Not long ago, excluding meat and eggs from your diet was viewed as an extreme measure, or was considered the domain of hippies and activists, and eliminating dairy products from a daily diet seemed absolutely inconvenient and perhaps impossible. But today a plant-based diet is no longer just a fad. In fact, the rise in the plant-based diet is here to stay.
If you have decided to finally become a vegan, you must know that transitioning to a vegan diet is not without challenges. But unlike before, meat-free and dairy-free food options are now universally available and are appetizing. Though it may not be entirely mainstream yet, from athletes to celebrities, from MNCs to even countries where meat consumption has been the highest, like China and the USA, all are now more willing to support the plant-based movement.
Millennials can be credited for this worldwide shift of eating healthy, eating organic and now, eating a vegan diet and proving its effectiveness by championing it for years. People are switching to a vegan diet to reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
Here are some interesting facts to prove the growing acceptance of Veganism, globally:
- Search data from Google Trends shows an impressive worldwide increase in the interest in veganism from 2004 to 2018.
- There’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S in the last three years.
- New dietary guidelines released by the Chinese government encourage the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50%.
- The preliminary draft of Canada’s new Food Guide, released in 2017 by the Canadian government, favors plant-based foods.
- Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world and plant-based diets are growing across Asia.
Despite its growth in popularity, a lot of people are still not that familiar with what this diet consists of. In general, veganism has grown and people who have adapted to it had varied reasons for doing so. Some would cite animal welfare while others are fueled by climate-related reasons. If you want to know more about it, you might come across confusing information.
To make things easier, this guide will help you educate yourself about what being a vegan entails.
Introduction to the Vegan diet
The vegan diet offers plenty of benefits. (Image Source: Pexels)
Simply put, a vegan diet is a plant-based diet. This means that you must only consume fruits and vegetables (and beverages that are derived from plants). You need to eliminate all types of animal products and by-products from your meal plan. The logic behind this type of diet is to eliminate the harm caused to animals and other living beings.
Veganism should not be confused with vegetarianism. The latter allows the consumption of dairy and eggs, all of which are by-products from animals. But vegans entirely remove any animal products or by-products in their kitchen. This means that you won’t be consuming fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products at all.
But veganism is more than just the diet. It is a lifestyle. The principles of veganism are applied not just in the eating aspect but also in the choice of clothes to wear, makeup products, and more. Practitioners refuse to support products that exploit animals.
Yoga and Veganism…what’s the link?
Just as how Veganism is more than just a diet, the practice of Yoga is also more than just physical exercise. The link is that they are both a lifestyle. Though not all Vegans are Yogis, most of the Yogis are likely to be a vegetarian or vegan. It is not compulsory that one has to be a vegetarian or vegan to start the practice of Yoga.
But Yoga, being a philosophy, science, and spiritual discipline that can help you maintain a healthy body and mind, tells you and shows you how to achieve harmony with oneself and everything around, so you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence in words, actions, and deeds, is one of the Yamas (moral discipline) that governs our interaction with the world at large. And this is where the concept of Veganism also fits in just right as the inspiration behind following a Vegan diet is to cause less harm to all living beings and respect the value of life.
While many yoga practitioners feel that the switch to a complete vegan diet has helped them optimize the benefits of their physical practice, there are many yogis who feel that abstaining from food that their body has been used to and depriving themselves of certain nutrients, does more harm to their body than good. For them, making such radical lifestyle changes at the cost of their own health is also ahimsa.
Should all Yogis be vegan? This is a tough question and remains a rather complex issue as it links various concerns such as yoga philosophy, ethics, environmental concerns, animal rights, personal preferences, habits, etc. But compassion and kindness are integral aspects of humanity as well as of your progress on the spiritual path.
Thus understanding the vegan diet and its health benefits in detail will help you make the right choices and make an informed decision that will not only support your physical Yoga practice but also help you live in a constant state of awareness. Living a yogic lifestyle, being a vegan, living sustainably, etc., are all tools to help you live consciously.
10 things to know about the Vegan diet
Are you ready to switch to a vegan diet? Here are the 10 things you need to know when going down this route:
Know what you can eat. A vegan diet, as mentioned above, must contain only plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, and nuts). Aside from the ones mentioned, you can add tofu, tempeh, plant-based oils, grains, seeds, and legumes. Honey is not allowed but other natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and maple syrup can be consumed.
Vegans suggest adding fermented foods like miso paste and kimchi to your diet. This will aid in vitamin intake, absorption of minerals, and gut health.
All types of animal products (beef, poultry, seafood, and dairy) are a no-no when it comes to the vegan diet. Bee products such as honey and animal fats should be avoided.
Be on the lookout for food items that seem vegan when they are actually not. There are certain types of bread that use egg wash or contain egg yolks and honey during their baking process. There are also plenty of condiments that include egg as an ingredient, such as mayonnaise, cheese, pesto, and other sauces. Make it a habit to read the labels so you know what ingredients are used for these products.
Veganism is not the same as following a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a substance that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is not an animal product so you can consume it as part of your meals.
Being a vegan is about eliminating animal products from your diet. This means that you need to look for other protein sources. Even vegan dietitians recommend adding at least one protein in every meal. The best sources of protein include lentils, beans, quinoa, seitan, natural soy, and many more.
It is common to experience a nutrient deficiency. It is, therefore, a good idea to take supplements on a regular basis. Calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 are some of the best supplements recommended for vegans.
A vegan diet must be low in salt and processed food. This is known to bring about a variety of health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, as well as prevention of stroke and diabetes.
When you start the shift, expect that your bowel function will change too. Some might experience a regular and healthier bowel pattern. For some, they might feel increased bloating and more passing of wind. This could be a result of higher fiber intake and the boost in carbohydrates that cause fermentation in your gut. You might even experience irritable bowel syndrome, especially within the first few weeks.
The vegan diet is linked to a variety of health benefits. If you are considering veganism, its role in significantly improving your overall health should be enough motivation. Some benefits of a vegan diet include lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, weight loss, improved digestion, and blood pressure, clearer skin, and a longer lifespan.
Types of Vegan diet
The things you need to know before switching to a vegan diet. (Image Source: Pexels)
One thing that leads to confusion about the vegan diet is the fact that there are many types. Here are the common varieties to look into:
Raw Food Vegan Diet – This consists of raw food items, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts that are cooked at lower than 48 degrees Celsius.
Whole Food Vegan Diet – This involves whole plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
The Starch Solution – This type of vegan diet consists mainly of cooked starchy foods like rice, corn, and potatoes.
80/10/10 – This is another type that is focused on raw food. The aim is to reduce your intake of fat-rich plants like avocados and nuts. The majority of the food items that are included in this type of diet are soft greens and raw fruits. It is known by other names such as “fruitarian” and “low-fat diet.”
Is a Vegan diet expensive?
Contrary to popular belief, switching to a vegan diet does not have to cost you more. Meat is actually one of the most expensive types of food in the market. By eliminating it in your diet, you can significantly lower your food budget.
What is a vegan diet? (Image Source: Pexels)
Saving big can be easy in a vegan diet, especially if you rely on fresh produce for your daily consumption. You can even increase your savings when you opt for fresh produce over frozen ones. Proper planning will ensure that you have a balanced diet that is not going to drill a hole in your pocket.
The bottom line
The vegan diet should be all about balance. This is the most important factor for you to succeed and reap all of the benefits to your health. You can start with the concept of vegan macros until you become familiar with the different elements of veganism. If you are not keeping your diet balanced, the deficiencies that you might experience could offset the health benefits.
The access to convenient food and pre-packaged meals makes it more challenging to stick to your diet. But with the right amount of preparation, you can definitely enjoy those benefits.