The Diversity of Vegan Diets (or Which Vegan Diet is Right for You?)
Editor’s Note: Kris Giovanini and Mark Reinhardt are regular contributors to VegansEatWhat.com. This article is adapted from a recent conversation they had regarding the diversity of dietary choices in a vegan lifestyle.
Kris: You know, it’s really not enough just to say you’re “vegan” anymore. Veganism encompasses an enormous number of foods. Any two vegans these days may have very different diets—
Mark: A horse and a toucan, for example.
Diverse Vegan Diets
Kris: —and, of course, vegan diets are almost always way more diverse than what meat-eaters typically eat.
Mark: Yeah, look at lions. What’s for breakfast? Zebra. What’s for lunch? Zebra. What’s for dinner? Zebra. Day after day. It must get awfully boring.
Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet
Kris: Yes, well I was really talking about humans. People choose different foods for different reasons, and some of their choices are very healthy. Eating organic, for example. And one way of eating that is really popular now is the Whole Foods, Plant-Based (WFPB) diet.
Mark: Is that for people who shop at Whole Foods?
Kris: Not necessarily. A WFPB diet focuses on whole foods with little or no processing. For example, no added oils are used (because they are processed), yet the whole food is fine (think olives are fine, olive oil is not). Preferred sugars are usually fruit pastes, although agave and maple syrup are also used. Whole grains, whole veggies and fruits, and whole legumes are used extensively. Fat comes from nuts, seeds, avocados and such, but not too many of those. It’s really the Forks Over Knives diet, and similar to what physicians like John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman and Michael Greger have been teaching for years.
Peanut & Scotch Diet
Mark: Sounds very healthy! I once lived for three weeks on nothing but peanuts and Scotch. You could call it the Edinburgh Zoo, Elephant-Based (EZEB) diet.
Kris: Yes, and that would be an example of a diet that is technically vegan, but has very little diversity or nutritional value. …Or intellectual value, for that matter.
Mark: The diet of vegan morons!
Kris: You said it, not me.
Mark: The point is, that there are so many food companies catering to vegans nowadays that it has become possible for vegan morons like me to eat a very diverse diet composed almost entirely of processed foods. Heck, even junk foods have gone vegan!
Kris: Yes, in a sense we’ve become victims of our own success. But fortunately there are many vegans who make a point of heading in just the opposite direction. Raw foods diets—the practice of eating only uncooked, unprocessed foods—have become very popular lately too. They basically simulate the way our ancestors must have eaten before humans harnessed fire and began cooking foods.
Mark: I bet prehistoric humans ate a lot of bugs too.
Kris: Well, yes. They were readily available and easy to catch. And of course there have been huge changes in the human anatomy since those days as well. We used to have huge jaws that were powerful enough to allow us to chew plant leaves all day long.
Mark: Wisdom teeth are an enduring legacy of those times, and most teenagers have them extracted because there isn’t room for them in our modern mouths. Almost a bummer.
Raw Foods Diet
Kris: Sure. Today vegans on raw foods diets get amazing nutritional levels. They use juicing and dehydration to allow them to eat enough plants with their modern anatomy to get an adequate Caloric intake.
Mark: Eating enough Calories has never been a problem on my “diet of vegan morons.”
Kris: I can see that by looking at you.
Mark: Don’t make fun of me. I have Dunlop’s Disease.
Kris: What’s that?
Mark: A malady very prominent in Texas. It’s when your belly “dun lops” over your belt buckle.
Kris: Well, getting back to the point of our conversation, I guess we could sum up by saying that just because a person goes vegan doesn’t mean that his or her diet is necessarily going to be ideal.
Mark: There are still lots of choices to be made.
Kris: Like a salad or stir fry?
Mark: I was thinking Twizzlers or Skittles?
Kris: Fortunately, the choices are enormous these days. Sure, unhealthy temptations abound, but any vegan should be able to find a diet that serves both their health and their taste buds. Look to the WFPB and raw foods diets for inspiration.
Mark: So, no two vegans may eat alike, but we’re all one happy family?
Kris: Well, sort of. . . . but that’s a conversation for another day!
Author: Mark W. Reinhardt
Mark Warren Reinhardt is an attorney and author who has been writing and lecturing on veganism and animal rights issues for longer than anyone can remember. His book, “The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarianism” was published by Continuum in 1998. Mark has previously served on the boards of the Vegetarian Society of Colorado, Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, and Divine Feline, as well as a number of other nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Mark holds degrees in engineering and law from Duke, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. He lives in Denver with his cat Elgie.