Before going vegan, please be mindful that you must strike a balance with your diet. People quit veganism because of the funky sub-vegan diets they adopt, which leave them malnourished. With a plant-based diet, you are already restricting yourself. That means you can’t neglect the numerous ingredients available to you. Start to think about this diet in terms of nutrients and EVER become too restrictive, and risk NOT getting the nutrients your body needs.
When you embark on this journey, you have to deal with the challenges ahead.
This means that it’s up to you to think about your meals and make them as complete as possible. At the end of the day, if you’re starting a vegan lifestyle on your own, you need access to the right resources. Therefore, I’ll share with you the websites and people I believe are the most unbiased. A lot of vegan aficionados are snake-oil sellers. They sell you this “perfect” vegan diet, but the truth is not that simple. A vegan diet, if not well-managed, it can put you in a bad spot.
You may be doing this for a different reason than me, but know that ethically and environmentally, this is a step in the right direction. Health-wise, it will depend on how you balance out your diet with the right ingredients.
Assuming you’re ready to take this step, let me introduce you to the vegan lifestyle.
What Does It Mean To Have A Vegan Lifestyle?
A vegan lifestyle goes beyond having a vegan diet. Think about every industry.
Cosmetic companies painfully test products on animals. Certain clothes are made from leather hides and wool. Circuses punish lions using whips to gain their obedience. Acts of animal-cruelty happen all across the board.
So what does being vegan mean?
Well, it’s to look beyond yourself and treat all species equally. You don’t have to be an animal activist or convert everyone to veganism. You just have to live your life normally, without sacrificing animal lives.
This being said, the foundation for a vegan lifestyle starts with a vegan diet.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is comprised mostly of vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, fruits, and some well-known meat substitutes like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. Besides, vegans also have milk substitutes like rice and oat milk.
At the same time, within a vegan diet, there’s the whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPBD). If you’ve watched documentaries on vegan nutrition, this is typically the “miraculous” diet they praise. A whole-food, plant-based diet is a bit more restrictive than the vegan diet because it excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils. The gist of it lies in consuming minimally processed foods, or in other words, purer ingredients.
Regardless of the exact vegan diet, there’s always one thing you must do, and that is to exclude every animal product. Most vegans also avoid ingredients processed with animal constituents. These include some variations of refined sugar and wine.
To give you a broader view of what you can eat as a vegan, I’ve comprised a list of ingredients below.
What You Can Eat As A Vegan
The list of ingredients you can buy is immense. It wasn’t until I’ve changed to a vegan diet, that I finally started eating a wider variety of ingredients. Believe it or not, I had never eaten quinoa or couscous in my life. Yet, they’re super ingredients with amazing nutritious value.
Here’s a list of ingredients you can add to your grocery list:
Fruits and vegetables
It’s important to add different vegetables and fruits to your diet. By limiting your diet to a handful of ingredients, you’re limiting the type of nutrients you can get. Consider highly nutritious ingredients and combinations that enhance absorption. Kale and collard greens are great sources of calcium, while oranges and strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which improves iron absorption from legumes like chickpeas and lentils.
This is where you’ll get most of your protein. Not only that, but legumes are generally an excellent source of fiber and other beneficial micronutrients like iron and zinc. You can find them in the form of green peas, beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
Nuts and Nut Butters
One of my favorite things to eat is salted peanuts and peanut butter. But there’s an incredible variety of delicious nuts. Pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, and more. These are generally great sources of protein, iron, magnesium, fiber, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.
Seeds are sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in flaxseeds and chia seeds allows you to acquire short-chain fatty acids that elongate into the long-chain fatty acids usually found in algae and fish.
Whole Grains and Cereals
These are generally a great source of carbohydrates, protein, fiber and a wide range of vitamins and minerals that include iron, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and more. Some of the most nourishing grains and cereals include Oats, rice, corn, barley, millet, and wheat.
Seitan, Tofu, and Tempeh
These are the vegan alternatives to meat. They are typically rich in protein, and low in fat. Calcium-fortified tofu is also an excellent source of calcium, even though I would encourage you to eat leafy green vegetables like turnip greens and collard greens.
A clever way to up your protein intake is by including nutritional yeast in your meals. Nutritional Yeast is also known as a source of b12, but it shouldn’t be a replacement for your supplement.
If you’ve ever wondered where fish get their long-chain fatty acids from, then yes, algae are the culprit. You can include algae in your diet to get long-chain fatty acids. However’ there’s no conclusive data that suggests vegans should externally get DHA or EPA (long-chain fatty acids). This being said, algae are also a good source of iodine, a micronutrient known to prevent cognitive damage.
Having a reliable source of iodine in your diet is essential. While algae is an excellent source of iodine and long-chain fatty acids, it’s not as affordable as iodized salt. Instead of using regular sea salt, use iodized salt on your food.
The Benefits Of A Vegan Diet
Like any diet, a vegan diet has its risks. If you don’t get the right nutrients in the right amount, you may run into deficiencies. Fortunately, that is avoidable with some forethought and preparation. On the other end, a vegan diet can be extremely beneficial for many reasons. One of those reasons is weight.
#1 – Vegans Are Among The Leanest People In The World
Oxford University conducted a study with 40,000 people, and the results showed vegans having the lowest BMI (Body Mass Index), followed by vegetarians and fish eaters. The ones with the highest BMI were meat-eaters.
One explanation is the calorie content within vegan foods. Since a vegan diet focuses mostly on low-calorie foods (vegetables, seeds, legumes, etc), this affects the whole calorie intake. And since the calorie intake is generally lower, it’s mirrored in the body weight. A different explanation points to the amount of fiber in plant-based foods. Fiber is only found in plant-based foods and is one of the key factors that affect satiety, which can also reduce calory intake.
This being said, you can still gain weight as a vegan. Some vegans fall down the path of processed vegan foods and end up overweight. Stick to a whole-food, plant-based diet, and you’ll be fine!
#2 – Protection Against Certain Types Of Cancer
Studies suggest that avoiding animal products can help reduce the risk of bladder, breast and colon cancer. This may be related to vegans avoiding smoked and/or processed meat, as well as meat cooked at really high temperatures. In addition to that, there is also evidence a high consumption of cow’s milk is associated with higher mortality. Also, an observational study shows that drinking milk may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
This being said, correlation is not causation, and these studies I’ve mentioned contain various variables, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. However, more studies make these correlations.
#3 – A Plant-Based Diet Can Lower Your Risk Of Heart Disease
Not only that but a vegan diet is very effective in reducing blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. All contributing factors to strokes, or other heart diseases.
When you reduce those factors, you can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 46%.
#4 – Lower Risk Of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
Yes, a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is partly because vegans can better control their weight, and not add excess body fat. Multiple studies show that vegans, on average, have lower levels of obesity than any other group.
*Note that 90% of people developing type 2 diabetes are overweight, which is the dominant factor for diabetes.
#5 – Promotes The Environment & Our Planet
A plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the planet.
By removing animal products from your diet, you’re no longer contributing to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Animal agriculture is also responsible for nearly 91% of Amazon’s destruction.
In hindsight, by following a vegan diet, you’re saving 1,100 gallons of water, 40 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs of c02 equivalent and one animal life… each day.
Here’s a fun calculator that figures out the math!
#6 – Saving Animal Lives
One of the most honorable motives that fuel a vegan lifestyle is the merciful act of choosing not to eat animals.
As you know, the conditions animals live in before being killed (or exploited) are harsh. They endure unimaginable suffering.
Take chickens and turkeys for instance. They’re crowded into filthy sheds by the tens of thousands and forced to live in their filth. Besides, they’re bred to grow so large, and fast, that they become crippled under their weight.
The moment you stop eating animal products, you’re no longer contributing to the countless acts of cruelty that take place.
On the next page, you’ll find out how you can most effectively change to a vegan diet. But most importantly, how you can do it without endangering your life. Yes, there’s something you can’t live without, even on a highly nutritious diet like the plant-based diet. Learn more about it on the next page.