Are you thinking of trying out a plant-based diet? You’re not alone. Since 2014, veganism in the United States has increased more than 600 percent, a trend that’s also becoming popular worldwide.
A vegan is a person who does not eat or use animal products. (A vegetarian allows consumption of some animal products such as dairy.)
Going vegan for a month is a popular way to reap the many benefits of a plant-based diet but it’s easy to fall into the trap of following a vegan diet that isn’t as healthy as you think. Here are a few things to know before you jump into veganism.
What are the benefits of being vegan?
If you want to keep your heart healthy, a vegan diet can be an excellent option for several reasons. It is usually low in saturated fat, unlike non-vegan eating, in which processed meats and animal products typically boost fat intake. A plant-based diet provides more fiber, especially soluble fiber, and many of the foods are also good sources of heart-healthy potassium.
Healthy skin and hair can be another benefit of going vegan. If you’re eating a balanced vegan diet, you should be getting plenty of vitamins A and C. These nutrients work together to produce collagen, and this is good news for your skin and hair. A lot of vegans find that their skin becomes softer and plumper and they have shiny, healthy-looking hair. Make sure you’re eating plenty of berries, kale, spinach, carrots, almonds and pumpkin seeds to get the benefits.
Your hormones can also be more balanced on a plant-based diet. If you’ve not been eating much in the way of “whole foods” and your diet has included a lot of animal products, there is a good chance that your hormone balance has been disrupted. Moving away from animal products and focusing on “whole” foods can protect your hormone balance.
If you’re looking to slim down, a balanced vegan diet is low in calories and rich in fiber. Grains and vegetables don’t contain a lot of calories, but they will still keep you feeling fuller for longer.
What to eat as a vegan
Grains and legumes are good choices for bulking out meals, keeping you feeling full and providing a range of vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat, brown rice, beans, quinoa, peas, and lentils are versatile options for staples.
Include vegetables in your meals as much as possible; you can even add fruit to some dishes. Dried apricots add a different texture to coconut milk-based curries, for example.
Seeds, nuts and nut butters are a great source of healthy fats and protein. Snack on fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds, raw vegetables and rice cakes. If you’re feeling creative, you can always try making plant-based versions of sweet treats. These are usually a lot healthier than their non-vegan counterparts, which are often heavily processed and high in fat and sugar.
Making sure your vegan diet is healthy
If you don’t get the right balance of vitamins and minerals when you adopt a plant-based, it can mean that you become deficient in vital nutrients found in a lot of animal products (especially meat and fish), such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc. It’s important to replace animal sources of these nutrients with vegan alternatives such as buckwheat, brown rice, oats, soya beans, whole grains, leafy greens and pumpkin seeds.
Meal planning can help you to think about the balance of nutrients you’ll be getting from your meals and snacks so that you don’t miss out on important nutrients. There are lots of vegan alternatives to animal products, but many of these tend to be over-processed and less healthy than fresh foods; stick to “whole” foods as much as you can. You can also look for ways to make vegan-friendly versions of the dishes you used to love, especially if you intend to stick with a plant-based lifestyle more than a month.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.