Veganism is growing in popularity and between 2014 and 2019 alone, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled from 150,000 to 600,000 (around 1.2 percent of the population). Although the number itself might seem small for such a mighty movement, that’s a huge shift in thinking, and the ideals and considerations behind veganism are becoming something that more people are aware of.
Veganism is a diet completely free of animal products, and it is different from vegetarianism since vegetarians will consume animal by-products such as eggs and dairy, whereas a vegan will not.
Yet even though a vegan diet is known to be a healthy one, and even if your feelings about the animal industry are strong ones, it is important not to jump in headfirst without understanding as much as possible about veganism. Take the time to learn more, and the transition from omnivore or vegetarian to full vegan will be an easier one. Read on to find out more.
You Will Be Asked A Lot Of Questions
Everyone has their own reasons for starting their journey with veganism; it might be that you feel giving up meat will make you healthier and help you reach your weight loss goals. It might be that it’s to do with ethics and the way animals are treated. Perhaps it’s even about the economy. Whatever your reason, if you switch from being a meat-eater to a vegan seemingly overnight, your friends and family are sure to have some questions for you. Even if you were a vegetarian and you have gone one step further to become a vegan, the questions might be asked.
So that you don’t feel uncomfortable, it’s good to know what the most common questions will be, and how you can answer them in a way that keeps everyone happy (although remember; your happiness and decisions in life are not contingent on anyone else, so even if your friends and family don’t understand, that doesn’t mean you have to change your mind). Having a good knowledge about why you took on veganism and how it will make a positive difference to your life will help those who have never considered it or have preconceived ideas about it to have a better understanding. Even if they would never do it themselves, if they can understand better why you did, they will be more able to support you and your choices.
You’ll Need B12 Supplements
It might surprise you to discover that a vegan diet is not able to provide your body with all the essential nutrients it needs to function properly. Despite being entirely natural, there are still some elements missing, and to stay as healthy as possible, you will need to take supplements.
One of the missing nutrients that you will need to replace is vitamin B12. This is only found in animal-based products, so eating a plant-based diet means you’ll be missing out. You can buy supplements in health food shops and online, and you’ll just need to take these each day to boost your body’s health. Alternatively, you can book in with your doctor for a regular B12 injection (this will take place around every three months or so). There are even some foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, including some breakfast cereals and smoothies, if you would prefer to try to include the vitamin in this way.
Is it really important to top up the missing vitamin B12? The answer is yes. Vitamin B12 is known as an essential vitamin; it helps to make DNA, and it keeps your blood cells and nerves in good condition. Without enough vitamin B12 in your diet, you can become exhausted, constipated, develop depression, lose weight (not in a healthy way), lose your appetite, and feel weak. Clearly, ensuring you get enough vitamin B12 is crucial, otherwise all the healthy reasons for becoming a vegan will be negated.
You May Also Need Iron
Something else that you can find you have much less of with a vegan diet is iron. This isn’t necessarily because you’re eating fewer foods that contain iron, but because you’re taking in what is called ‘non-heme’ iron. Non-heme iron (as opposed to heme iron) is much less easily absorbed into the body, meaning that, even if you eat a lot of it, you’ll be able to make much less use of it compared to if you were eating a diet that included meat. Essentially, you’ll have to eat a lot more to absorb the same amount.
To ensure you get enough iron, again you take supplements, but you can also make sure you include some iron-rich foods in your diet. Dark, leafy greens, sunflower seeds, legumes, and dried raisins are all good examples of food you can eat, plus, if you include foods that are rich in vitamin C in your diet (any citrus foods, broccoli, red peppers, and more) this will also be helpful since vitamin C makes it easier to absorb both types of iron.
You’ll Need To Find New Proteins
Even if you are a vegan, every meal you eat should contain some form of protein. Once consumed, proteins become amino acids, breaking down and repairing cells as well as promoting their growth.
Whereas for those who eat meat most of their protein will come from this source, that’s not possible when you are on a vegan diet. Therefore, other forms of protein will need to be added to your meals. Luckily, this is not as difficult as it sounds since items such as quinoa, beans, natural soy, lentils, and seitan all contain plenty of protein. The key is to include one or more of these ingredients (as well as others) in each meal. This can take some getting used to, but if you have a stock of lentils or soy in your kitchen at all times, it’s not so hard to do.
Don’t Replace Meat With Junk Food
Often when people first switch to veganism they will feel as though something is missing from their diet – perhaps their plates seem to be lacking something. No matter how much you might dislike the idea of eating meat, if it’s been part of your diet for your entire life up until now, you’re going to feel it when it’s gone.
Something that might happen at this point and that you should avoid at all costs is that you might be tempted to replace the ‘missing’ meat with junk food, or foods that aren’t so good for you and will undo the healthy aspects of your vegan diet. These foods include white bread, crisps, chips, and other items that will fill you up but that have little nutritional value when compared to healthier options. If you do this, you’ll find that your mood dips considerably after eating, leaving you feeling bad and grumpy, plus you’ll feel hungrier sooner.
Give it time, and soon enough, with a varied vegan diet, you won’t feel that you’re missing out on anything. You’ll simply need to be patient.
Don’t Eat Too Much Soy
Soy might be one of the main things you think of when you’re looking for meat substitutes. Yet although soy can be amazing, taste delicious, and it has some definite health benefits, you do need to be careful about how much you eat. Studies are ongoing into the effects of having a lot of soy in your diet, but what can be said is that it can affect your heart health.
This is because specially designed meat substitutes often contain a lot of preservatives and sodium. Too much of this can be bad for the heart, so if you’re including a meat substitute made of soy in your everyday diet, you might be causing yourself some problems. It’s best to eat soy as naturally as possible, and the different types you can try include miso, edamame, tofu, soy milk, and tempeh.
You Still Need To Exercise
Although a plant-based diet such as the one vegans eat has many health benefits, this alone won’t automatically make you a healthy person, even though it will certainly help. You should also ensure that you continue to exercise on a regular basis, as this combined with a healthy diet is what will boost your metabolism and keep you fit.
Whether you choose to run, cycle, work out at the gym, weightlift, swim, follow an exercise class, walk, enjoy a combination of these things, and plenty more, it’s crucial to keep doing it. If you aren’t currently exercising regularly then it’s time to start to really make the most of the new diet you’re following.
You may not see results immediately, but if you keep up your new good habits then eventually you will start to see a difference, and this will spur you on to keep going. If you want to give yourself a kickstart, something like SARMs for bodybuilding might work as long as you are careful and think about your diet and exercise regime.
It Might Take Some Time
What’s wonderful about making decisions like turning vegan is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You can start small, perhaps having one or two meat-free days in the week and building up from there. Or you might ensure you always have a vegan dinner, but your breakfast and lunch can be vegetarian or even contain meat.
Add plant-based foods to your diet slowly and steadily and it won’t be such a shock to the system when you finally become a vegan full-time. By doing it this way, you’ll also be more likely to stick to this new habit until it becomes a part of who you are.