The processing methods for food in the United States has many consumers concerned about what they are eating. To avoid the unknown effects of growth hormones, antibiotics, and toxic chemicals in their bodies, some people choose to eat a vegan diet. If you’re considering making the switch, read more about how to become vegan.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Some people don’t understand the difference between a vegetarian and vegan diet, so it is important to know the difference before choosing veganism. Although vegetarians avoid eating meat, poultry, and seafood, some also avoid dairy, but they may eat eggs. While vegans also avoid eating meat of any kind, they avoid all animal products. So, along with meat like beef, pork, poultry, and fish, they do not consume eggs, dairy products, honey or gelatin. They adhere strictly to a plant-based diet. Many vegans won’t purchase anything made with animal products, including clothing, household products, or any product that is tested on animals.
Why Become Vegan?
There are many benefits to a vegan diet that you should consider before deciding if veganism is right for you.
No Animal Fats
Eating a plant-based diet means you don’t have to worry about the side effects of eating animal fats. Fat from meat have links to several diseases, including:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Various Cancers
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Animal sources may account for 13 of the top 15 sources of cholesterol causing fats.
Since a vegan diet has fewer calories than most western diets, it can help people have a lower body mass index or BMI. Lower BMI levels are linked to lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol and lower blood pressure readings, so your heart may be healthier.
A vegan diet contains higher levels of complex carbohydrates and lower levels of fat, so it is beneficial in helping to control diabetes. For patients who are insulin dependent, it may even help lower the need for insulin. Some research suggests that a vegan diet is better for diabetes than the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. With better blood sugar control, the diet can help reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease.
Aids Weight Loss
Research has shown that people following a vegan diet can lose more weight than most other diets, including those that restrict calories. In one study, the participants lost just over nine pounds more than those following a controlled diet over an 18-week time frame.
Reduces Cancer Risks
The contents of a diet may be able to reduce the risk of some cancers. For instance, researchers have found that eating seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day can lower the risk of dying from cancer by as much as 15%.
Whether it is due to the benefits of the diet or your love for animals, if you decide to become vegan, then here are some tips which can help you.
Take it Slow
While some people decide to go vegan all at once by getting rid of all animal-based foods, others make the switch more slowly. Since it is a big dietary change, go at your own pace. If you are comfortable making the switch quickly then do so. One of the easiest ways to change to a vegan diet is to increase the amount of plant-based foods and decrease the number of animal products that you eat. Make small changes, perhaps by removing a meat or dairy product from your meals once a week. You can also try swapping animal food products for plant-based ones. Switch to soy or almond milk instead of cow’s milk or coconut oil in place of butter.
Get Essential Nutrients
A well planned, whole food based vegan diet is arguably one of the healthiest diets to follow. As with any diet, vegan or not, there is always potential for nutritional deficiencies .Some of the nutrients a vegan diet can be deficient in includes:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Fortunately, many plants can replace some of the traditional sources of these nutrients.
Calcium – Instead of drinking cow’s milk, drink almond or soy milk because they are both good sources of calcium. Also, soy, fortified breakfast cereals, and leafy green vegetables like kale, cabbage, and collard greens contain calcium.
Vitamin B12 – Soy milk, nutritional yeast, and seaweed can supply some of the vitamin B12 your body needs to properly function. You can also take B12 supplements or discuss getting B12 injections with your doctor, especially if you’re older because this vitamin is absorbed less as people age.
Vitamin D – A vegan diet can be low in Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb nutrients like calcium. To ensure you get enough of this vitamin, drink fortified soy milk, rice milk, or juices, and spend more time outdoors as vitamin D is also the “sunshine vitamin.”
Iron – Iron is necessary to form red blood cells, and the type available from a plant-based diet is less absorbable in the body. However, by eating iron-fortified foods, eating green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, and taking iron supplements if necessary, you can get all the iron your body needs.
Zinc – This mineral helps provide humans with a healthy immune system. Due to the high amount of phytates in a vegan diet, they may need to consume more zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grain foods. Phytates are antioxidant compounds that can bind to minerals like zinc and slow their absorption in the body.
It’s important to read the labels of the foods you buy when you’re going vegan. Many foods you wouldn’t suspect contain animal products. For instance, if you like tortilla chips, remember many brands are fried in oils from animal fats and if they are seasoned, they may have cheese on them, which is a dairy product. There are more vegan alternatives being made, so there are more options to eat. For instance, if you like hamburgers, there are many alternatives like veggie burgers made from black beans, Portobello mushrooms, vegetables and quinoa.
Eat More Ethnic Foods
The cuisines of many countries have plant-based food options, like Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, and Ethiopian foods. Even Italian cuisine has many options for people learning how to become vegan, like spaghetti with marinara sauce or lasagna with vegetables, hold the cheese or add plant based alternatives. Experiment by going out to dinner at an ethnic restaurant you’ve never tried. Then, if you like the food, learn how to make it at home. Making Chinese, Mexican, and Indian foods are easier than you think, and it can be a fun way to introduce vegan dishes during dinner parties or at potlucks.
Continue to Learn
There is a lot of information to learn about how to go vegan, especially if you plan to lead a vegan lifestyle and forgo wearing and using all animal-based products. There are several types of vegan diets, so you will want to find out what they are and decide which appeal to you or if you want to experiment by following your body’s cues along with your tastebuds. When you’re craving something that is normally made with animal products, like cheese or pepperoni pizza, you can look up the alternatives on the internet to make or buy these alternatives from your local grocery store. You can also discover new ways to cook vegetables so you don’t get bored with the same old meal. You don’t have to eat like a rabbit to be a vegan and learning how to make vegan dishes can be fun.
Find Like-Minded People
If you’re intimidated by learning how to go vegan, find a cooking class or a support group to join. There are probably many people like you who are on the fence about committing to veganism so you can support each other on your journeys. For shy people or those who may not have time to go to a support group, find one online. Finding a group online allows you to fit it into your schedule when you have time. You can meet people at the same stage of veganism as you and learn tips and new recipes.
Remind Yourself Why
Once you’ve decided to switch to a vegan diet, remind yourself why as motivation to continue with it. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, better your health, or want to protect animals, always keep the reason in mind. While it can be tough to forgo your favorite foods, especially when going out to dinner or a party, keeping in mind why you made the decision can help. As you see results and start feeling better, it will motivate you to continue a vegan diet. As you start experimenting with foods, remember to include the nutrients your body needs as you learn how to become vegan.