The thought of starting a vegan diet can be daunting to many people. If you’re a newbie who is wondering ‘what is a vegan diet’, it's a diet that involves no animal food, including meat, eggs and dairy.
Vegan diets help to improve kidney function and lower your blood sugar levels. They are also great for people who are trying to lose weight.
Since the number of vegans has been growing in numbers and popularity, the food options for vegans are also increasing by the day.
The primary key to a vegan diet is having a variety of foods to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients that your body needs. While there are many foods that people need to start a vegan diet, here are the ones that you should not miss out on.
Whole grains provide your body with the necessary carbs it needs as a source of energy. Eating whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, as opposed to refined ones like white bread, white pasta, etc., is much healthier for you.
For starters, whole grains provide you with extra fiber that will keep you full for longer periods of time. In addition to that, whole grains also have many vitamins and nutrients that refined grains may be stripped of. Some of these include B vitamins, iron and many other minerals.
Protein is an important nutrient needed by the body in order to stay healthy. It is crucial for almost every part of your body, from your muscle and organs to your skin and bones. If you are vegan, you may think that it’s harder for you to get your necessary protein intake since animal meats and diary are a major source of protein. However, that's not true.
There are many plant-based protein options for vegans. The key to this is having a good variety in your diet. Some plant-based proteins you can add to your vegan diet include tofu, lentils, chickpeas and beans. Seeds, such as sunflower, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds and nuts like walnuts and almonds are also a major source of protein. Fortified nutritional yeast and hemp hearts are also great options.
The right food means it should have the right vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that helps convert your food into energy. It is important to maintain a healthy blood flow in your body and to keep the nervous system in check.
There’s no doubt that this vitamin is mainly found in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, etc. What you need to know is that animals do not naturally have B12 and are being supplemented with it. You can also get this vitamin if you’re on a vegan diet. Some options to consider include protein/energy bars and fortified cereals, unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12, yeast extract, like Marmite, which is also fortified with vitamin B12.
If you feel like you aren’t getting the required amount, you may want to consult your doctor and take a supplement.
There are many vitamin D options for you if you are on a vegan diet. Vitamin D is in some fortified non-dairy milks, such as soy or almond milk and orange juice. The best way to get vitamin D is to expose yourself to the sun, however, that isn't always possible. If you feel that you aren't able to get a good amount, despite your efforts, then again, you should consult your doctor and get on supplements as a lack of vitamin D could have many effects on your body and mind.
While animal proteins, such as meat and chicken may be the best sources of iron, there are many ways in which you can get an adequate amount of iron if you are on a vegan diet. Vegans can still get this mineral from beans, legumes, pulses, whole meal bread and flour, cereals fortified with iron, dark green, leafy vegetables, like watercress, broccoli and spring greens, nuts and dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs.
However, keep in mind that iron from plant sources is not as easily absorbed as it is from meat sources. To absorb most of plant-based iron, you should increase your intake of foods that are rich in vitamin C as they boost absorption.
If you are taking iron supplements, you may want to keep in mind that you should avoid taking them with caffeine as it limits absorption and is one of the biggest reasons why people end up feeling so fatigued. Take them 60-90 minutes apart.
Calcium is integral for strong bones and overall health. It's what helps prevent osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes your bones to weaken and even break. If you are on a vegan diet, there are many ways for you to get your calcium intake. You can drink fortified soymilk and fresh juices. To add to that, you should have soybeans and dark leafy greens like bokchoy, broccoli, sesame seeds and tahini, pulses, dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots and kale as they have calcium. Keep in mind that the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium so you should ensure that you’re getting the required amount for it to take effect.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
To improve your heart health and brain functioning, you need to ensure that you are getting your Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The fact that you can only get them from fish is a common misconception. Look for food products fortified with Omega-3 from plant sources. Some of them include flaxseed oil, rapeseed oil, soya oil and soya-based foods like tofu, walnuts, etc.
If you feel like you aren’t getting the required amount and need more, Marine Algae Derived Omega fatty acid supplements are great for getting your Omega-3’s.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are important for vegans to get their necessary micronutrients and antioxidants. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and will be an excellent addition to your meals as well as a good replacement for many of them too. For instance, you can replace banana with eggs while baking. We already touched upon how important your leafy greens and other vegetables are in your diet, especially if you’re vegan. The same goes for fruits.
It is said that you should eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day in order to have a balanced diet. From berries to citrus fruits and dried fruits, they all have so many benefits for your body and are an excellent source of energy.
Each of the foods mentioned above is great for people who need to start a vegan diet. Make sure to get them all in so that you can have a balanced diet and get all the nutrients that your body requires to stay healthy. Happy eating!