Beyonce and Jay-Z Going Vegan?

This week, music power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z announced that they are starting a 22 day vegan diet. As the hip-hop artist and music mogul put it:

“On December 3rd, one day before my 44th birthday I will embark on a 22 Days challenge to go completely vegan, or as I prefer to call it, plant-based!! This all began a few months back when a good friend and vegan challenged me to embrace a “plant-based breakfast” every day. It was surprisingly easier on me than I thought…”

The diet, called the 22 Day Nutrition program, was founded by exercise physiologist Marco Borges. Why 22 days? According to their website: “Psychologists have said it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. On the 22nd day, you’ve found the way.”

If they make a successful transition to veganism, they will be joining the ranks of many other vegan celebrities, including Bill ClintonEllen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi.

What’s the difference between vegetarianism and veganism?

A vegetarian diet is a meal plan that contains mostly plants, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts, with little or no animal products. Lacto-vegetarians will eat some or all dairy products and lacto-ovovegetarian will also eat eggs.
Vegans only eat plant based food.Some limit this restriction to what they eat, while others extend this prohibition to the use of animal products and by-products such as leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.

What are the potential health benefits of veganism?

Vegetarian diets most often lead to healthier outcomes:

  •  Lower levels of obesity
  • Reduced risk for heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure

Compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians usually eat:

  • Fewer calories from fat (especially saturated fat)
  • Fewer overall calories
  • More fiber, potassium, and vitamin C

Are Vegan Diets Nutritionally Sound?

According to the USDA, vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs.Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.

Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).

Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies. Consuming enough plant foods to meet calcium needs may be unrealistic for many. Milk products are excellent calcium sources for lacto vegetarians. Calcium supplements are another potential source.

Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Milk products are a zinc source for lacto vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. These include breakfast cereals, soy milk, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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