Every so often, we see ex-vegans in the news, talking about how the vegan diet made them sick. What should be emphasized, however, is not that the vegan diet made them sick, but their vegan diet did. Maybe their vegan diet was too restrictive; maybe they need to up their veggie intake, or maybe they need to focus on lots of nutritious or amp up vegan proteins. Whatever it was, it’s simply not fair to say that the vegan diet made them sick because there is no one vegan diet.

The term “vegan diet” is sort of a catchall for a variety of ways of eating. There are so many variations and philosophies around vegan food that if one doesn’t feel right or is proving to not work for your body, you have plenty of options while still avoiding animal products. You could go raw; you could incorporate green juice Kris Carr style, or you could cut down on sugar, oil and salt. You can find what works best for you based on your unique lifestyle. There are so many options that meat, dairy and eggs need not be the first thing you reach for when trying to improve your health.

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Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet

This is probably the best place to start on a vegan health journey. Why eliminate everything all at once when you might feel great eating this basic, healthy vegan diet? A whole foods, plant-based diet includes veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and some oil if you fancy it. Fat and carbs aren’t demonized and are enjoyed from healthy sources. Food and health documentaries such as Forks Over Knives is a great resource for this diet. For delectable, irresistible recipes, be sure to check out our Recipe Monster section here at One Green Planet. Quinoa and Sweet Potato Noodle Bolognese With Toasted Crushed Almonds? Yes, please! Or Crunchy Curried Chickpea Tacos? Bring it!

SOS-Free 

What does SOS stand for? Why, sugar, oil and salt.  The concept is as easy enough to understand as it sounds. These three ingredients are things many of us definitely overdo and could benefit from cutting back on. An SOS-free diet is an extension of the whole foods, plant-based diet. By using healthy fats such as almond butter and avocado, beans and citrus, for example, you could make an oil-free dressing.

Macrobiotic

The macrobiotic diet is generally a vegetarian one (though it isn’t always) and is centered around grains and cooked vegetables while avoiding meat, dairy and oily foods. About 50 to 60 percent of a macrobiotic diet consists of grains with 20 to 30 percent being vegetables, 10 being beans and sea vegetables and the rest being occasional discretionary foods. According to the American Cancer Society, “The diet also advises against eating fruit that does not grow locally.” For example, tropical fruits are discouraged in most parts of the United States.

Assuming the the appropriate amount of attention is paid to nutrition (which, shouldn’t we be doing that no matter what we eat?), the macrobiotic diet can be an extremely healthy one. Because the diet is low in fat, particularly in animal fat, and high in necessary fiber, it is believed that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

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High Raw

A high raw diet is one that consists of mostly raw foods, but does incorporate cooked foods as well. A high raw diet is usually somewhere between 50 and 75 percent raw. Because the bioavailability of some plants is higher when they are raw and others are higher cooked. For example, lycopene, found in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, sweet red peppers and other red fruits and veggies, is more readily available in cooked tomatoes than raw. On the flip side, the vitamin C in fruits and veggies is diminished by the cooking process.

Think salad is the only thing you can eat? Think again. You can have lasagna on the raw diet! Want more recipes? Check out this article, 40 Raw, Light and Fresh Recipes to Cool Off This Summer. If you’d like some tips on transitioning to a high raw food diet, we’ve got you covered.

80/10/10

Love fruit? The 80/10/10 diet is based around it. The basic philosophy of the 80/10/10 diet is that 80 percent of your calories should come from carbs (fruit), 10 percent from protein (vegetables, leafy greens in particular) and 10 percent from fat (nuts and seeds). Though the idea of eating juices, smoothies, whole fruit and salads might sound boring, there are plenty of recipes out there that mix it up. Check out FullyRaw Kristina’s YouTube channel for recipes an ideas on getting started. And don’t forget to read past OGP articles on the 80/10/10 diet.

Or, You Know, Whatever You Want

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is loosen up and not stress too much about every morsel we put in our mouth. You could be eating “the healthiest diet in the world,” but if sticking to it stresses you out, then it’s really not that healthy, is it? If you want a vegan cheese pizza for dinner, go for it! And, sometimes, you just need a chocolate cake. You don’t have to be a “junk food” vegan to enjoy these treats every so often. And, of course, you could enjoy a whole foods, plant-based diet that occasionally includes sugar, oil and salt and is heavy in raw pasta and fresh fruit smoothies. You could eat low fat, moderate fat, or high fat. If your current vegan diet isn’t working for you, mix it up and see what makes you feel good. At the end of the day, the only “rule” for the vegan diet is no animal products. The rest is up to you!

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Image source: Patrick Kuhl/Flickr