A vegan diet is one that is completely devoid of all animal products. This means that eggs, cheese, dairy products, fish and foods made with any animal-derived product are strictly out of bounds. If you’re considering making the switch to veganism, there are a few things you need to know.
While you can get all of the essential nutrients your body needs on a vegan diet, you may have to change your eating habits significantly. Here are seven quick tips to get you started.
1. Make legumes your new best friend
If you’re new to veganism, there is a chance that your protein intake will fall below the daily recommended level – unless you substitute meat and animal-related products for vegan alternatives. Legumes are very high in protein, which is needed for your muscles, energy levels and overall wellbeing. Aim to eat at least three servings of beans, nuts or soy-based foods every day.
2. Consume slow-burning carbohydrates
Processed carbohydrates are usually rich in fast-burning carbs that give you a quick burst of energy before leaving you fatigued relatively quickly. When this happens, the natural urge is to eat again, which means taking on unnecessary calories. Slow-burning carbs — such as those found in whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole oats — release energy slowly. Other foods rich in slow-burning carbohydrates include quinoa, barley and fresh beans.
3. Consider supplements
There are several essential nutrients that are found in highly concentrated doses in certain meats, including omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, vitamin D, iron and vitamin B12. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to physical ailments. If you’re struggling to get enough of these nutrients into your diet, consider taking supplements. However, most nutritionists would only ever recommend this as a temporary measure.
4. Make sure you’re eating enough fat
A lot of people who are new to veganism make the mistake of almost completely cutting fat out of their diet. However, your body needs fat to function properly, and to absorb many important vitamins and minerals. But don’t worry, as you can get the fats you need from foods such as avocados, nuts and plant-based oils. If you find that you’re always hungry or “craving” animal products during the first few weeks of your vegan diet, eating more fat could help.
5. Help your body to absorb iron
Some people who try veganism revert to eating animal products because of the effects of iron deficiency. Anaemia can leave you feeling tired and lethargic, and it could be because of a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. You need those fats in order to absorb iron, so make sure you’re eating lots of olive oil, nuts and seeds.
6. Embrace umami
Umami means “deliciousness” in Japanese, and it is a term that is often used to describe the “fifth” taste, along with salt, bitter, sour and sweet. A lot of people who are new to veganism talk about their food lacking a certain something — a flavour often associated with meat or dairy. Fortunately, there are lots of vegan foods you can cook with to replace these lost flavours, including dried mushrooms, nutritional yeast, wine, marmite, sun-dried tomatoes, ketchup and balsamic vinegar.
7. Reach out
While the number of vegans in the UK is rising, it is still relatively low. During the first stages of life as a vegan, things can become tough for former meat eaters. If you’re ever in need of motivation, inspiration or tips, reach out to friends and family who have gone through the same experiences. There are also organisations such as the Vegan Society that offer advice. Alternatively, reaching out could be something as simple as taking part in online discussions and joining online vegan communities.
Becoming vegan delivers a range of fantastic health benefits, and it can also greatly reduce your carbon footprint. As long as you consume all of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs, your foray into the world of veganism should be a successful one.