Thinking about going vegan?
Here are some important things to know before going vegan.
Whether you’re becoming a vegan for health reasons, to protect animals or the environment, making the transition from having meat and dairy on a regular basis will mean experiencing some changes.
For those who practice it, veganism is more than just changing your diet, it is a lifestyle. It not only changes what you eat and what you buy but also where you go and behavior.
Here are some tips that will help you transition to veganism.
What You Should Know Before Going Vegan
You’ll Have Cravings
Possibly the most difficult part about transitioning to a vegan diet is dealing with cravings for non-vegan foods.
These can be overwhelming for those first starting out, but eventually disappear as tastes change, so long as the body receives proper nutrition.
For some cravings, there are readily vegan alternatives that can be kept on hand for those moments of temptation. While many cravings are the result of years of eating highly addictive processed foods, some cravings may actually indicate a nutrient deficiency.
Cravings for chocolate, for instance, can mean that person may need more magnesium – a mineral found in cocoa beans. Discovering just what cravings mean, and learning to satisfy them healthily, can make the transition to veganism much easier.
You’ll Need to Get Enough Protein
One of the most important things for anyone who eliminates meat and dairy from their diets is getting sufficient amount of protein. Our bodies need protein to function properly and repair itself, and the best sources of protein are animal meat sources like chicken, beef and pork.
Making sure you know which non-animal based protein rich foods to include in your diet is essential to succeeding with a vegan diet.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not difficult at all to obtain protein on a vegan diet.
In addition to foods like soybeans and quinoa, which contain a complete spectrum of the amino acids needed by the human body, there are plenty of ways to eat enough protein with only plants.
Dark greens, nuts and legumes are particularly high in protein, but almost all foods contain protein in some level.
While conventional wisdom would have individuals believe that one must consume complete proteins at all meal, this is actually not true.
So long as sufficient quantities of proteins are available throughout the day, the body will be able to utilize them effectively. Combining different incomplete proteins also helps you get all the essential amino acids the body isn’t able to make on its own.
Other Nutrients Found in Meat, Fish & Dairy Products
For most vegans who’ve gotten the hang of things, getting enough protein becomes less of a concern.
However, there are also other main nutrients that individuals transitioning to veganism should make an effort to include in their new diet. These include omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D.
These nutrients are often found in meat, fish and dairy, all of which a vegan diet will need to find alternatives for.
Avoiding Iron Deficiency
Iron is not difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet, as long as the individual is seeking out iron-rich foods.
The two types of dietary iron (heme, and non-heme) function differently in the body. Heme iron is readily absorbed, while non-heme iron is not, though there are tricks to improve this.
Animal foods contain both of these types of iron, but plants only contain non-heme iron, so eating a vegan diet will require that a person consumes a greater quantity of iron-rich plants like spinach, kale, soybeans and lentils. In general, you’ll probably need to eat around 2 times as much iron from these foods.
Additionally, consuming foods high in vitamin C (like berries and peppers), along with iron, has shown to dramatically increase absorption.
Get Sufficient Amounts of Vitamin B12
Another concern with transitioning to a vegan diet is making sure that individuals consume proper levels of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is required by the body for blood cell production, as well as proper brain and nervous system functioning. This incredibly important vitamin must be obtained from food, and is readily available in animal products like meat, dairy and eggs.
As the liver can store up to 7 years of necessary B12, a deficiency may not become known until years into going vegan.
Many vegans experience incredible health benefits at the outset of the diet, only to be mystified when the benefits disappear a few years in, and fatigue and ill health return.
This can easily be remedied by simply taking a B12 supplement, available at health food stores, most drug stores and online.
While there is evidence that B12 can be obtained from certain types of algae like chlorella or spirulina, the bioavailability of this crucial vitamin in these formats is really unknown, and so supplementation is strongly recommended.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for proper brain function, as well as regulating inflammation in the body. They are unsaturated fats which are considered as “good fats” thanks to their benefits to health.
Omega-3 fats are most commonly found in fatty cold water fish like tuna and salmon, but vegans can obtain them from flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Find Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium
Our bodies need calcium to build and keep bones strong. Guidelines state that adults should get about 1,000 mg of calcium daily.
This becomes more important as we age as the rate at which bone is broken down will exceed the rate at which they’re rebuilt. Getting the daily recommended amount of calcium is essential to avoid bone related issues like osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Calcium may become an issue when shifting from a regular diet which includes animal based foods because the best sources of calcium comes from dairy, including milk, cheese and yogurt.
With dairy out of the way, as well as fish, going vegan means you’ll want to find non-dairy, non-animal sources of calcium.
These include kale, almonds, oranges, seaweed, turnip greens and collards. You can likewise turn to calcium-fortified foods like cereal, tofu or cereal.
Or, opt for calcium supplements.
Don’t Forget Vitamin D
Vitamin D is not found in many foods. Similar to calcium, vitamin D is found in dairy, and in some fish.
The good news about vitamin D is that you can just go out and get some from the sun. It’s free and you don’t need to cook or prepare it. All you need is to get exposure to 10 minutes of sunlight daily.
Because of skin cancer fears along with the digital age however, most of us are spending less and less time outdoors. This makes us prone to not getting enough of the benefits of sunlight as well as the outdoors.
As far as food goes, some good non-dairy sources of vitamin D include mushrooms as well as vitamin D fortified soy and almond milk, orange juice and cereals.
Like calcium, vitamin D is available in supplement form which makes it a lot easier to get the recommended daily allowance.
Don’t Go All-in At Once
Changing your entire diet and removing meat and dairy at once often hits hard leading up to a difficult transition. Making a gradual transition from your current diet to veganism allows you to be more comfortable with the change as well as stay with being vegan longer.
Take your time but slowly taking out one food item. Before long you’ll be going meatless and diary-free.
For those who need to consume a good amount of food to keep a healthy weight or are having problems getting satiated, try smoothies.
Smoothies are a great way to add fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds into your diet without sacrificing nutrition. They also save time in the kitchen as well as make consuming the many fruits and veggies faster as all you need to do is drink.
You’ll Have Some Off Days
As with any transition, you’ll probably find yourself stumbling. You’ll have days when you’ll give into cravings and have a pizza or your favorite meat dish at the restaurant. When this happens, don’t worry and go on. Pick up where you left off and continue.
Having days off is can be useful especially during the transition period as it allows you to be comfortable instead of forcing yourself.
Be Aware of What Your Body is Telling You
When going from a regular diet to veganism, listening to your body is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Any changes in your body, whether it’s feeling exhausted or worn out all the time, having trouble sleeping, breaking out in a rash or any other condition, you’ll want to take note of it and make appropriate changes to your diet.
Ultimately, moving to veganism is to get healthier and if that isn’t happening that it probably isn’t worth it.
Being vegan means taking out a number of food items from what you regularly eat. Because beef, fish, chicken as well as dairy products contain lots of nutrients, it is important to ensure that you find suitable non-meat alternatives for these nutrients.
Learn How to Order at Restaurants
Just because your diet changed doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do the other things you used to. However, you’ll probably need to make changes when eating out or with others.
Fortunately, many eating establishments today offer meatless dishes or those specifically for vegetarians. This gives you an option when dining out with friends or family.
You May Not Lose Weight Immediately… or At All
One of the reasons many people move to veganism is to lose weight. It’s true to removing the extra fat from animal based foods results in weight loss. However, it isn’t a guarantee.
Just because you’ve removed all meat and dairy products does not necessarily mean you’ll start losing weight. There are other foods that may prevent you from doing so.
For one, if you don’t reduce the amount of calories you consume, you probably won’t lose weight. If you consume processed foods, eat a lot of junk food like doughnuts, or foods high in sugar you also may not see much of improvements.