Lots of people are adopting a vegan diet and it is no longer considered a radical choice. There are many reasons why this may be a good choice for you, including better health and the chance to contribute to a kinder, more compassionate world. There are also many positive environmental effects, making this an attractive way to live lightly on our planet.
When transitioning to veganism or vegetarianism, many questions will arise, often from well meaning friends and family with your best interests at heart. Some of these questions will stem from myths, and some will have serious implications. It is important that you have a good understanding of the facts in order to maintain vibrant health and energy levels as well as putting your loved ones minds at ease. Let’s have a look at some of the more common questions you might come across.
What will you eat?
There is now an abundance of vegan foods available in the supermarket isles but as always, we encourage using fresh, local, seasonal foods to make up most of your diet. Processed foods such as faux meats and cheeses are a burden for your body to process and can contain high levels of artificial ingredients which we want to avoid. There are so many vibrant, colourful and nutritious vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains to choose from that you will never be short of interesting options. Simple recipes are available online and there are lots of vegan cooking classes and books that you can access to avoid getting stuck in a kitchen rut.
Where will you get protein?
Naturopaths recommend about 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per kilo of your bodyweight per day, depending on your activity levels with athletes requiring more than people who move less.
Virtually every food you eat contains protein to some degree. It is a good idea to combine different sources of protein across the day, even at each meal to ensure you get all the required amino acids in the correct amount. For example, mixing legumes or seeds such as lentils or quinoa into your rice dishes will provide a good balance as well as increasing the fibre content of the meal.
Some excellent sources of protein for vegans include:
Surprisingly, many vegetables also contain high amounts of protein. You can get 4 grams from half a medium stalk of broccoli and 3 grams from just 5 medium mushrooms!
How do you avoid nutritional deficiencies?
Eating a wide variety of natural wholefoods will provide you with nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron. Adding nutrient dense herbs and spices to meals is also a great way to boost the nutrient content. Apples are one of the most calcium dense foods on the planet, along with almonds and they are not acidic to your body the way dairy products are.
Lots of vegan milks such as soy, oat or almond are fortified with the nutrients that are most obviously missing from many peoples diets, (not just vegans). There are some nutrients such as the B group vitamins, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, iron, B12 and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K that you will need to pay attention to, ensure you are regularly eating foods that include them.
Those nutrients are the most commonly known and talked about ones that vegans and vegetarians need to be aware of, however there is a vast range of micronutrients that can be missing from peoples diets, and not just those who don’t eat animal products. Even plant based diets can be missing out on vital micro-nutrients. Micro nutrients are nutrients that your body needs in tiny amounts, and even though only a small amount is required, the consequences of not having them can be severe.
Micronutrients are essential for cognition, muscle and bone integrity and reproduction, as well as a myriad of other functions in the body. They often contain the electrical charges that allow our nervous system to communicate with all the cells in our body, without this communication, cells malfunction and fail to perform optimally. Each micronutrient serves a different purpose, so it is important to vary your diet to include a wide range of different foods. When looking for a supplement find a natural one with the nutrients in the correct ratio so they are absorbed and used by your body.