There’s a lot of confusion in everyone’s mind today about what lifestyle to lead, what to eat and not to eat, whether fats are the enemy or sugar is, what causes cancer and what prevents it.
There’s no right or wrong answer, or at least I don’t want to get into the controversy of discussing it. But I do believe clean eating, moderation, exercise and a healthy mind all contribute to being healthy.
And this isn’t an easy balance to strike in today’s stressful and polluted world we live in. (sorry for the pessimistic outlook)
BUT we can do better! And we must, for ourselves, but for the world too.
This is where veganism comes into play. Not only is veganism on the rise (Check out this cool article), but it brings me so much joy and hope to see how many young people start their journey into a plant-based lifestyle. I translate this into a better world health-wise, environmentally and for the animals.
More than 1.5 million Americans over the age of 17 are now vegan.
Number of vegans in Britain rises by 360% in 10 years
Whether you are going vegan for health reasons, for the environment or for animal welfare, you have to remember your motivation to be able to fully enjoy this lifestyle.
From my experience, the benefits of this diet outweigh the perceived restriction. In fact, I never feel restricted on this diet, especially in London where there are so many good vegan options.
My main reason for going vegan is health related. On this diet I have reduced inflammation in my body and recovered from chronic conditions. I am usually prone to inflammation and some common infections – that’s just my genetic make-up.
I started my journey towards veganism in January 2017. I decided to transition gradually (giving up meat first, then dairy and soon fish and eggs) because when I tried it out a few years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing and ended up with lots of deficiencies.
But I have learned a lot since then, read and got myself informed before making the decision to go vegan again.
Here’s what you need to know.
- You will need a B12 supplement
This is the only thing lacking in a vegan diet – a vitamin found only in animal products, made up by micro-organisms that plants can’t produce. Here’s how you keep this in check.
- Fortified foods:
- Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, vegan spreads, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals
- Eat these foods at least twice a day
- Aim for a daily intake of at least 3mcg (micrograms)
- Supplements: take either at least 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly
I recommend this one. But you can get cheaper tablets at your local drug store.
2. Detoxing (and its side effects)
A vegan diet done right contains a rainbow of foods. If you’re not going to have chips and vegan cheese every day (or some weird vegan processed foods), you will probably start detoxing and seeing some reactions in your body.
Upping your fiber intake, your nutrients and antioxidants and the water (smoothies) you drink is going to start getting rid of toxins in your body. Depending on how clean you were eating beforehand, you may experience (only for a few days!) breakouts, extreme fatigue, headaches, constipation or diarrhea, cravings.
However, one you get past this phase you will have more energy, brighter skin, brighter eyes, better sleep and happier organs 🙂
When you’re transitioning to a new type of diet, especially one full of fiber, your stomach might need a little time to adjust. Your intestinal flora is going through massive changes and you need to support your transition by making sure you eat a variety of foods like:
- Vegan yoghurts with probiotic cultures (most of them have these added)
- Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha drinks, miso paste)
- Fermented tofu or tempeh
Alternatively, you can take probiotic supplements.
4. Vegan protein
Don’t worry, it’s everywhere. Just make sure you eat a variety of vegan protein sources so you can have complete protein profiles in your diet. Here’s a great guide:
Quinoa, buckwheat and tofu are complete proteins.
5. Up some of the nutrients when you’re transitioning
If there’s one diet abundant in vitamins and minerals, this is probably it. However, not all vegan diets are created equal, so make sure you choose nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods!
Yes, it may take some time for your body to adjust, you may feel you’re doing it wrong at first, but it’s just a matter of fine tuning. And the good news is – you can probably eat more now! More of the good stuff that is, not vegan fast food. (sorry)
Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified nutritionist so do consult a doctor/nutritionist before making drastic changes to your diet. I am simply sharing my knowledge and experience of transitioning to veganism.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to get your daily calcium intake from plants. Surprisingly for some, you’ll find it kale, pak choi, okra, spring greens, dried figs, chia seeds and almonds. Calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified milk and yogurt alternatives and bread fortified with extra calcium are good sources too.
If you live in the UK, unfortunately there’s no escape from taking vitamin D supplements or fortified foods. I recently discovered I was severely deficient in vitamin D – before transitioning!! – and had NO idea, just a lot of bone pain and muscle pain. What a nightmare…! I now take a drop of this every day.
Omega-3 and Omega-6
One great piece of nutritional advice I got recently from Rhiannon Lambert BSc MSc ANut (@rhitrition) was to increase my Omega-3 DHA intake (which you’d normally find in fish oils) through an algae supplement.
Read more about these nutrients here.
A list of sources of information that are reliable and scientific.
How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health
Happy veganing everyone!
P.S. Don’t beat yourself up if you go off the vegan trail one day. Remember that even reducing the amount of meat, dairy, eggs, fish you are consuming, you’re already making a huge difference to your health, the environment and animal welfare.
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