A vegan is simply defined as an individual who does not use or eat animal products. Vegan diets are arguably far healthier than animal foods. Typically, they are cholesterol-free, low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Nevertheless, being vegan is not without challenges.
For instance, everyone you meet when you are a strict vegetarian wants to know where you get your proteins and nutrients. The good news is that whether you are just getting into this lifestyle or have lead it for years, you can fulfill all your nutritional needs provided you know the following three things:
1. Vegans do not lack proteins
In this animal-food crazed era, it is easy to feel that we have to consume plenty of animal proteins to be fit or healthy. TV commercials of dairy products, protein bars and protein supplements would have us believe that without consuming these, we can one day run out of proteins. This is not even close to the truth.
When it comes to proteins, vegans are by no means lacking. In fact, all plants contain a certain percentage of protein, and it is scientifically proven that plant-based protein is highly digestible and of superior quality than that of animals. Soybeans, legumes, nuts, lentils, seeds, walnuts, mushrooms and oatmeal are all great sources of proteins for vegans. The key to being a healthy vegan is to eat a wide variety of whole foods from the fruit, vegetable, nuts and seeds categories.
What about supplements? You’d be surprised how mane vegans are completely wrong about this. That’s why vegan health fact #2 on the next page is so important.
2. Vegans balance their diet with supplements
Animals do not have to suffer, for you to get essential minerals and nutrients in the body. Usually, you can get most of the minerals and vitamins from plants, but where that is not possible, you can take vegan supplements instead. In fact, supplements are an essential part of a vegan lifestyle.
To get sufficient amounts of calcium, eat plenty of collard greens, beans, kale, almonds and broccoli. Obtain healthy Omega-3 fatty acids from canola oil, walnuts, and flax seeds or from vegan DHA tablets. Spinach has ample supplies of iron and dark-green, leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin C.
Experts also recommend taking multivitamins containing Vitamin B12, which you cannot obtain from plants. It is also an excellent idea to take vitamin D supplements of about 1,000 IU, on days you are not receiving adequate sunlight exposure. Basically anyone that lives north of Alabama in the US is at risk of having low Vitamin D because of the levels of sunlight.
What should a vegan NOT eat if they want to be as healthy as possible? I see so many vegans eating the wrong things and wondering why they are not achieving their health goals. And that is why vegan health fact #3 on the next page is vital for every vegan to know!
3. There are healthy and unhealthy vegans
This may come as a surprise to you but there are vegans who are health-conscious and those who are not. Do not be fooled to think that if you become a vegan, you will automatically become healthier. Just like in any other diet, you need to be mindful of the quality and quantity of foods you are consuming.
If you ingest sugary, fat laden, processed, junk products such as vegan cookies, potato chips or candy, you will be saving animal lives but killing yourself slowly in the process. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a vegan lifestyle – normal blood pressure, high energy, a slimmer waistline and lowered risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes – you must eat wholesome and healthy plant-based foods.
And the same rules about exercise that apply to everyone else also applies to vegans. Do not forget to remain physically active and get some sort of exercise most days of the week. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym every day. Just move and elevate your heart rate. Try to spend at least 30 minutes five times a week either walking, jogging or whatever exercise you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will do it.