Is There a Benefit to Going "Veggan"?

How would you describe your diet? Vegetarian? Flexitarian? Do you strictly live off potatoes? Ron Swanson was a major supporter of eating an abundant amount of breakfast foods.

You could fill an encyclopedia with terms people use to describe their diet. Luckily for us, you can add one more to the list.

A new diet trend is sweeping the vegetarian/vegan world by storm. It's called "vegganism." Veggans follow the traditional vegan diet but with one egg-ception—they add eggs to their menu of options.

Let's rewind. Vegetarians do not eat fish, meat or poultry, but do eat eggs and dairy. Vegans also follow the no-meat rule, but also exclude animal products or by-products such as eggs, dairy and honey.

In the past, eggs have had a bad reputation, as their yolks contain a lot of dietary cholesterol. Well, never fear. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines state that dietary cholesterol does not play a major role in blood cholesterol, adding that many more important factors affect blood cholesterol. And in fact, eggs are really good for you. Eggs are packed with protein, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which support a healthy cardiovascular system), and tons of vitamins that support a healthy and strong body.

So why might vegans benefit from adding eggs to their diets? First of all, eggs are a good source of vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin), which vegans and vegetarians might have a hard time consuming because it is found naturally in animal products, although it is also fortified in foods such as cereals and soy milk. Vitamin B12 is important because it helps maintain a healthy nervous system, helps the body convert food into fuel, and is needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver.

Secondly, vitamin D is vital for bone health and immune function. Most Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. Eggs are one of the only non-seafood foods that naturally contain vitamin D.

Next on the list is iron, which is important because it helps transfer oxygen to the tissues, supports metabolism, and promotes normal cellular function. Vegans need to be sure they consume enough iron. How much is enough? According to the NIH, "the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat. This is because heme iron from meat is more bioavailable than nonheme iron from plant-based foods, and meat, poultry, and seafood increase the absorption of nonheme iron." Eggs contain nonheme iron and can help boost a vegan or vegetarian's iron intake.

Introducing eggs to your diet doesn't have to "bedevil" you. For example, boil up a batch and use them throughout the week as salad toppings. A hard-boiled egg on or with a bean and spinach salad is an iron-packed meal.

Vegans in particular need to be aware of key nutrients being "poached" from their diet. On the "sunny side, upping" intake of eggs can help vegans from "scrambling" for the essential parts of their diet including B12, vitamin D and iron that they may be eggs-cluding from their diet.

Of course, no single food has all the answers to a healthful diet, including eggs. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans' main message is one of variety and moderation. A healthy eating pattern includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and a variety of protein foods.

Egg puns brought to you by Kris Sollid, RD.

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