Being vegan is really fashionable right now, and those in favour of this way of eating will tell you that it’s the absolutely healthiest diet you can have from a nutritional perspective, plus you get to save, not only the lives of animals but the planet, too. For most people, it is a bit of a stretch to go from where you are now to a 100% vegan diet. In this newsletter, I’m going to put it all out there for you: what it means to be vegan, what’s great about it, what’s not so good, where you might struggle – and I’ll also be giving you tips for getting started, whether your intention is to immerse yourself fully or if you just fancy dabbling (either is fine – just saying).
A vegan diet is a stricter version of a vegetarian diet. On top of not eating any meat, fish or seafood – i.e. dead animals, a vegan diet also cuts out any food stuffs made from animal sources (some of which are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat) – so, not just cutting out chicken meat, but also cutting out eggs. In the same vein, not just cutting out beef but also milk, yoghurt, butter and cream. And that means honey, too, as well as certain wines* and desserts (gelatin).
There is no set macro of micro nutrient ratio for a vegan diet; just vegetables, grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and any other foods made from plants. However, since the main vegan protein sources are pulses and grains, and only a combination of the two provides complete proteins (containing all the amino acids), this can be a high carbohydrate diet by definition.
* If you’re wondering ‘why is wine not vegan?’ Here’s the answer…
All young wines are a little bit cloudy thanks to tiny molecules like proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are completely harmless, but we wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright. To make the wines clear, wine makers have traditionally used some added ingredients called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. The include casein (milk protein) or albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein). They act like a magnet, resulting in far fewer – but larger – particles that are more easily removed.
Good question! A vegan diet doesn’t mean a healthy diet.
There have been various well-publicised assertions over the years (most notably the book The China Study and, more recently, the film What The Health) that claimed eating a vegan diet was the healthiest thing you could do.
Although vegans commonly take an interest in how diet relates to health and tend to educate themselves about nutrition, the vegan diet does not explicitly prescribe healthy foods. There is a vegan alternative for every junk food out there. And you can live on white toast with margarine and jam (and see your blood sugar levels sky rocket) while still being vegan – and that is certainly not healthy.
One thing that everyone agrees on is that the following is healthy:
Given the vast majority of health complaints are linked to chronic inflammation and a plant-heavy, antioxidant-rich vegan diet will go some way to mediating inflammation, it will certainly not hinder your attempts to be healthy. Given we don’t eat nearly as much fibre as we should for optimum health, committing to eating more veg is only going to be a good thing.
Some people like to make changes all in one go. If this is you, choosing a vegan recipe book from the resources I’ve listed below will be helpful.
Or you might try changing one meal at a time – possible having a vegan breakfast during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on.
You might try changing one product at a time, for example, swapping traditional cow’s milk for almond milk, or butter for coconut oil. There’s a plant-based alternative for most things you can think of.
One thing that you can look forward to is some exciting new recipes. Bring the principles of being vegan into your life even a few days a week (assuming we are talking veg-based meals rather than fake or junk foods) will deliver a whole new taste experience. There will be things that you love – and things the family rejects. It’s all part of the fun of discovering new things.
The Colourful Kitchen www.thecolorfulkitchen.com
Deliciously Ella www.deliciouslyella.com
Minimalist Baker www.minimalistbaker.com
Oh She Glows www.ohsheglows.com
The Vegan Woman www.theveganwoman.com
Christine Bailey, Go Lean Vegan: The Revolutionary 30-day Diet Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great (https://amzn.to/2xwuBfc)
Hugh, Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Much More Veg: 175 easy and delicious vegan recipes for every meal (https://amzn.to/2OG5xK4)
Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows (https://amzn.to/2ODdK20)
Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows Everyday (https://amzn.to/2OzHrRw)
Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella (https://amzn.to/2OzillJ)
Ella Mills (Woodward), Deliciously Ella The Plant-Based Cookbook: 100 simple vegan recipes to make every day delicious (https://amzn.to/2xvhqev)
Vegans are deficient in B12 and folate
Vegans are deficient in calcium
Vegans are lower in iron
Vegans are lower in zinc
Vegans are low on essential fats
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