Becoming a vegetarian or vegan was once about a love of animals. Now, it has become an adopted lifestyle for so many people for a variety of reasons. Some individuals still choose not to eat meat due to the treatment of animals, while others choose this lifestyle because they simply don’t like how meat-based products and foods make them feel. Whatever the reason, veganism is growing in popularity, with approximately 1.6 million Americans currently adopting a vegan diet. So, what exactly does this type of eating plan look like and how can you ensure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function? Read on to find out.
How is Vegan Different from Vegetarian?
For those who aren’t familiar with this eating lifestyle, veganism takes being a vegetarian to the next level. Vegetarians do not consume any form of meat. This includes poultry, fish, pork, and beef. When you choose to become a vegan, you eliminate all animal products and any food that get its origin from an animal.
This means no eggs or dairy, at all. That’s because eggs come from poultry and dairy comes from milk, which comes from cows. Vegans are strictly limited when it comes to the things they can eat. Many products contain some form of dairy or egg including some pastas, anything containing gelatin, and honey.
Some individuals adopt a vegan lifestyle because they are completely against the thought of consuming animals or consuming any products produced through animal labor. Others simply find it beneficial for their health. But with so many foods on the “do not eat” list, what can vegans eat? And how do they get the essential vitamins and nutrients they need to lead a healthy, well-balanced life?
What Vegans Can (and Should) Eat
Because vegans do not consume any animal products, getting their fair share of protein can prove difficult. There are a handful of protein-rich foods, which vegans can consume, but diversity can be tricky. Vegan protein powder is a great option to help vegans boost their protein intake. But protein isn’t the only thing that a strictly vegan diet is sometimes lacking. Here are a list of several foods vegans can consume and should consume in order to fuel their bodies.
Legumes – Legumes are a great source of protein for vegans and pack a high dose of iron, another nutrient that many vegans are lacking. When vegans consume legumes they’re also getting a decent amount of fiber, antioxidants, zinc, and folate – all important nutrients for the body to perform at optimum levels.
The most popular forms of legumes are peas, beans, and lentils. These items can be incorporated into a long list of healthy recipes. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, which offers some tasty options for vegan eaters. But, consuming too many legumes can also prevent your body from absorbing essential minerals it needs, so it’s important not to overdo it.
Nuts and Seeds – Nuts, nut butters, and seeds also pack a high-protein punch for individual’s not consuming meat products. They’re also a great source of iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. Another great benefit of seeds and nuts is that they can easily be incorporated into recipes ranging from savory dinner dishes to sweet desserts.
They can also be consumed on their own as a quick snack on the go or spread on your morning toast. When possible, try consuming these items in their rawest form, avoiding heavily processed varieties that contain additional sugar and may lose their nutritional value in the production process.
Tofu – This may be one of the earliest food options for vegetarians, before veganism became popular. Tofu and tempeh are both very popular among vegans. They’re minimally processed and made from soybeans. They offer a great source of protein, as well as iron and calcium, which are all ingredients generally lacking from a strictly vegan diet.
The great thing about tofu is that it can be prepared in a variety of ways. This meat substitute is made from pressed soybean curds and can be scrambled like eggs, grilled, or sautéed. Tempeh is also made from soybeans and due to its distinct and strong flavor, is often used as a substitute for fish.
Other Meat Substitutes – What about the elusive “veggie” burger? What exactly are in these non-beef patties and are they nutritionally beneficial for vegans? Yes and no. Veggie burgers are formed like a patty to resemble a beef burger and give vegans the feeling of eating a traditional hamburger on a bun. Most veggie burgers are made from a combination of vegetables, nuts or seeds, soybean, and grains.
Although these ingredients are healthy, they’re often heavily processed to help with preservation so they should be consumed in moderation. Seitan is another popular meat substitute among vegans because it contains not only wheat protein but also some iron and calcium as well. Because seitan is a wheat-based protein, it’s not the best option for anyone suffering from gluten intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Going Vegan
If you’re considering adopting a vegan lifestyle, it’s important that you ease into it. If you’ve never completely eliminated animal products from your diet, you’ll want to start with small changes. This will not only help your body adjust more easily but it will also aid in your success. Give yourself time to adjust.
Eliminate or substitute one or two foods at a time and see how your body reacts. It’s also important to know that not all vegan diets will result in weight loss. If your ultimate goal is losing weight, a different diet plan might be better for you. If you’re going to live a vegan lifestyle it will take time to adjust and you’ll need to plan your meals ahead, especially when you’re not eating at home.
More and more restaurants and food establishments are offering vegan dishes but keep in mind; it might be difficult to find something that fits your needs. Veganism is truly a lifestyle change, not a diet, so treat it that way and you’ll soon be on the path to success.
Article Submitted By Community Writer