Switching to veganism has become very popular in the last couple of years, and if you are into green, conscious living you have probably wondered if veganism is the lifestyle for you, and more specifically, how complicated can it be to strictly follow a plant-based diet.
While potential health benefits are one reason to consider going vegan, there are other motivating factors for you to follow this type of diet due to ethical beliefs regarding the food industry and other significant environmental concerns.
Being vegan means following the path less traveled with a diet that excludes all forms of animal products. In addition to avoiding consuming land animals and shellfish, a vegan diet also excludes eggs or dairy consumption, and some people would even decide not to consume products such as honey.
Among the products that vegans also exclude from their diet are buttermilk, gelatin, and omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish, and when it comes to bread and desserts these must have a variety of substitute ingredients for dairy and eggs.
After all of these restrictions you may be wondering what you're left with to eat, however, the good news is that there are plenty of nourishing plant-based options, including high-protein alternatives like the ever-famous tofu, and legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas can also provide a wide range of vital nutrients. The trick is to get out of the box by adding your creativity to colorful and nourishing daily recipes.
TRUE BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET
When followed correctly, a vegan diet can provide your body with more vitamins and minerals and it can also help you lose excess weight, why? Because natural, whole foods are capable of satisfying your hunger while being relatively low in calories, and once you start avoiding highly processed foods your sugar intake will reduce as well.
There is no wonder why this way of eating has been shown to lower the risk of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, kidney and heart disease.
Natural vegan foods can decrease inflammation which reduces joint pain associated with arthritis, and the regular consumption of legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables have also shown to protect against certain types of cancer.
HERE ARE 8 TIPS FOR STARTING YOUR PATH TO A SUCCESSFUL VEGAN DIET:
1. Vegetables must become the star of the show
They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that will satisfy your hunger and keep your caloric intake in check. Vegetables should be the first thing on your plate!
2. Eat a variety of healthy foods
A good way to achieve this is to maintain a colorful diet. Try a few different sources of protein, fiber, fat, vitamins, minerals, and more. Don't hesitate to try new things.
3. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread will provide you with more fiber than refined options like white rice and bleached flour products.
4. Look for new plant-based proteins
Protein can be one of the most difficult food groups to get into on a vegan diet. Fortunately, there are dozens of plant-based options including, but not limited to: tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
5. Don't assume vegan products are healthier
There are many vegan products available in supermarkets that are not healthy at all. Vegan products are often loaded with calories without offering any real nutritional value. Choose fresh foods over processed foods as often as possible.
6. Focus on Omega 3 and Vitamin D
Omega 3s are crucial to your diet, but if you can't eat fish-based products, what should you do? Fortunately, there are plant-based Omega 3 found in foods like walnuts, canola oil, and soybeans. It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D in your vegan diet, however, it can be found in soy, almond milk, orange juice, and some mushrooms. Many people on this diet will take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they are getting enough.
7. Increase your iron intake
Iron is an essential nutrient that can be found in beans, legumes, and green leafy vegetables. It is recommended to combine these foods with products high in vitamin C to increase absorption. It is important to note that you should avoid eating them with foods rich in calcium, as this can inhibit its absorption.
8. Watch the intake of vitamin B12
This vitamin is transformed into energy! The easiest way to get an adequate amount is to eat fortified cereals and bars but you can also consider taking a B12 supplement.
A plant-based diet isn't for everyone, but if you're drawn to it, then it's worth putting in the effort and giving it a try. You'll be amazed at how delicious vegan recipes you can come up with, and the biggest takeaway will be the positive impact your daily choices will bring to the world.
Journalist, Health Coach, RYT200, and Reiki Master.