The benefits of a vegan diet

There is a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the vegan diet. Different from a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet includes only plant-based foods. This means vegans stay away from meat, eggs, dairy or animal-based foods of any kind. At first glance, it seems that this lifestyle doesn't leave you with many options of what to eat. However, a vegan diet can be among the most healthful ways to eat. You can still choose from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. These foods still offer plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and healthy oils. Even celebrities and famous inventors like Alicia Silverstone, Ellen Degeneres, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Paul McCartney and Sinead O'Connor were and are vegans. According to a report by the Vegetarian Times, three percent of American adults, roughly 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian diet, and one million of them are vegans. If you're considering going vegan, here are a few benefits that may push you to take the leap:

It's better for the environment
Because you're eating plant-based foods rather than animal products, there is far less pollution produced. Rather than feeding plants to the animals and then eating the animals, growing and eating plants straight from the ground makes much more efficient use of land and water.

Animal rights
Many decide to go vegan to save animals from being killed, or to protest currently less-than-ethical animal treatment at mainstream farms and feedlots. Eating less meat means that fewer animals are subjected to harsh treatment, and that unethically operated food production companies see a reduced profit.

Instead of getting protein from animal meat, whip up a tasty shake containing pea protein powder. Naturade Pea Protein is 100 percent soy and dairy free, gluten free and cholesterol free. Made from a natural plant-based protein derived from yellow peas, this product is perfect for any vegan diet. Add a few scoops of chocolate or vanilla protein powder for a quick snack or a meal on the go.

Improved health
Many of the foods that vegans eat are low in calories, salt, sugar and harmful fats – all which can be detrimental to a person's health when consumed in large amounts. Not all fats are created equal: unsaturated – especially monounsaturated – fats help raise "good" LDL cholesterol, while saturated fats raise "bad" HDL cholesterol. Saturated fats can be found in certain plant-based foods, but the majority of saturated fats consumed by Americans come from either animal fats or highly processed corn oils. Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown to increase a person's risk of developing poor health. By eliminating the saturated fats found in dairy products and meat, a vegan diet may lower cholesterol and cardiovascular health may be improved.

Healthier weight
Because vegans don't eat meat, many tend to maintain a healthier weight. Researchers attribute this to a lower calorie intake. Vegetables and fruits are much lower in calories than meats, and provide beneficial nutrients in an undiluted form. The high fiber in a vegan diet also helps to curb hunger.

More energy
Everyone could always use a little kick of energy in their lives, especially during the hectic days. Going vegan can contribute to higher energy level. Both NFL tight-end Tony Gonzalez and former U.S. president Bill Clinton have attributed their vegan diets to their newly found energy.