How to become vegan is the question and the answer to this is easy… Don’t consume animal products. But, I’m confident you are here because you want to know how to become a healthy vegan. Now that, my friend, requires more effort, but don’t worry. That’s what this guide is for, so share this with everyone who is vegan-curious or switching to a vegan diet.
Let’s make one thing clear. There are unhealthy vegans who are content with eating french fries, potato chips, and stuffing their faces with Oreos. I will begin with the obvious benefits of becoming a health conscious vegan. Populations that have a majority plant-based diet tend to have a higher quality of life.
They also have lower rates of common degenerative diseases. For a long time, Okinawans ate large amounts of vegetables and had the longest lifespans in the world. Seventh Day Adventist, in California, live an average of 10 more years than most Americans.
If you are here to learn about protein deficiency in vegans then I will make this easy for you. Protein deficiency is very rare in vegans or otherwise. Here’s a shocker, ready? Most people, including you, are lacking in fiber, and where do you get fiber?
That’s right, you get it from plants. I will cover mental and environmental factors, foods to include, foods to exclude, and supplements. For more info, check out this article that features interviews with Dr. Milton Mills.
If you would like to listen to Stephanie explain much of what this article discusses then watch her presentation below.
First things first, you must be wise and know the impact of your choices. You are more likely to desire the familiar because it equals comfort. The brain does not want change unless it understands there are negative consequences to remain the same. Picture a child who doesn’t know the dangers of crossing the street without looking both ways.
What could happen to this child if he or she takes unnecessary risks? There is a high chance the child will wound himself or worse. So, ask yourself “why take unnecessary risks?”
You’re no longer a child; thus, you are blessed with the ability to gain a greater understanding. Becoming a vegan to keep up with the trend is not enough to stay on track and understand the bigger picture. The good thing is you are taking an important step by reading this guide.
Remove junk from your house and work environment
Leaving unhealthy foods in your home means you are tempting yourself. Hunger strikes and you see you have all the ingredients needed to make fried chicken. You may be strong enough to stay disciplined and avoid it but for how long?
The easy solution is to either eat the last of your temptations before starting your vegan diet, giving them away or trashing them.
At this point, it’s obvious the impact your environment has on your dietary choices, so apply the simple rule of “out of sight out of mind.”
Of course, it’s easier said than done especially if you live with someone who doesn’t have the same diet. The best thing you can do is inform people you live with about your new lifestyle and ask them to support you. Better yet, try to get them to make the change as well.
If you are successful, you will have much-needed support. You can also use this same advice for your workplace. In fact, see if you can make a big enough impact to influence the next catering event to include vegan options.
Resist temptation during gatherings
You’re invited to a barbecue and, low and behold, you are offered ribs smothered in sauce. Offered is actually a mild way to put it. It’s more like someone shoves them in your face along with a hot dog or hamburger, fresh off the grill.
This, my friend, is perhaps the most difficult temptation to resist. It’s especially true during holidays and special events. So what should you do? If there are no foods you can eat and it’s not a special occasion, then depend on willpower or don’t go.
Allow your taste buds time to adjust
Here is the good news. When you transition there is a variety of meat and dairy substitutes to accommodate you. But, you want to be a healthy vegan. In that case, then you can’t overindulge in too many of these processed foods.
Broccoli, beets, and greens may not sound appetizing now but no worries. You will eventually be able to taste the subtle flavors once hidden. In addition, fruits will become sweeter. But, you must remain consistent long enough for this to take effect.
This may not look like a tasty meal yet, but your taste will change over time.
That full feeling may not be achieved in the beginning
I’m willing to bet you love the feeling when you eat something that sits heavy in your stomach. It’s evident most people achieve that by eating meat, even worse a combination of meat and starches. Check this out to learn about the increased diabetes risk when eating animal protein and starches together.
When you first make the switch to a vegan diet you will be disappointed if you seek to feel full. Mushrooms, beans, nuts, and seeds are a few of the healthy options to remedy this issue.
What vegan foods should I eat?
Food high in fiber is a must
The lack of fiber slows down your bowel movements and interferes with the microbe balance in the gut. In general, eating whole fruits and vegetables is an easy way to adhere to this rule. But let’s be a bit more specific about the best sources.
Thankfully, many of them are budget friendly. Beans and legumes should be a staple because of the fiber and protein they contain. Oatmeal is another cheap go to option and easy to prepare. Many fruits such as apples and pears are excellent choices and make healthy snacks on the go.
There’s one superstar addition that everyone should include in their diet, vegan or not, and that’s flax seeds. However, eating flax whole is not ideal. Instead, turn flax seeds into flax meal by grinding them in a coffee grinder or other milling device.
A dramatic increase in fiber, in a very short time, can cause bloating and constipation but only briefly. If you want to avoid this gradually increase your fiber intake and/or drink more water. Thank me later when you experience larger stool size and frequency. These are good signs you are on the right track for optimal health.
Antioxidants will keep you young and healthy
Our environment wreaks havoc on us and damages our cells. Antioxidants are the bodyguards and are abundant in many vegan whole foods. Berries and most fruits have high amounts. Eat salads packed with spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers for a big boost.
Also, drink green tea whenever possible. Matcha tea is better because it contains whole grounded tea leaves which means more nutritional value.
All fat is not created equal
I’m sure you’ve heard it a billion times by now. “Stay away from fat.” While helpful, this statement is partially true because fat is necessary for our bodies to work properly. In fact, some nutrients can’t be digested without fat such as beta-carotene (vitamin A) found in sweet potatoes and carrots.
So, add vegan sources of healthy fats to your diet. Avocados, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews, and almonds all contain healthy fat. Peanut butter is a familiar healthy option as well. Include pumpkin seeds for their healthy fats and their zinc.
Don’t overlook greens and cruciferous vegetables
I’ve already mentioned a portion of the benefits of greens. Yet, they have many more components that make them a powerhouse for health. For instance, their chlorophyll has blood detox properties and is abundant in magnesium.
Magnesium is important for stress management, bowel movements, and sleep regulation.
Cruciferous vegetables are a group of vegetables that belong to a family of plants. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower are a few examples. Research shows these vegetables contain the enzyme sulforaphane which significantly boosts liver function.
Broccoli appears to have the largest amount of this enzyme, but it’s lost during cooking. So, either eat broccoli raw, cut it and wait about 45 mins before cooking, or add mustard seed powder to activate it when done cooking.
Kale and broccoli also improve our system. Don’t neglect these vital vegetables.
Onions and garlic have a little-known side benefit
Besides their germ-fighting ability, onions and garlic make nutrients in other foods more available to our bodies. Add them to dishes regularly. But I don’t have to worry about that because you love them, right? I mean who doesn’t love garlic and onions?
Herbs and spices are a nice way to add flavor and nutrition
I told you about the powerful mustard seed powder already, but there’s more. So, here are a few more examples of powerful herbs and spices. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels. Which means it makes a great addition to your bowl of oatmeal.
Cayenne pepper works wonders on the cardiovascular system and improves blood circulation. Turmeric is the master anti-inflammatory and should be consumed daily. Nutritional yeast is packed with b vitamins and is another immune system booster
Small amounts of herbs and spices are usually enough to be effective. So, stock up and use them often.
What vegan foods should I avoid?
Take your allergies into consideration
This one is obvious. If you have celiac disease, stay away from wheat and other foods that contain gluten. If you’re allergic to nuts then find out which ones and don’t eat them. Also, observe your body to find out if certain foods make you feel nauseous. If so, either avoid them altogether or get tested to see if you are allergic.
Fried foods will fry your cells
Frying is one of the most damaging cooking methods. The rancid oil cooked at high temperatures is more than enough to cause cellular damage. This happens regardless of the oil used. I’m especially referring to deep frying. Adding a little bit of oil to cook with is fine, but don’t overdo it.
Don’t become obsessed with one food
Our bodies need a variety of nutrients; thus, sticking to only a handful of foods is not what you should do. Having oatmeal with flax meal, cinnamon, and fruit for breakfast daily is fine. What I’m referring to is don’t exclude important groups such as greens.
So, prepare a meal that includes collard greens, beans, and brown rice, for example. Drinking a cup of green tea with every meal is good as well. Remember, to avoid tea sourced from China because they are often high in toxins.
Processed food is the biggest temptation
The convenience of grabbing those oily potato chips is enticing before you leave out the door right? Look, there is nothing wrong with indulging from time to time. The point I’m making is when becoming vegan try to choose the healthy options as much as possible.
Your health will reflect what you eat most of the time. That means striving to choose nuts, fruit, or vegetables you don’t mind snacking on. Of course, you can find low sugar, low sodium, and low additive processed foods.
Cheat days and cheat meals are okay
What I’m about to say may seem like like I’m contradicting what I said before. So here goes. If adhering to this information is too difficult to handle then do what you can. If you enjoy a highly processed veggie burger cooked with lots of oil and french fries covered in salt then, by all means, enjoy that meal. However, be sure you include a huge salad with lots of vegetables that day.
The goal is to develop a healthy lifestyle that you can continue for the rest of your life. So, cheat meals and cheat days are ok as long as your items are vegan. I highly doubt you are looking for an extreme vegan diet; therefore, don’t restrict yourself too much.
Homemade bean burgers are best, but it’s ok to have not so healthy veggie burgers and fries occasionally.
What supplements should I take?
Taking this vitamin is essential because farming soil no longer has high amounts. As a result, fruits and vegetables contain very little. Our ancestors also used to get it from freshwater sources, but I’m pretty sure you don’t drink from a stream. The best form to take is sublingual cyanocobalamin b12.
Thankfully, b12 is one of the cheapest supplements you can buy and you usually only need to take one pill per week.
If you don’t get regular sunlight then take vitamin d. The sun should be your first choice because there are other benefits to sunlight. However, many people work indoors or live in cold climates. You’re in luck because it’s also very affordable.
If you are deficient in iodine then you can get it from seaweed. Visit the doctor if you think your levels are low. You can’t afford to overlook this mineral. It is important for hormone regulation.
The seaweed in vegan sushi supplies you with iodine.
Eating flax meal regularly and walnuts should be enough to keep your body
full of omega 3 fatty acids. But, you may need to supplement by taking DHA and EPA derived from seaweed.
Lastly, everyone’s body is different. You may have nutritional deficiencies others may not have, despite eating the same foods. Getting tested for these deficiencies and addressing them can only help.
Becoming an unhealthy vegan is much easier than being a healthy one. First, you must make the right mental and environmental changes. Next, include a variety of whole foods and exclude others. But, have fun with it. Don’t be too restrictive otherwise, it will be hard to maintain. Finally, use supplements when necessary.
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