Jailee is an eclectic writer with an interest in health, nutrition, science, business, economy, agriculture, and a plethora of little things
What is veganism all about and how does it work?
Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude all forms of animal exploitation. Vegans avoid foods with ingredients from animals, such as dairy products (milk, butter, cheese), eggs, honey; they also avoid wearing or using any kind of skins or furs. Vegan diets can be healthy for people if done right—they tend to be high in essential minerals like magnesium and potassium while low in saturated fats.
Veganism is about more than just food, though. Vegans also avoid any kind of product made from animal parts (e.g., leather shoes or belts), and don't use products tested on animals—or buy them if they are found in the grocery store where you shop. Vegans do not buy animal-tested household products, such as some soaps and shampoos.
The vegan diet is regarded by many scientists and health care practitioners as a healthier alternative to consuming animal fats and proteins. Vegans tend to weigh less than meat eaters (though the vegan lifestyle does not guarantee that you will lose weight), on average, and the fewest number of vegans have problem with high blood pressure. Vegans are also at a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.
According to the American Dietetic Association's position paper on vegetarian diets, "Appropriately planned … vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." Only when vegans eat extremely restricted diets can there be problems with getting enough protein or essential vitamins like vitamin B12.
How do I get protein on a vegan diet?
One of the biggest concerns people have about going vegan is getting enough protein. But there are many plant-based proteins that will provide your body with what it needs for optimal health and energy. You can get a healthy dose from beans, legumes, nuts, seeds—even some vegetables!
What should I eat on a vegan diet? The next question we often hear is: What do vegans actually eat? A lot of things! Some common options include veggies (especially those dark leafy greens), fruit & berries, whole grains like quinoa or rice pasta, tofu or tempeh as meat alternatives; nut butter sandwiches...the list goes on and on!
Here are five of my favorite plant-based proteins that will help keep your meals interesting day in and day out.
Nuts & Nut Butters
Almonds, cashews, walnuts...with all the great nuts available, you'll never run out of ways to enjoy them. Whether it's a handful of almonds with your morning coffee or a big veggie sandwich slathered in almond butter for lunch—nuts are healthy, versatile, and tasty!
Beans & Legumes
Beans and legumes are inexpensive, high in protein, low in fat, and full of nutrients. You can enjoy them as a main dish or use them as a meat substitute for tacos/tostadas/enchiladas/etc. Lentils, black beans, chickpeas.
Pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds are great raw or roasted. Chia & flaxseeds have a gelatinous consistency when mixed with water which makes them popular for vegan "eggs" (just combine one tablespoon chia or flaxseed meal + three tablespoons water), while hemp seeds provide a nice boost of plant-based protein & omega-3 fatty acids. Add all different kinds of seeds to salads, oatmeal, cereal...you name it!
Who needs meat? Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that provides all nine essential amino acids—making it a complete protein. Add some veggies & beans and dinner is served. This easy quinoa recipe will have you craving quinoa time & time again. Bulgar (cracked wheat) also has great protein content—add bulgar to your next salad or pilaf for extra staying power.
And of course, let's not forget the most popular vegan protein source:
Tofu is full of protein and extremely versatile. Whether you're craving a veggie stir fry for dinner or scrambled tofu with toast & fruit in the morning, tofu has your back.
In addition to nuts, seeds, beans/legumes, and tofu, many other common vegan ingredients are high in protein—tempeh, seitan, and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to name a few. Vegetables like broccoli or kale also provide a significant amount of protein per serving.
When eating a plant-based diet, it's important to get enough calories (as with any lifestyle)—but what is enough? The recommended daily amount of calories varies based on age, gender, activity level, but the USDA suggests that men ages 19-70 & women ages 19-50 aim for around 2000 per day. Keep in mind many plant-based foods are low calorie so you can afford to eat plenty!
Why should I go vegan when there are so many other problems in the world?
Some people are concerned about the environment, while others want to support social justice for animals. Some just love delicious food! Whatever your reasons, you don't need special qualifications or certifications to do veganism right. What counts is whether what you're doing helps reduce suffering in the world—and that's something everyone can decide on their own by following their heart and really thinking it through.
Any suffering is too much suffering. Whether it be your health, the environment, or the lives of animals, anything is worth avoiding if the cost is too high.
Plus, veganism doesn't mean perfection. It's not always easy to find vegan options in some areas (though that's improving), know exactly how every food was produced, or meet all of your nutritional needs with plant foods alone, until you're educated. That's OK! You can still afford to be vegan. Do the best you can, and try not to stress too much about it .
Choosing what is right instead of convenient
There are so many choices in the grocery store—how do I choose?
One great idea is to always pick a product with a vegan label, like Daiya cheese , almond milk, Silk soy milk , etc. This way, at least one option will always be cruelty-free. If you come across a product that doesn't have a vegan label but you're curious about, look up its ingredients online or call the manufacturer to confirm. As more people show interest in vegan products, more items will become available—and it's easier than ever before to find out what's vegan.
Are there any disadvantages of being a vegan?
Vegans often worry about getting all essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and Iodine. The biggest concern people have about going vegan is their health—but it's actually very easy to get all the nutrients you need from your diet if it's planned right!
You can also take supplements, but if you're educated on what nutrients each food group contains and how they work in synergy with one another, then there won't be any need for supplementation because nutrient deficiencies will not occur, due to lack of knowledge or understanding. With the proper understanding of nutrients, food and the body, you will find that you are able to effortlessly obtain the nutrients you fear missing out on.
Is going vegan expensive?
It doesn't have to be!
There are many cheap vegan dishes that use inexpensive ingredients like potatoes, rice, beans and veggies. These foods also tend to be super tasty (e.g., potato tacos or lentil soup)! You can make any of your favorite meals vegan by swapping out the animal products for plant-based alternatives you love.
There are some that will argue of the cost and not realize, (because we have become a wasteful society) that much of the expense of veganism stems from the waste of unused, improperly stored or discarded portions.
When you consider the amount of money that is wasted (and it's a lot!) and then compare that cost to those needed for food, veganism starts to look more reasonable.
Can you be healthy as a vegan if you're not getting enough calories or nutrients?
That's the simple answer. (You can't be healthy in any lifestyle if you are not getting enough calories or nutrients)
The more complicated answer is that many people think they aren't getting enough calories or nutrients because this world has conditioned us to eat as much as we can whenever we're allowed.
But I'm talking about the health of a vegan, not the going overboard with eating... It's really easy for vegans to get all their necessary nutrients and calories if you make sure your diet includes a wide variety of fruits and veggies (including legumes), grains/starches like potatoes, brown rice or pasta, nuts & seeds and other foods from plant-based sources.
Will going vegan help me lose weight?
Again, that's the simple answer.
Although some people lose weight when they become vegan (unfortunately, many also gain it), this is not a guarantee and we can't assume everyone will follow suit. It would be like saying going vegetarian will help you lose weight because all vegetables are low in calories while meat has lots of them: one diet isn't inherently better than another or automatically conducive to losing pounds and maintaining good health.
The more complicated answer is that there are so many factors involved with why someone might be overweight - genetics, stress levels, amount of protein consumed...the list goes on! - so even if they eat nothing but broccoli every day for the rest of their life without any other changes made to their lifestyle, they still might not lose weight.
So if you are thinking that changing your diet will help you shed the pounds, think again! You'll have to look at other factors in order to see sustainable results. Though it may be a contributor, your nutrient intake is not the entirety of your weight-loss journey, if you hope to truly lose weight, keep it off and remain in good health throughout.
Is veganism unnatural?
People argue this point because humans evolved eating meat and hunting animals... how can it be natural for us to stop doing these things?!
But when we take a closer look, there's something wrong with this theory: what makes one way of living more natural than another? Is using my computer an act of nature because I'm tapping into technology that doesn't exist outside of human society? What about wearing clothes or driving cars - they're both inventions that don't correspond with anything done by animals in the wild.
Another thing to consider is that humans are not naturally hunters - we're actually pretty terrible at it! The human body isn't designed for running long distances and our hands aren't made for tearing flesh, so most of us would be no good at hunting if we had to do it ourselves. Instead, we rely on tools like guns (which were created by man) or knives (which require metal smelting which was also invented by people).
So why say veganism is unnatural when humans don't even have the equipment needed for hunting down prey? It's clearly possible to survive without killing other beings; there are plenty of examples of societies who live this way! But yes...veganism might not be the norm for humans throughout history, but that doesn't mean it's unnatural.
What are some good resources for people new to being vegetarian/vegan that have questions about what they can eat or where they can find recipes that don't cont
That's a great question! Here are some of my favorite books, podcasts and blogs that might help you get started:
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin; The Sexy Vegan Cookbook by Brian L. Patton; How Not to Die by Michael Greger (You can find the recipes online for free on his website drgreger.org); Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman; The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone (also available in audiobook format)
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead ; Forks Over Knives ; Food for Thought with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau; Rich Roll's Rich Roll Podcast
Happy Healthy Vegan
There are so many great organizations out there like PETA, Mercy For Animals and The Humane League who can provide you with information!
© 2021 Jamielee