The words “vegan” or “plant-based” are often associated with dieting, healthy living, or lifestyle changes - and for good reason. Vegan diets are ideal for losing weight, lowering the risk of disease, and even slowing cognitive decline as you age.
A diet is a tool you can use to achieve a health goal, and vegan or plant-based diets are some of the best tools out there.
But even if you switch to a plant-based diet with the best intentions, going vegan doesn't automatically guarantee good health.
Vegans can be malnourished. Vegans can be overweight. As much as we wish it was, veganism isn’t an automatic cure for an unhealthy or unbalanced diet or lifestyle.
Just because a food is vegan doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for you, and it doesn’t mean it should be part of your diet. Of course, this is easier said than done.
This week, we’re taking a look at vegan junk food and how it can impact everything from your diet to your immunity.
What Is a Junk Food Vegan?
The transition to a vegan diet can be very challenging. Not only do you have to completely change the way you shop, but the new diet can feel very restrictive since it cuts out meat, eggs, and dairy.
Your go-to breakfast, lunch, or dinner may no longer be viable, or you may have to make significant changes to it. This is ultimately what leads so many new dieters down the road to becoming junk food vegans.
If you're unfamiliar, a junk food vegan is someone who regularly consumeshighly-processed food itemson a regular basis.
Ideally, a vegan diet will consist of plant-based whole foods like vegetables, fruits, superfoods, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and healthy fats. Your goal should be to focus on these foods 80% of the time or more.
The reason so many vegans toe that junk food line is because there are now so many highly-processed vegan food options.
You've probably seen most of them - maybe you've even tried some. Supermarkets are packed with foods that are vegan on a technicality, and fast food chains have started offering vegan options as well.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in these options on occasion, but letting them sneak into your daily life can be detrimental to your health. Why do so many vegans fall into this trap? Simple: It's easy to fall back on foods that are convenient and enjoyable.
Regardless of your reasons for going vegan, it’s important to avoid giving in and becoming a junk food vegan. Veganism doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but it’s important to develop a roadmap with defined goals.
If you’re not careful, you won’t reach your weight goals and you can actually negatively affect your immunity.
Even if Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, and other fun snacks are technically vegan, too much unhealthy or highly-processed foods can be harmful to your immune system.
Consuming too much sugar, for example, can harm immune system cells that attack bacteria. The effect only lasts for a few hours after consuming these foods, but making them a consistent part of your diet can suppress your immunity long-term.
Additionally, there's evidence that nutritional deficiencies can make you more vulnerable to infections. If highly-processed vegan junk foods make up too much of your diet, you could be putting yourself at risk to come down with an illness.
The cure to your immunity woes - or the key to maintaining your immunity - is to stick to a nutritious whole foods vegan diet.
Your immune system needs plenty of energy from the right nutrients to work to its potential. Why is this? Energy is used to make the immune cells and enzymes that ward off illness. Without essential vitamins and minerals, your immune system will suffer.
A well-balanced vegan diet that focuses on whole foods will give your body all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients it needs to function properly. These vitamins and minerals include zinc, iron, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12. The diet should also cover essential fatty and amino acids.
Studieshave found that anyone who is deficient in one or several of these nutrients are not only more susceptible to sickness, but sicknesses are also more likely to be severe and last longer. Research also shows that eliminating these deficiencies will improve the function of the immune system, making the body more resistant to sickness and infection.
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Don’t Be Perfect - Be Smart
There are plenty of reasons to avoid becoming a junk food vegan, but that doesn’t mean you have to chase perfection.
Nobody is perfect, so don’t feel pressured into being perfect with your diet. Instead, find a good balance. You can enjoy some of those processed vegan foods from time to time, but try to build the bulk of your diet around healthy whole foods.
Taking a realistic approach to your diet will not only help you reach your goals, but it will also ensure you're satisfied throughout the journey.
Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. We recommend that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.