What's the difference between vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets?
First, let me say you'll probably find people all across this spectrum, but in general, here's the most common answer:
Vegetarians do not eat meat (birds, cows, pigs, lambs, fish, etc.). They do still consume dairy (cow milk) products and eggs.
Vegans do no eat ANY product that came from an animal (tissue or secretions).
Plant-based eaters, well here's where things get tricky. According to Forks Over Knives, plant-based means your food comes from plants and does not include any animal products. That's the same as vegan. However, others have taken the term to emphasize the word "based", meaning it is primarily plants (based on them), but may include include small portions of animal products.
Do I need to take a vitamin B12 supplement?
As always, talk to your healthcare provider regarding diet changes and supplementation!
According to expert sources, if you are moving to a vegan diet, yes, you should supplement with vitamin B12. Your levels may be great now, but if you do not supplement and run into a deficit, there can be irreversible damage.
Where do vegans get their protein?
Protein is present in all plant foods. Vegans get their protein from all the foods they eat. If someone on a 2,000 calorie diet were to eat their whole 2,000 calories from broccoli that day, they'd get around 150 grams of protein. The recommended daily allowance for the average man is 56 grams and the average woman, 46 grams! Protein is not an issue if you are eating a healthy vegan diet full of variety.
Aren't soy products bad for you because they increase estrogen in men and women?
The compound in soy is called a phytoestrogen. A phytoestrogen is a plant-derived compound that is similar in structure and function to the estrogen in mammals. However, the phytoestrogen in soy does not function exactly the same as the estrogen we produce. Phytoestrogens have been found to have especially positive effects in the reduction of estrogen-dependent breast cancers (cancers driven by estrogen) by binding to receptors in the body and reducing the amount of estrogen produced. Phytoestrogens have not been demonstrated to reduce testosterone levels.
I want to lose weight, so I need to reduce carbs. How can I do that on a vegan diet when it's all carbs?
Our bodies are meant to run on carbohydrates. Unless you have a specific medical condition, 75-80% of your calories should be from carbohydrates. The real issue is healthful vs junk carbohydrates. A healthy vegan diet is full of fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates known through documented, peer-reviewed studies to promote weight loss and reverse many of the most common chronic diseases we see today. It is also sustainable and satisfying.