November is World Vegan Month. It's meant to educate people about what it means to have a vegan diet, and the reasons why. A local dietitian said a vegan diet can be good for you as long as it's done right.
People who are vegan don't just avoid meat; they avoid anything that comes from an animal, including dairy, eggs, and honey. Many are vegan because they want to save animals or our environment. Data shows between two and six percent of Americans are vegan.
There's a misconception that a vegan diet isn't healthy because its missing key nutrients, but a local dietitian said that's not necessarily the case.
Fox 4 Evening News Anchor Patrick Nolan has been vegan for more than a decade.
"I do it mainly for health. Health of my body, mental health, health of the planet. I haven't heard any animals say it's hurting their health," he said.
"I think a vegan diet is great," Registered Dietitian Betsy Opyt said.
She said one reason why, is people with vegan diets are eating more fruits and vegetables.
"Those are the ones that have the abundance of vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals and bioflavonoids. Those really protect your body and your cells. They boost your immune system," Opyt said.
She said plant-based foods are hydrating and nourishing, and rich in minerals.
"It's anti-inflammatory. Keeping our bodies low in inflammation just keeps us so much healthier," she said.
But Opyt said it's important to do a vegan diet right,
"I always say a vegan diet should not come from a box, and it shouldn't say 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' on the outside, and it's all processed foods on the inside. Really, a vegetarian or vegan diet should be primarily plant-based whole foods," she said.
She said she uses things like nutritional yeast and sea greens like algae and seaweed to make up for the amino acids and B-12 vitamins you miss when you don't eat animal protein.
"And then things like quinoa and hemp seeds, where they have all 18 amino acids. Those are those building blocks that we need to make sure we have that complete protein," Opyt said.
She recommends people who have vegan diets go for regular lab testing to make sure they're getting all the nutrients needed.
"Whenever I go for a checkup and do the tests and blood pressure and all that, I'm always told that they're very good. I have one healthcare provider who tells me I'll never have a heart attack," Patrick Nolan said.
He said a vegan diet makes him feel good physically and mentally.
Opyt said it's best not to eat black and white; as our bodies change, we may require different kinds of diets and proteins. She also said in our country, we tend to think "What's the meat?" when making meals, instead of "What's the veggie?" She recommends planning meals around the vegetables, to make sure they're balanced and healthy.