Beginning a Vegan Diet
With each passing day, the popularity of the Vegan diet is increasing. More people have started to go for the diet for health, environmental, and ethical issues.
The Vegan diet can produce amazing results for your waistline and improve your health to a great extent if done right. However, since it is a diet based exclusively on food nutrients, it can lead to mineral deficiencies that the body may have come from animal protein. Therefore, understanding how it works and finding a balance is important before embarking on this journey.
This article talks about the ultimate guide for a Vegan diet including a diet plan and a list of foods that a Vegan can eat or should avoid.
Vegan Diet Defined
Veganism is a way of life that observes avoidance of animal exploitation through cruelty. It is manifested by avoiding food, clothing, and other items that come from animals.
A Vegan does not partake of any food from animals such as eggs, meat, dairy.
However, there are different types of vegan diets with a few variations.
Whole-food vegan diet: This is a diet that has a wide variety of whole plants. Those observing this diet take fruits, seeds, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
Raw-Food Vegan Diet: This is similar to the whole-food diet but foods must be prepared at temperatures below 118 degrees Fahrenheit(48).
80/10/10 Diet-This is also referred to as the low fat or fruitarian diet as it relies on fat from plants with high-fat content such as nuts, avocados. It also relies on soft greens(vegetables) and raw fruits to complete the diet.
Starch Diet- This is a low-fat and high carbohydrate diet that depends on cooked starches for its nutrients. Those observing this diet will eat starch like rice, corn, and potatoes.
Junk-Food Diet- This diet relies on processed junk foods instead of whole foods. Observers of this diet eat mock meats, fries, vegan desserts, and processes vegan foods.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
The vegan diet has many benefits regardless of the motivation of the person who is working with this diet. The benefits are mainly related to general health and body fitness and we explore a few
Loss of Weight- Research shows that vegans are slender and have a lower body mass index compared to those who do not observe this diet. People who have lower BMI are considered to have better health because it’s an indication that they do not have excess weight or at least their bodies can hold their weight comfortably.
The reason this diet achieves lots of weight loss is that it relies on a lot of food that has high fiber content which can make a person feel fuller and hence eat little food.
Controlling blood sugar and diabetes- Vegan diets keep blood sugar at the required level thus keeping type 2 diabetes on the periphery.
Those who observe this diet have lower blood sugar levels and higher sensitivity by insulin. Also, those who observe this diet and are diabetic benefit from it because It lowers blood sugar levels thus minimizing complications from diabetes.
Heart Health- A vegan diet contributes to the lowering of blood pressure which is the most common factor in heat disease complications.
Also, a vegan diet helps in the control of cholesterol which helps in the reduction of heart disease.
There are other benefits that scientists have spoken about such as reducing cancer risk, prevention of arthritis, and ensuring kidney health.
Vegan Diet: Foods you can eat
To keep healthy while observing a vegan diet, you must take into consideration the health benefits of each food you take and the nutrients it brings to the body. For the body to be enriched in a wholesome manner, it must feed on a protein that is deficient in plant-based foods. Conventional meal plans derive these proteins from animals with intakes such as meat, fish, etc.
Therefore, observing a vegan diet means that you must be able to observe a balanced diet by substituting animal protein with plant protein foods such as;
Legumes: These are foods such as beans, lentils, and some type of peas. They are great sources of nutrients which if well-cooked can increase the rate at which nutrients are absorbed.
Tofu and Seitan- These foods provide a near protein level as that which is derived from fish, eggs, and meat.
Nuts- They are good sources of iron, fiber, and vitamin E when eaten in unroasted or blanched forms.
Seeds-Seeds such as chia and hemp contain omega-3 fatty acids which are integral in heart health.
Calcium- There are plant milks and yogurts that are fortified to give the body the required balances of calcium which is usually available in milk.
Whole grains and cereals- They are great sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and iron.
Fruits and Vegetables- Leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach are high in calcium and iron that is highly required by the body.
Vegan Diet: Foods to avoid
As a vegan, you will desist from eating any animal foods and any food that contains ingredients that are derived from animals.
Animal meat such as Beef, pork, organ meat, chicken, etc.
Seafood: All fish types, shrimps, crab, mussels, etc.
Milk and related products like yogurt, cheese, cream, etc.
Eggs of all kinds that are derived from animals such as fish, chicken, quails, etc.
Bee products such as honey, royal jelly, and bee pollen should be avoided.
Vegan Diet: Minimizing Health Risks
Everyone needs to diets that rely less on processed foods and encourages nutrient-rich diets.
However, planning for the new diet may come with certain health risks. A vegan diet that is poorly planned can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Our bodies work well when they have sufficient nutrients because each nutrient has a part to play in the human body. Nutrients derived from animal proteins are important to our bodies and unless a good substitute is found, observing a vegan diet can cause deficiencies which will lead to illness and disease.
For instance, vegans are known to have a higher risk of inadequate vitamin B12 in the body, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc. The lack of such important nutrients is a big concern especially to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, and children.
There are several ways in which the risks can be minimizes
Reduce the number of vegan foods that are processed and instead choose foods that are from nutrient-rich plants.
Take more fortified foods. Ensure that you take foods that have been enriched with calcium, vitamin B12.
To enhance the absorption of zinc and iron in the body, foods should be fermented or cooked and not eaten raw.
The use of pans when cooking reduces the loss of nutrients in the foods that are being cooked. You can also avoid drinks such as coffee and tea and instead take iron-rich foods to boost iron absorption in the body.
To have iodine in the body, the daily intake of iodine from sea salt is recommended.
It is recommended that food containing omega 3 foods be taken in proportional quantities.
Diet Plan for beginners
To get started, we have proposed a diet plan that you can use. However, you can substitute the suggested items with what is locally available for you. Also, the diet does not have to cost you more than what you are willing to spend. It should be kept in a way that it is sustainable in the long run.
Breakfast: Tofu, plant-milk tea, turmeric
Lunch: Zucchini, salad with a sweet dressing such as peanutDinner: Rice with spinach and lentil
Breakfast: Oats, fruit, plant milk, nuts
Lunch: Sandwich made from Seitan sauerkraut
Dinner: Pasta, salad, and some sauce
Breakfast: Orange and spinach smoothie and banana muffin
Lunch: Tofu sandwich with salad from tomato
Dinner: Amaranths chilli
Breakfast: Whole-grain with butter, a banana and plant your gut
Lunch: Tofu soup and spinach.
Dinner: potatoes, beans, and nuts
Breakfast: Onion omelet and coffee made from plant milk
Lunch: mustard greens with tofu
Dinner: broccoli with Tempeh stir-fry.
The above diet plan is just a guide and can be changed to suit your needs. The method of cooking varies and it is up to you to choose the method to use so that your food tastes good.
With everything new, the vegan diet may seem difficult especially if you have been used to a different diet. The change may feel difficult to make and you may experience pangs of hunger from time to time.
You may also experience some kind of anxiety as your body adjusts to the new type of food. When this happens, remind yourself of the benefits you will be deriving from this diet.
Just like other life-changing events, the benefits will be derived if there is great adherence to the nutrient-rich plants as opposed to highly processed foods.
If you are unable to meet your daily nutrient requirements when observing the vegan diet, you can consider taking supplements that will provide you with the much-needed nutrients so that you don’t have a deficiency.