By now, you’ve heard about veganism either from your friends, your family or in your general social circle. Maybe you dismissed it at first as a phase. But now you’re giving it some serious thought, given your particular health risks or perhaps your desire to reduce your own impacts on the environment. In any case, you’re about to embark on a very interesting, healthy and delicious adventure. It’s important to take things slow, as well as incorporate new and nutrient-rich foods, in order to make the transition.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Gradually easing into your new way of eating is vital to make sure you can stick to it. The Vegan Society gives some excellent advice, including making small changes to your meals in the beginning. Modifying one meal at a time, or choosing a day of the week where you only eat vegan, are great starting points. Once you’ve mastered those minor challenges, you’ve learned some things to help you expand.
Be Sure to Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
If you’re not careful, the very first thing that will disappear from your diet is vitamin B12. According to this article on Health.com, it’s only found in meat and other animal foods. Its deficiency causes some pretty harmful effects, so opt for a daily B12 supplement. Or if you choose to eat fortified foods, be sure to consume at least three micrograms total of B12 per day.
When looking at missing nutrients, iron should be the next one on your list. Since the majority of traditionally iron-rich foods are animal-based, you’ll either need to find plant-based equivalents or incorporate a supplement in your daily regimen. Dark leafy greens, legumes and sunflower seeds are great sources to get this mineral without eating meat. And foods loaded with vitamin C help with iron absorption. Many kinds of dark greens are powerhouses in both iron and C, but you can also up your intake of C with citrus fruits.
Thankfully, you’ll get your other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants by introducing a multifarious mixture of fruits, vegetables and grains into your meals. Beta-carotene usually comes from orange-colored vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Your body converts this into retinol, or vitamin A. Many kinds of grains contain minerals such as selenium, other B vitamins (including niacin and folate) and magnesium. Make sure to choose options that also include amble amounts of fiber, which aids in maintaining your digestive tract as well as slowing blood sugar spikes.
Protein, Calcium and Fat
Since most people primarily rely on animal products to supply their protein, calcium and fats, you’ll need to be more conscious of incorporating new sources of them in your meal plan. Legumes, including beans and lentils, are one of the top plant-based protein sources around. They’re also pretty versatile, and work well in many kinds of dishes. Also, calcium can be supplied by green leafy vegetables, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, oranges and fortified dairy substitutes.
Fat is a little easier to replace, because it’s so plentiful in vegetable-based forms. The most famous of these are extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil, all of which are good sources of heart-smart monounsaturated fats. Additionally, canola oil is a notable source of omega-3 fatty acids. And if you’re looking for alternatives to your old dressings, condiments and dips, read labels when you shop and select vegan products such as the Just Mayo line from HamptonCreek.
New Adventures Through New Foods
Since the standard American diet will not likely support your efforts to go vegan, you’ll be venturing into new foods and cuisines to enrich your new style of eating. Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Ethiopian food are very friendly for non-meat eaters. Cultural aspects, such as the ahimsa concept of non-violence and compassion for other living things observed in many Indian religions, typically influence the food that’s eaten. In other cases, a lack of meat or animal products led to food selections to get needed nutrients in other ways.
Going vegan might sound overwhelming, but you’re in for an exciting journey. Just like Rome wasn’t conquered overnight, no one expects you to make completely revolutionary dietary changes right away. Making slow gradual modifications, being aware of your nutritional needs and being open to new foods are vital steps to making the switchover successfully. You’ll enjoy increased wellness, as well as non-tangible benefits in other ways.