What I Wish I Knew Before Going Vegan
Updated: May 4
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can be a significant change, but it can also be a rewarding one. Here are some things I wish someone had told me before I went vegan:
In the beginning especially, its so important to make sure you plan your meals in advance to ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients your body needs. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts will help you meet your nutritional needs.
Animal products are in more foods than you would ever guess! Read labels: It's essential to read food labels to ensure that the products you're buying are vegan. Here are some ingredients to look out for: Here are some common ones:
· Gelatin: This is a protein obtained from animal collagen, often found in jellies, marshmallows, gummy candies, and some yogurt. · Casein and whey: These are proteins derived from milk, often found in cheese, baked goods, and protein powders · Lard: This is a type of fat from pigs, often used in baked goods, pastries, and fried foods. · Carmine: This is a red pigment made from crushed cochineal beetles, often found in candy, fruit drinks, and some cosmetics. · Isinglass: This is a protein obtained from fish bladders, often used to clarify beer and wine. · Bone char: This is charred animal bones used in sugar refining to whiten and remove impurities from sugar. · Anchovies: These are small fish often used in Worcestershire sauce, Caesar dressing, and some Asian sauces.
Finding vegan alternatives: There are plenty of vegan alternatives to popular animal products such as milk, cheese, and meat. Experiment with different plant-based options to find what you like. But all of it is a learning curve. The best thing is to rely on whole food products, and not to fall into the trap of processed foods that resemble foods you used to eat. Many of the alternatives are real food that you just learn to use differently! It’s actually pretty exciting Educate yourself on the reasons for going vegan, animal welfare, and the environmental impact of animal agriculture. This knowledge will help you stay committed to your new lifestyle. Don’t’ worry if the transition isn’t a linear progression, be kind to yourself, and if you fall off the wagon, get up and start again. I personally didn’t change in a day, but the longer I did it, the more I knew I was on the right track. There seem to be more reasons to be plant based than there are reasons to eat animal products. Remember that going vegan is a journey, and it's okay to make mistakes along the way. Don't beat yourself up if you slip up and consume animal products. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn and make adjustments. Stay connected: Join vegan groups on social media, attend vegan events, and connect with like-minded individuals to stay motivated and get support. If you have any concerns about your nutritional needs, it's important to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help ensure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Which nutrients should I watch out for?
Vegans can, if they are primarily eating processed and junk foods, find themselves nutritionally lacking. You can eat Oreos and chips all day long while being vegan. Stick with whole foods and watch out for these possible potholes:
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is important for healthy nerve function and the formation of red blood cells. It's primarily found in animal-based foods, so vegans should consider taking a B12 supplement or eating B12-fortified foods like plant-based milks, cereals, and nutritional yeast.
Iron: Iron is important for healthy red blood cells, and it's found in plant-based sources like beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
Calcium: Calcium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth, and it's found in plant-based sources like leafy greens, almonds, sesame seeds, and fortified plant milks.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that support brain function and reduce inflammation in the body. Plant-based sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Of course don’t forget where the fish get it from: algae. But chia and flax definitely taste better
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and is essential for healthy bones. It's primarily found in animal-based foods, but vegan sources include fortified plant milks and mushrooms. And 30 minutes of sun exposure on bare skin
Zinc: Zinc is important for a healthy immune system and wound healing. It's found in plant-based sources like legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
It's important to consume a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods to ensure you're getting all the necessary nutrients your body needs. But that remains true for everyone who eats food. The more variety you eat the happier your gut microbiome are. We should eat to satisfy our gut microbiome!
Will I get enough protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair tissues in the body, and interestingly one of the nutrients you need to worry about when going vegan. It is easy to get enough protein, and delicious as well! Plant-based sources of protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. Check out our videos to see how many indulgent and satisfying meals you can enjoy!
It's important to consume a variety of protein sources to ensure you're meeting your daily protein needs. Some plant-based sources of protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. By including a variety of protein-rich plant-based foods in your diet, you can meet your daily protein needs and enjoy the many health benefits of a plant-based diet.
There is evidence to suggest that the dairy and beef lobbies have played a role in pushing for more protein in our diets, particularly in the United States. These industries have historically lobbied for policies and regulations that promote the consumption of animal-based products, which are generally higher in protein. For example, in the 1980s, the beef industry launched a campaign called "Beef. It's What's for Dinner," which aimed to increase beef consumption in the United States. Similarly, the dairy industry has lobbied for policies that promote the consumption of dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, which are all sources of protein. But they fail to tell you the whole story and that is worth investigating.
These lobbying efforts have been successful in many cases, and as a result, the average American diet is high in animal-based protein. However, there has been growing interest in plant-based diets in recent years, and many people are now seeking alternative sources of protein.
There are studies that have shown that a diet high in animal protein, particularly from red meat and processed meats, is associated with an increased risk of certain health conditions such as heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes, and even forms of dementia. These risks may be due in part to the high levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and heme iron found in animal products. Additionally, the way animal products are cooked and processed can also increase the formation of harmful compounds that can contribute to these health risks.
On the other hand, a diet high in plant-based proteins, such as beans, nuts, and seeds, has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
It is important to note that not all animal protein is bad for human health, and a moderate intake of lean animal protein can be a part of a healthy diet. It needs to be pasture raised and organic to avoid high levels of antibiotics, insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides used in their feed. If it is a clean source, a vata constitution, for example, will not be harmed by occasional small amounts of animal protein. The 80-20 rule will do well here, with 80% of calories coming from plant proteins. The key is a varied diet that includes increased amounts of plant-based protein since these sources are associated with improved health outcomes. It's important to note that while protein is an essential nutrient, there are many plant-based sources of protein that can provide all the necessary amino acids for a healthy diet. A well-planned plant-based diet can meet all of your nutritional needs, including protein, without the negative health and environmental impacts associated with animal-based protein sources.
Good luck on your journey and reach out for any questions!