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    The Promise

    Thinking of taking Meatless Mondays a step further? In her book The Kind Diet, actress and animal lover Alicia Silverstone explains how to go vegan, which she says will make you look and feel great while improving your health.

    Vegan diets skip all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

    Though her book is more of a vegan how-to and cookbook than a weight loss prescription, Silverstone says a vegan diet can help you lose weight -- especially if you follow her “superhero” plan, which banishes packaged foods.

    What You Can Eat

    Once you eliminate all animal products from your diet, Silverstone recommends eating whole grains, beans, and vegetables, opting for local and in-season varieties as often as possible.

    Fruit and desserts are OK in small quantities, provided they’re made with the right sweeteners. You’ll want to avoid white sugar, honey, and organic evaporated cane syrup, and instead choose brown rice syrup, barley malt, maple syrup, agave, molasses, and fruit.

    The Kind Diet outlines three phases of veganism:

    • Flirting: A gradual transition away from animal-based foods
    • Going Vegan: Committing to a vegan lifestyle
    • Superhero: You mainly eat unprocessed vegetable foods and limit nightshade vegetables (including potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants) as well as fruit, nuts, and sweets, in order to achieve optimal health.

    When it comes to alcohol, less is more, says Silverstone, who enjoys a good glass of wine while dining with friends but rarely drinks at home. She also recommends minimizing all caffeinated drinks, including coffee and tea. After going vegan, she says, you’ll have so much extra energy you won’t need them.

    Level of Effort: Medium

    Limitations: This is a big change in your eating habits. But if you want to go for it, Silverstone’s book has practical advice. For example, she discusses cooking tools and techniques to use, and foods to choose when traveling. A vegan diet can be healthy, though you'll need to make sure all your nutritional needs are met.

    Cooking and shopping: Because The Kind Diet centers on fresh fare, your grocery list may grow longer. The second half of the book is chock-full of recipes (such as Pecan-Crusted Seitan and Coffee Fudge Brownies), most of which are fairly simple.

    Packaged foods or meals: Silverstone recommends limiting processed foods as much as possible.

    In-person meetings: No.

    Exercise: Activities, such as walking, yoga, and playing soccer, are recommended.

    Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

    Vegetarian or vegan: This is what Silverstone's plan is all about. though she concedes that “flirters” -- people new to vegan eating -- may still eat some animal foods.

    Gluten-free: Some recipes are free of gluten, but this diet isn't strictly gluten-free.

    What Else You Should Know

    Cost: Just your shopping.

    Support: You can do this diet on your own. Silverstone has a web site with more information on veganism.

    What Dr. Hansa Bhargava Says:

    Does It Work?

    As The Kind Diet points out, research ties a vegetarian diet to a lower risk of heart disease. A recent study reveals that it may slash the odds by as much as one-third. Research also shows that vegetarians live longer than people who eat meat.

    But it's easy to fall short of some nutrients if you're on a vegan diet. Common nutrients that you must make sure you have include iron, vitamin B12, and folate.

    Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

    Since this diet loves fruits and vegetables, it can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. A vegetarian diet is also good for people with high blood pressure as long as they watch how much sodium they're getting.

    Always check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions before starting any diet, and stick with your doctor's guidelines.

    The Final Word

    This is a good diet as long as you get all the nutrients you need and are committed to cooking at home, since you'll be avoiding meat and processed foods.

    If you don’t like to do your own cooking or grocery shopping, this plan may not work for you.

    As always, even with a balanced healthy diet, it's important to exercise, so make sure you're active often.

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