Looking for a healthy eating lifestyle that also means a smaller environmental footprint? Why not go vegan in 2020? That is one of my 2 main resolutions for 2020. Why not join me in avoiding any animal-based foods and products? When following a whole foods-based diet, veganism is incredibly healthy. You’ll feel energized and vital and also have the comfort of knowing you are not hurting any fellow creatures on the planet or contributing to the razing of forests for farmland (Amazon Rain Forest for starters), water pollution from waste runoff, and more. Going vegan is a great way to do your part for your health but also for nature.
Quitting Animal Products
There are two main methods for going vegan:
Cold Turkey. Going vegan is as simple as not eating any food products made from animals – meats, shellfish, dairy, and eggs for example. Giving them all up at once is the quickest method.
Transition Method. With this method you ease into veganism step by step. That might mean focusing first on going from a highly American standard diet of processed foods to a whole foods-based lifestyle, then going vegetarian before becoming vegan. You can add or omit steps to get there.
Either method can work. Whichever you choose, you want to go the healthy route with veganism, not turn into a junk food vegan. After all, vegan means you don’t eat animal products. Nothing says you can’t guzzle cola and double fist fries and chips all day. For best health though you want to be whole foods-based.
Going vegan the whole foods way means basing your diet strictly around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pulses, tubers, nuts and seeds. These are all whole foods and the healthiest, longest-living cultures in the world have diets that revolve around these ingredients. A vegan who eats from these categories daily will be a healthy, full, nourished and energized vegan. Even so, people tend to worry about getting the right amounts of nutrients.
Protein. Everyone worries about it for some reason, probably because it was the first macro nutrient discovered and studied in the 1960s, so it retains a large reverence in the popular mind as a result. If you’re eating a whole foods diet, rest assured that you’ll be getting plenty of protein from beans, nuts, seeds and some whole grains like quinoa. So don’t worry about not getting enough protein if these are on your daily plate. You’ll also get the benefits of beneficial bacteria-feeding fiber for healthy digestion, immune and neural function that you won’t find in meat sources. Nuts and seeds will also give you plenty of magnesium and zinc, which helps repair and maintain our nerves.
Iron. If you’re eating whole foods-based and covering the various categories daily or semi-daily, you really don’t have to worry too much about many deficiencies, iron included. Iron is found in a wide range of plant foods and vegans tend to have iron intakes comparable to meat-eaters. However, plant iron isn’t as easily absorbed as iron from meat and a small percentage of women develop iron-deficiency anemia after becoming vegetarian. If you think you’re at risk, make sure to include a good source of vitamin C at meals—it binds with iron creating a more easily absorbed complex. Avoid coffee and tea at meals as they decrease iron absorption.
B12. Vitamin B12 in vegan diets has been a source of controversy and myths (14). Although it rarely happens quickly, if you don’t get a reliable source of vitamin B12 through fortified foods or supplements, you could eventually find your health suffering. Luckily, you can find B12-fortified foods easily.
General nutrition. We’re the only species on the planet which has to study how to eat. Every other creature doesn’t need a PhD in chemistry or a nutrition app to eat smart. My personal take (but I’m not a nutritionist) is to eat real foods like our pre-1850s ancestors did and skip the processed and additive-laden junk that passes for food on modern grocery shelves. See my article Are You Following This Foolproof Rule for Eating Healthy?.
Vegan for Life
Going vegan is laudable for a number of reasons. To stay vegan usually takes some work. The goal is to make the change sustainable. Whenever we try something new or try to change habits, we should remind ourselves of a few things:
Firstly, we’ve been doing things a certain way for a while. When it comes to food, we’ve trained our bodies and minds to like what we’re already doing. When we try new foods, we may go into withdrawal from the removal of our usual foods. That and our gut biomes have adapted to our old eating habits and will undergo a shift when our foods change. Most people don’t realize this and think their body is reacting negatively to the new foods when really, it’s mostly withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve ever tried to give up coffee or colas for a week, you know what I’m taking about! The same is definitely true for sugar, refined carbs, gluten and dairy.
Sugar is highly addictive but so are wheat and dairy-based products. Both the gluten in wheat and proteins in dairy (most concentrated in cheese), break down into morphine-like chemicals that bind to our opiate receptors. This is why Americans love their refined carbs, breads, pizzas, pastas and cheese. Often they’ll say they can’t live without them. That would be the addiction talking. So to succeed at going vegan, it’s wise to plan and problem-solve these cravings.
Secondly, we are creatures of habit. Don’t expect to like or love all vegan foods. If you’ve never tried something before, try it with an open mind. Giving up your old foods gives you an opportunity to find new, tasty ones. Think of the process as a way to experience new foods or find new recipes to incorporate into your meal rotation rather than missing out on your old way of life. See it as a fun exercise, not a drag, and you’ll have better results.
Thirdly, when we take on a food change, the experience is usually new. The recipes will take longer to organize and prep simply because you haven’t spent years making them. In time the ingredients and recipes become second nature and you can modify them as easily as your current meal rotations. Expect the learning curve rather than be upset by it.
Fourthly, food is culture. If your family and friends have never seen a whole food they didn’t hate, you may feel peer pressure over your new food selections or feel tempted to cheat and eat like you used to. If others tell you to cheat or give you grief, you can point out gently:
- Your health issues if you have any
- Any health issues in your family
- That you are trying to alleviate or prevent any health issues
- Any religious or moral grounds for being vegan
- And that you could really use support since this isn’t easy
Many people if approached this way will be more considerate and helpful, especially if you tell them you don’t expect them to eat like you (some immediate family members will fear any food changes). Accept this and remember that you are the only person who can truly make the changes you want. Respect and love yourself enough to try what you’re wanting to do, no matter what others think.
All this said, we’re human and we get cravings. Don’t beat yourself up if you lapse now and again, just continue on with the next meal and be proud for what you do follow. Eventually you’ll build a solid foundation, followed by years of practice that you enjoy.
Real Health, Real Food
If you want to change your food lifestyle to something that’s healthy for you and incredibly sustainable for the planet, join me in going vegan in 2020. The world and your body will thank you!
For vegan tips, meal ideas and motivation, follow me on Facebook and Instagram @ mybestlifesecrets.
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