When people think of adopting a vegan diet, they often conjure up images of stock photos and modern media representation of veganism. Generally, vegans are depicted as smiling people who eat nothing but salad and fruits. However, this is a vast oversimplification of the diet and lifestyle that is one of the fastest-growing in the world. If you’re thinking about becoming a vegan, regardless of the reason, it’s important to do your research first. Far from just eating salads, to healthfully make the transition from a traditional diet to a vegan one there are several dietary considerations you should take into account. Want to know more? Here are some crucial things you need to know about a vegan diet.
Supplements Are Your Friends
Though a vegan diet can be as nutritious as it is delicious, by cutting animal products out of your diet you will inevitably be missing out on some essential nutrients. A glaring example of this is vitamin B12, as it naturally occurs in animal by-products rather than plants. For this reason, you should always ensure that you are taking at least one kind of supplement when adhering strictly to veganism. Iron supplements are also recommended due to the difference in absorbability from animal to plant-based foods. Though iron is found in plant food products, it is harder to absorb in these states, and therefore a good idea to take supplementally as well.
Take it Easy On Soy
Depending on who you talk to, soy is either the worst thing to include in your diet or the best. Neither is true, but it is good to monitor how much soy you consume. Many vegans rely heavily on soy for protein, and it is also included in a wide variety of pre-packaged meat substitute products. However, it has been proven that soy can be harmful to the body in large quantities. If you like the odd soy milk latte or soy-based vegan meat- don’t fret too much! Indulge in soy on occasion, but be mindful that the bulk of your nutrients are coming from other sources.
Pack in Your Protein
For obvious reasons, the biggest difference between an animal and a plant-based diet is where your protein is coming from! By eliminating animal products from a diet, you are heavily restricting available protein sources. Though protein does naturally occur in plant-based food, it is often in much smaller quantities. To combat this, a great addition to any vegan diet is protein powder. An easy addition to meals or morning smoothies, consuming protein powder daily will make sure your body has the protein it needs to regenerate properly. Though there are many powders on the market to choose from, vegan protein powder is a must-have for any vegan diet. Those who are struggling to understand the benefits of vegan protein can learn more here to find an option that tastes best, or determine what will work well for your needs. Even if you’re not concerned about building muscle mass, remember that everyone needs protein in their diet to remain in good health.
Don’t Stress Over Calcium
Though calcium is something that a lot of would-be vegans stress over, it’s one of the last things they should be worrying about. If you’re concerned about axing dairy products from your diet due to lack of calcium, you shouldn’t be. The truth of the matter is that calcium is readily available in many plant-based foods. In fact, plant-based foods are often much more calcium-rich than milk or cheese. Try looking for dark leafy greens, nuts, tofu, and fortified grain products, and you’ll have no trouble meeting or exceeding the daily recommended limit.
Read Food Labels
One of the most important things to remember when adhering to a vegan diet is to always check food labels! Even products that might seem vegan-friendly can contain additives and preservatives that are animal-derived. Lots of milk-derived products are used in cereals and other wheat products, and many food colorings are animal-based. You’ll want to read up on what is and isn’t vegan-friendly well before making the switch.
If you love animals, want to reduce your carbon footprint, or are considering veganism for religious or health reasons, it’s an amazing lifestyle change to make. That being said, like anything, it requires some preparation. By understanding what supplements you should and shouldn’t be taking, what foods are packed with nutrients, and which ones might do more harm than good, you are well on your way to a seamless diet transition. Don’t be afraid to learn as you go along and honor what works best for your body- but always make sure you’re referring back to the basics!