Updated: Jul 12, 2019
If you haven't heard of veganism by now, I must ask "where have you been" ? Veganism seems to be the 'IN' thing right now with all of your favorite social media site having some sort of vegan content. With recent news of new vegan celebrities such as will.i.am, Sterling K. Brown, Young MA, and even Beyoncé, you are probably wondering, "is veganism right for me?" Well before you jump right into it lets understand what this vegan thing is .
What is Vegan?
I can't count how many times I have been asked "so going vegan means I don't eat meat right?". The answer to that is yes and no. Veganism is a lifestyle that involves no consumption of meat, dairy, or any animal products period (honey included). In fact, that is the definition of a dietary vegan. There is also such thing as an ethical vegan in which they follow the same nutritional plan as a dietary vegan but they also stay away from every product that has been derived from the killing, exploitation or suffering of animals, such as honey, leather, fur, and skin care products that have been tested on animals.
What is Not Vegan?
Besides dietary veganism there are other different types of diet choice that involve some form of animal product exclusion.
Vegetarian: The practice of abstaining from meat consumption, and animal slaughter by product, this includes gelatin and rennet.
Lacto vegetarian: Follows the same guidelines as the vegetarian, except that it consume certain types of dairy, but excludes eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy.
Flexitarian: Predominately vegetarian diet with the occasional consumption of meat.
Pescatarian : The practice of abstaining from meat consumption, except fish.
Plant Based: The practice of the consumption of a diet based on whole plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This diet put a primary focus on plant foods rather than process or animal based foods. This does not automatically mean vegan. The definition can include full vegetarian or flexitarian.
All of these diet preference are great choices depending on your individual health goals. You could even start each diet preference one at a time and progress until you transition into a full dietary vegan.
Regardless of which of the above diet style you choose, there are many benefits in the decreased or exempt consumption of animal products. Unless you are raising your own cattle for consumption, you do not know the dangers that lurk around in your meat. According to the World Health Organization, certain forms of meat are identified as a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). This may be due to the presence of harmful toxins that present in it. For instance, in beef you can find pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, dioxins and other toxic chemicals. These toxins may react negatively with your cells and cause inflammation that may lead to more serious health conditions, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, neoplastic tissue growth, and mental health conditions. However, to decrease the risk of toxin exposure, you can at least opt for organic and grass fed animal products free of hormones and antibiotics.
Veganism For Starters
Veganism is a huge challenge for the beginner or someone who is contemplating joining that lifestyle. From breakfast to dinner and the snacks in-between, vegans eat whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The beginner vegan has to learn how to prepare new plant-based meals as most fast food joints don't carry the items to support your new lifestyle. Eating out may pose as a challenge because not every restaurant may serve vegan and vegetarian food that is appealing to you or they may contain ingredients that are highly processed and still unhealthy. Visiting friends and family is also a challenge unless the hostess is understanding and makes an effort to prepare vegan food on the side.
Veganism is definitely not easy for a beginner but it can be done successfully. If you are new to veganism, my first suggestion is to buy a vegan recipe book or search for recipes online and compile them into a folder. It is also smart to create a meal plan for every week and purchase your dry ingredients such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains in bulk for the month. However, don't purchase your fruit and vegetables in bulk as they may spoil quickly, instead buy your organic fruits and fresh vegetables on a weekly basis.
On your vegan journey, you are going to want to get used to eating plenty of beans, lentils and peas because they contain ALL of the essential amino acids that you need for protein. To ensure nutritional integrity and to save time, soak beans, lentils and even rice for a few hours then boil them and freeze them in batches, and then defrost a batch each time you need it in a meal. It is also useful to learn to make hamburger patties from beans, sandwich fillers and wrap fillers which you can use for your packed lunches. Breakfast and snacks can simply be fruit salad, oats, smoothies, raw nuts and seeds.
Health Benefits of Veganism
There are so many benefits for joining the vegan bandwagon, if you do it correctly. You may even see the result began in as little as one day as you may feel sharper and more energetic as you get your hands on what your body needs. Below you will find some of the most prominent scientific benefits of following a vegan diet.
Increases Nutrients Intake. Plant foods are primary foods that provide fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids (building blocks for protein) and other phytochemicals that balance hormones, enhance the health of various organs and even heal ailments. Legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds contain most of the essential amino acids that the body needs for protein, and clever combining of foods makes sure that every meal has sufficient protein.
Promotes Cardiovascular Health. Grains, nuts and seeds are good for the heart. Vegan foods promotes the intake of HDL cholesterol (with foods like olive oil, avocado, beans and nuts) which is good for heart health.
Weight Loss. Vegan food promotes faster and more sustainable weight loss. Many observational studies have shown that vegans generally have lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans.
Cancer Prevention. Vegan food is more alkaline in the body (in comparison to an animal product diet) and that prevents many cancers from forming. Animal products are acidic in the body, causing diet-induced acidosis which increased inflammatory responses throughout the body and causes cancer. (Robey, 2012).
Enhances Bone and Joint Health. Plant based foods prevent inflammatory damage to the bones and joints. Also, they usually contain higher amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium which are very important in strengthening the bones. Acidosis (caused by eating animal protein) is linked to bone loss and damage to joint cartilage and nerve activity. (Vormann & Goedecke, 2006).
Prevents Most Chronic Diseases. If carefully selected, the vegan diet can help remove existing acidic activity and free radicals in the body, preventing or reversing any chronic diseases caused by acidosis. With this diet, you can say good bye to kidney disease, high blood pressure, cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc. Acidosis has been linked to most degenerative diseases and animal-based foods are the major culprits as they become acidic in the body.
Prevents Chronic Infections. The vegan diet also reduces mucus accumulation and prevents infections. Studies have found that an acidic environment, from the consumption of animal products, is favored by microbes, leading to many bacterial infections.
Heals Inflammation. Because whole food products are full of the appropriate vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, it may neutralize acid in the body, allowing the body to heal from any type of inflammation. Inflammation is caused by acidosis which can be mostly attributed to the consumption of animal-based food.
Substituting Animal Products
It may be difficult to learn new recipes. Luckily there are several products that we can use as meat, milk, and cheese substitutes and still enjoy our favorite recipes.
Meat Analouge: even though it is best to reduce consumption of alternative meat in a vegan diet, it is still healthier than consuming animal meat due to the lack of hormones and other harmful chemicals. Alternative meats may have the same qualities of actual meat with increased nutritional value and decreased exposure to harmful toxins. These alternative meats, if prepped and seasoned in a certain way, can be cooked like beef steak, chicken, fish, scrambled eggs, and burgers from tofu, seitan, tempeh, textured vegetable protein and others. You can find examples of these types of meat alternatives here. Some of the most popular vegan meat alternative brands are gardein, beyond meat, and field roast.
Plant Milk: Instead of dairy milk you can replace it with even better alternatives such as rice milk, coconut milk, oat milk, nut milk, hemp milk and even quinoa milk.
Plant Based Cheese: there are so many tasty cheese alternatives on the market, more so, now that everyone is joining the vegan lifestyle. The most common cheese alternatives are created from almond, cashew, and other plant based sources from brands like daiya, kite hill, angel food, and tofutti. You can find a vegan alternative for every different form of cheese including: cheese sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, sliced cheese, and shredded cheese.
There is no limit to what you can do with these amazing plant foods. Find a number of recipes, try them and then experiment in your kitchen if you are creative enough.
Can't find a recipe? Then check out these awesome Instagram hashtags for vegan tips and inspiration !
How Not To Go Vegan
To make your transition into veganism easier, avoid some of these common mistakes made by most vegans.
Going vegan overnight without taking time to get used to the new lifestyle.
Forgetting to take vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplements .
Not eating enough dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, and bok choy which are important sources of iron, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium.
Eating too much junk vegan food and not eating enough whole foods and thus getting insufficient nutrients and feeling less energy.
Improper meal planning when traveling.
Excluding main sources of whole food proteins including beans, vegetables, lentils, nuts, nut butters, and seeds.
Not eating enough sources of omega-3 fatty acid like chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seed, flaxseeds, brussels sprouts and perilla oil.
Over consumption of refined and processed carbohydrates (vegan pastries, cakes, candy, etc), causing problems with blood glucose and weight gain.
Things to Avoid
The main reasoning behind going vegan is to improve bodily functions, reduce exposure to harmful chemical, potentiate the opportunity for increased intake of essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes and maintain good health. Therefore, you should avoid:
Increased intake of vegan junk foods such as: ice cream, pastries, and candy which contain added sugar and have reduced nutritional value.
Excessive use of vegan sweeteners that contains high amounts of added sugars and may cause health problems such as skin inflammation and blood glucose elevation.
Over consumption of store-bought substitute meats and cheeses that are highly processed and do not contain as many whole food nutrients as beans, lentils, nuts, vegetables, fruit and seeds.
Store-bought dairy-free milks with high amounts of added sugars. It is best to buy the unsweetened version or make your own plant based milk at home.
Vegan protein bars that have too much sugar and insufficient protein.
Also avoid these labels: Enriched, Refined, Carranegean, High Fructose, Canola, Vegetable, or Soybean Oil, Artificial Sweeteners, Artificial Flavor, "Natural" Flavor, Genetically Modified, Partially Genetically Modified, and Imitation Extracts.
Choose the Right Produce for Your Vegan Meals
Also, when going vegan it is important to be more conscious of ALL of the food items that you consume including fruit and vegetables. There are plenty of health dangers that are also lurking around in the produce section, so it is important to pay more attention to it and avoid jeopardizing your health journey due to lack of awareness. In order to avoid fillers, artificial coloring, pesticides, and growth hormones in your fruit and vegetables, buy your food ORGANIC and or from a local farmers market. Depending on which produce is more prone to pesticide residue, buying organic will ensure that your produce is free of at least 90% of harmful and illegal pesticides and not genetically modified. Here is a list to follow to help you shop for produce the smart way and save coins.
Going vegan is quite a huge change but with proper planning and patience you can make the transition to veganism easy and enjoy the wonderful benefits. Just remember to start off slow and remain consistent with eliminating one animal product at a time. In addition, avoid constant consumption of vegan junk food and increase the intake of your whole foods in the form of fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Everyone finds changing a diet a little difficult at first, but over the course of time, you will become more familiar with the vegan and plant based lifestyle and understand what you need to turn your body into a clean mean disease fighting machine rather than an animal's graveyard.
If you need further guidance regarding veganism and reversing your chronic condition with nutrition feel free to consult with us.
Altic, D., Altic Health Prevention, Acidosis and Our Modern Lifestyle and Acidic Diet.
Altic, D., Altic Health Prevention, Causes of Candida Infections.
Alkaline for Life, Another serious consequence of acidosis is inflammation.
Robey, IF, Nutrition & Metabolism, Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer, 2012.
Vormann J and Goedecke T, Schweiz. Zschr. GanzheitsMedizin Jg., Acid-Base Homeostasis: Latent Acidosis as a Cause of Chronic Diseases, 2006.