Everything you want to know about a vegan diet

The who, what, when, where, why, and how of veganism.

Vegan? What does that even mean? Why do we keep seeing that word pop up? Why is that on food packages? Keep reading below and all your questions will be answered.


Anyone can be a vegan! A vegan is a person who does not consume or use animal products, including: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, dairy, cheese, honey, and eggs. Expanding off that, there are individuals who follow a vegan lifestyle, not just vegan dietary practices. These people avoid leather products, silk, and wool.


According to the American Society of Nutrition, a vegan diet has become increasingly more trendy and popular in the last decade. Celebrities from Beyoncé to Bill Clinton are rumored to follow a vegan diet. Articles that explore the health benefits of a vegan diet have also increased. All these factors, along with the growing number of vegan products in supermarkets, beg the question: what are the benefits? According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition vegan diets are usually higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron, and phytochemicals. In general, vegans typically enjoy a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.


According to The Vegan Society, veganism is not a new concept at all. The first vegans can be traced back almost 2,000 years, to the year 500 BCE. The first modern day vegan was Donald Watson. In 1944, Watson coined the term “vegan” as a way to differentiate further from vegetarians.


According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, about 1.4 percent of Americans consume a vegan diet.


With the numerous health benefits explained above, there are also religious, taste, environmental, weight, ethical, and other personal reasons that people make the decision to follow vegan dietary practices.


Dietary recommendations for vegans are different than those usually recommended for individuals who follow a non-vegan diet. Vegans should ensure they get adequate vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron, Omega 3, and Omega 9. For more information on the foods to eat for these recommendations take a look at this article.

Here is an example of a vegan dinner plate from a USDA resource, to help see what the balance of foods should be.

The USDA has many vegan-friendly recipes, such as this vegan powerhouse pesto pasta.

Material presented above is to serve only as a guide. If you are considering trying a vegan diet, or if you want to learn more information, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you talk with your healthcare provider before making any dietary changes because each person’s nutritional needs are different.

Michigan State University Extension also has resources like the Adopting More Meatless Meals and Heath Benefits of Tofu articles for those considering the switch to veganism.

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