on replacing animal products and highly processed foods with plant-based foods.

Foods to Eat on a Vegan Diet

A vegan diet is loaded with fibre, minerals and plant protein as vegans consume fruits and vegetables. Vegans can substitute animal products with plant-based foods including −

  • Tofu, tempeh and seitan − They are protein-rich alternatives to meat, fish, eggs and poultry.

  • Legumes − They are an excellent source of many nutrients and plant compounds. They can be used in many recipes and sprouting, fermenting and cooking them appropriately can increase nutrient absorption.

  • Nuts and nut butter − Unblanched and unroasted nuts are an excellent source of iron, fibre, zinc, magnesium, selenium and vitamin E.

  • Fruits and vegetables − Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, watercress, bok choy and mustard greens are high in iron and calcium. Moreover, all vegetables and fruits can increase nutrient intake.

  • Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals − They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, iron, B vitamins and minerals.

  • Seeds − Hemp, chia and flaxseeds have protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Sprouted and fermented plant foods − Sprouting and fermenting plant foods can improve mineral absorption. Foods like miso, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, natto, sauerkraut and Ezekiel bread often have probiotics and vitamin K2.

Apart from the above-mentioned foods, vegans can also consume plant-based milk such as almond milk, oat milk, soy milk or coconut milk, plant-based oils like olive oil and coconut oil and grains such as rice, quinoa and farro. Bread and baked goods that don't have dairy or eggs can also be consumed. Also, chocolate which is made from plant-based milk and pasta can be included in the vegan diet.

Foods to Avoid on a Vegan Diet

Vegans must avoid anything that comes from an animal and replace it with plant-based foods. One must avoid seafood, meat, poultry, milk, yoghurt, cheese, cream, butter, eggs, fish, honey, sweets made with eggs and dairy products and foods that include lard and fish oil. Moreover, bread made with eggs and marshmallows and gummy bears made with gelatin cannot qualify as vegan.

Vegan Diet for Weight Loss

The natural tendency to consume fewer calories on a vegan diet may make you feel fuller as your fibre intake increases. Vegan diets reduce the number of calories you consume and thereby may help in weight loss. Researchers have found that people eating a vegan diet may lose more weight as compared to the ones eating a low-fat diet.

Nevertheless, a vegan diet isn't the only solution for weight loss. You may notice a difference in your weight if you replace junk food with fresh green salads. However, if you are already eating a healthy diet, the changes in body weight may not be as significant as required.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Vegans tend to have lower Body-Mass Index (BMI) and can manage health conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular problems. A vegan diet can control blood sugar levels and maintain insulin sensitivity which lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The high fibre intake may decrease the blood sugar impact and contribute to weight loss.

Along with blood sugar, a vegan diet can also control LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and total cholesterol. This lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Vegan diets are also associated with a range of other health benefits such as minimizing cancer risk and Alzheimer's disease. Vegan diets seem significantly effective in reducing symptoms of arthritis like joint swelling, morning stiffness and pain. As the fibre content increases, vegans are at a lower risk of poor kidney function and metabolism issues.

Vegan Diet Recipes and Snacks

For breakfast, you can include a vegan muffin, kale smoothie with vegan protein powder, peanut butter and banana toast, homemade vegan granola bar, a burrito with tofu etc.

For lunch, you may have spinach stuffed mushrooms, vegetables with hummus sandwich on vegan bread, kale salad with tofu, carrots and tomatoes, roasted vegetables and rice etc.

Dinner may include roasted broccoli and tofu, stuffed sweet potatoes, vegan ramen soup with zucchini noodles, pita with falafel and a side salad, grilled cauliflower steaks etc.

Vegan Snacks

Portable snacks can keep you energized and also help you to keep hunger at bay between meals. Opt for fibre and protein-rich vegan snacks to minimize hunger between meals.

Some of the vegan snack options include −

  • Roasted chickpeas

  • Chia pudding

  • Hummus and vegetables

  • Fresh fruit with nut butter

  • Vegetable chips

  • Cereals

  • Dried seaweed snack

  • Plant-milk latte or cappuccino

  • Popcorn


A vegan diet allows you to be creative with plant-based foods. International cuisines like Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Mexican could be ideal for vegans. The health benefits of a vegan diet are many but only if you are consistent, they may show noticeable results.