So 2015 is here and there are plenty of people who are using the start of this New Year to make radical changes to the way they live their lives. Veganism has gathered real popularity in recent years and it doesn’t look like that rise is going to stop anytime soon.
Being a vegan isn’t reserved just for animal lovers anymore either. With all the new meat-substitutes and recipes, veganism is now a very real option for anyone who wants to try it. The motivation for switching can be different for everyone – some people want to lose weight, while others might want to take advantage of the supposed neurological benefits of making the change.
It isn’t something that should be done halfheartedly of course and nobody should think it is guaranteed to deliver incredible results. Most people interpret veganism as switching to a plant-based diet, which is the case for a lot of vegans, but it is completely feasible that someone can eliminate meat from their diet and still be unhealthy. If you just replace meat for copious amounts of processed food then you won’t be doing yourself anymore good at all.
That being said, adopting a well varied vegan diet has been shown to deliver a number of health benefits, ranging from improved vision to increased energy levels. Any eating regime requires both time and effort – veganism is no different. The importance of planning can’t be emphasised enough when it comes to making this switch a success.
A major criticism of the vegan diet is that it can lead to the deficiency of a number of things that are essential to us, both as human beings and people who train. This is why planning is so important – it means you will be able to create a menu that is varied that can also deliver all the nutrients that you need. As a result you will find it much easier to stick at it and hopefully see the rewards in the long-term.
Here are a few things that you may be at risk of becoming deficient in if you make this switch, and how to potentially avoid that happening:
When you are working out this is probably the nutrient that you focus on the most. So the last thing you want to do is leave yourself short of protein, making it harder to achieve your goals. Meat isn’t necessary to get the protein you need though. Incorporating protein shakes and meat substitutes (e.g. soy-based products, such as tofu) will replace the protein you would usually get from meat and you can even top this up with other foods like nuts and whole grains.
Blood health has also been identified as something that can be damaged as a result of a vegan diet and a lack of iron could be a possible cause of that. Again though, animal-based foods aren’t the only sources of iron – leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in iron too.
This is one nutrient that is almost exclusively sourced from animals, so making sure you get enough of it can be difficult. Supplementation is always an option here and it isn’t expensive. If you do like to avoid using supplements though, you could try yeast extract (i.e. marmite) or a fortified soya drink.
Other nutrients to be wary of include:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
As with most things, promoters tend to exaggerate the benefits and critics will often overstate dangers. The success of making a switch will always come down to you. There is plenty of advice available now that means a vegan diet can be implemented safely into almost anyone’s lifestyle. How well it works will depend on the extent to which you commit to it.
Try to remember these few essential tips:
- Read nutrition labels – a lot of meat substitutes can be high in sodium
- You don’t have to make an instant switch – incorporate vegan meals gradually until you find what works best for you
- Keep variety in mind – make sure the food that you eat excites you and you will be more likely to stick at it