The Vegan Diet – An Easy Guide for Beginners

5th December 2020By DZ TeamGoing Vegan

The Vegan Diet - An Easy Guide for Beginners

A World of Options for Vegans

Our vegan diet guide is filled with lots of tips, tricks, and hacks. This will help you to thrive while transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

Before starting your vegan journey, it is important to think in terms of abundance instead of limitations. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I can't eat all these foods” it may be more helpful to flip it and instead tell yourself “Oh! I get to eat all of these foods.” Not that people don't eat plant-based foods on a standard diet, but the focus changes.

With the vegan diet, you will notice and appreciate new foods and recipes, you can appreciate all the colors and variety in your food. And, you can appreciate how good you feel.

This little mental switch may help you with veganism. Plus, it's just good to adopt this mindset for many other journeys and challenges in life.

 

A Good General Rule of the Vegan Diet

Not all vegan diets are made the same. With growing popularity, there are many vegan products on the market today. While many of them are tasty, they can also be highly processed, unhealthy, and expensive. Many people enjoy these foods, and that is great, especially if it helps you. But having your diet centered on mock meats, and cheeses will defeat the purpose, and you could be missing out on the great benefits the vegan diet has to offer.

With that in mind, it is best to avoid refined oils (like canola oil and margarine), sugars, refined grains, and flours.

When going on a vegan diet it is most ideal to center it on plant-based whole foods. These are foods that are unprocessed and are purchased or prepared in their natural form. These are foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, unprocessed fats, and legumes. Usually these foods don't come in a package, and if they do, there should only be one ingredient.

Keeping the whole food plant-based diet in mind is the best long-term strategy for eating. This is the way one can prevent, and even reverse many diseases that can kill or keep us from living our full potential. Nutritional science can be so confusing and contradictory. This can be because many industries with different interests fund the studies to make their products seem healthy. Lifelong nutrition doesn’t have to be confusing when you keep those 4 words in mind - plant-based whole foods.

Benefits of a Vegan Diet

The list of benefits for following a vegan diet is long and worthwhile. We will focus on the health benefits for now because this is your journey, and it's about you. Not to overlook the amazing fact that animals don't have to die, and the health of the planet depends on sustainable, localized, plant-based food sources.

Plant-based foods can help manage your weight. This is because plant foods are less calorie dense than animal products. Most plant-based foods are abundant in fiber and are dense in other nutrients. Fiber is low in calories but helps keep us full longer. It also helps with digestion and keeps the heart healthy.

It is also great because you don’t have to worry about cutting calories. You may feel you need to eat more on a vegan diet. There is no shame in that because plant-based food is less calorie dense but holds more nutrients. Eating more can be beneficial and even recommended - A favorite part for many on a vegan diet. Simply listen to your body. If you need to eat more, then do so.

The vegan diet can even be less expensive. Again, by focusing on plant-based whole foods you'll find that foods like beans, oats, rice, potatoes, and many fruits and vegetables are extremely cheap. It always helps to shop in season and locally too.

The vegan diet can keep your mind strong by preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. It can improve your longevity because plant-based foods are high in antioxidants which protect our body from free radicals and cancer-causing inflammation. Lastly, it has the power to kill the number one killer in the United States: Heart disease.

Following a vegan diet can keep you lean and muscular long term. One thing many worry about switching to a vegan diet is the lack of protein and possible muscle loss. This is not true though as there are many plant-based protein sources, and the vegan diet may even be better for fueling and energizing the body.

How to get Started and Keep on Track

Starting the vegan diet may be a quick transition, or not, but either way it is a lifelong journey. Always take the time to learn new recipes, read new books, or watch documentaries on the subject. It is helpful to learn which foods are the best for your body, and to learn helpful tips from the many who have followed the diet for a long time.

Transitioning does not have to be an all or nothing experience. Start by choosing plant-based whole foods. Many people start off as vegetarian too. Take small steps and go for consistency, and most importantly, have fun.

It is good to have a purpose and a reason why. Maybe if you feel like you're getting off track, or just feeling down, try to remind yourself why you do this. Maybe your reason is a bit different than others, and that's ok. But it is almost always about caring. You care about your body, the animals, and the planet.

 

The Vegan Diet – Diet Zest Article

Living in Society as a Vegan

Restaurants

Restaurants can be tricky if you live in a smaller city or town and there is only a handful to choose from. However, many restaurants are becoming increasingly accommodating by carrying plant-based meats, and cheeses. If not, you can always look at menus online and even call in advance to ask if they can prepare something or make substitutions.

Gatherings

You can always prepare and bring something you are proud to make. Potluck style gatherings are always a great opportunity to do so. People are usually quite accommodating to their guests. Even meat enthusiasts are usually happy to try to make vegan dishes for their friends.

Travelling

Travelling as a vegan should be an opportunity rather than a limitation. You can visit places that celebrate a more plant-based lifestyle. Or, you can check out Eat List to find vegan restaurants and more. Of course, you can visit local markets and cook food at your place of stay using local produce and ingredients.

Nutrition Myths and Tips

Plant Protein

Plant protein is among one of the biggest myths in the vegan diet. Research suggests that protein deficiency is not a problem in the vegan diet unless one is restricting calories. If you feel you are not getting enough protein, then you may need to eat more. But, eating a variety of plant-based whole foods should be more than sufficient in terms of protein.

B12

Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria and not from animals. Due to sterile practices, plan-food does lack b12. However, it is recommended to take a supplement. Nutritional yeast also happens to be packed with it. Just a quarter cup can have 8 times your daily need.

Omega-3

A plant derived supplement can help with this. You can also eat chia, flax seed, hemp, and walnuts.

Iron

The plant based diet contains plenty of iron from sources like grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables, avocado, tofu, tempeh and potatoes.

Supplements

This not just applies to people on a vegan diet but everyone. It may be beneficial to supplement with Vitamin b12, Vitamin D (if you don’t get much sun), and Omega 3.

You can check out our Personalised Grocery List service for more ideas.

Also, join our community, and our “Healing through food” movement, it's growing daily! 🙂

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and the Vegan Diet

5th November 2020By DZ TeamGoing Vegan

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and the Vegan Diet

Definition, Signs, and Natural Treatment

Overview

In this article, we will explore one particular concern that gets often brought up with the vegan diet – the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Every year, the number of people who adopt the vegan diet increases. Experts attribute this phenomenon to the health benefits of eating fresh veggies and fruits, while eliminating processed foods.

According to one study, 9.6 million Americans have adopted the vegan lifestyle, which translates to around 3% of the population.
As expected, the rapid increase in the number of vegans raised some concerns. This includes the safety of excluding all animal products and the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.

 

The physiological role of vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (a.k.a., cobalamin) is a water-soluble compound. It plays a vital role in DNA synthesis and the production of new red blood cells.
Cobalamin is indispensable for the production of new red blood cells, which transfer oxygen to different tissues. Low levels of vitamin B12 causes a type of anemia that primarily presents with fatigue.

Researchers found that vitamin B12 boosts the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This allows your body to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) more efficiently.
Sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 also:

  • reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration
  • improves symptoms of psychiatric disorders (i.e., depression)
  • prevents birth defects.

The list of vitamin B12 benefits does not end here, since this compound is involved in a myriad of physiological processes.
Normally, we can find vitamin B12 in meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products. For this reason, many vegans are concerned about whether they are getting sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 through their diets.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

The primary organs affected by vitamin B12 deficiency are the nervous system and the circulatory systems.

Unlike iron deficiency, which leads to microcytic anemia (i.e., the red blood cells become smaller), vitamin B12 deficiency precipitates megaloblastic anemia. The latter is characterized by the production of large red blood cells that do not function properly.

Researchers also found that low levels of B12 increase the risk of dementia, depression, paranoia, and certain behavioral changes.

Unfortunately, when the nerve cells get damaged, there is no current therapy that could effectively reverse the process.

Mild symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Balance problems
  • Confusion
  • Poor memory
  • Soreness of the mouth or tongue
  • Numbness and tingling in peripheral extremities (i.e., hands and feet)

By far, the most devastating adverse effect of vitamin B12 deficiency is birth defects, since these are usually irreversible.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of B12 deficiency ranges between 1.5% and 15% of people in the US. The incidence is even higher in vegans.

Vitamin B12 deficiency and the vegan diet - Diet Zest article

The vegan diet and vitamin B12

In general, unwashed organic produce (e.g., mushrooms grown in B12-rich soils, nori, spirulina, chlorella, nutritional yeast) have vitamin B12.

Some vegans believe that including some of these plant foods in their diets means they don’t have to worry about vitamin B12 deficiency. However, research is not aligned with this belief.

Furthermore, the plant foods that seem to naturally contain vitamin B12 might not be active in humans.

To add to the argument, there is no scientific evidence that recommends depending on unwashed organic produce for vitamin B12.

According to studies, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiencies, relative to those on a regular diet.

The appropriate vitamin B12 dosage

For adults, the daily recommended intake is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) per day. This number changes slightly during pregnancy (2.6 mcg) and breastfeeding (2.8 mcg).

The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 for vegetarians and vegans is similar to individuals on a normal diet.

To reach these daily recommendations, vegans must consume large amounts of B12-fortified foods or take dietary supplements.

However, if you are under the age of 50 years and following the vegan diet, it is very challenging to meet the RDI of 2.4 mcg per day.

You see, taking vitamin B12-fortified foods may not be enough. For instance, the cobalamin found in nutritional yeast is light-sensitive, which means it might degrade if you buy the product from a store that uses clear plastic bags.

In one review paper, scientists reported that 86.5% of vegetarians have abnormally low levels of vitamin B12.

Unfortunately, there are no official RDI guidelines for vegans and vegetarians.

However, one study suggested that taking 6 mcg of vitamin B12 per day might be appropriate to keep normal serum levels.

For all the reasons listed above, vegans might not be able to reach the recommended daily intake. This is true, even when consuming B12-fortified foods. To compensate for this, you may want to take a daily supplement that provides 25–100 mcg of cyanocobalamin. Alternatively, a weekly dosage of 2,000 mcg.

If you still have concerns about supplement intake, you can always test your serum levels of vitamin B12. This will allow you to tailor your dietary/supplement needs.

You should also keep in mind that the absorption of vitamin B12 becomes less efficient with age. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that individuals over the age of 51 start consuming fortified foods. They also suggest taking B12 supplementation regardless of whether you are vegan or not.

Disclaimer: before taking vitamin B12 supplementation, you may want to speak with your primary care physician to ensure that it is safe. Your doctor may also order some blood tests to measure serum levels of B12.

Takeaway message

The vegan diet provides a myriad of health benefits to the human body. It optimizes your cardiovascular system, digestion, cognitive functions, and more!

Awareness of the potential nutritional deficiencies associated with this diet will allow you to be one step ahead. This also helps prevent unnecessary complications.

Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on the importance of supplying your body with vitamin B12.

You can also check out Vegan Diet - An Easy Guide for Beginners and our Personalised Grocery List service.

Why not consider joining our community. The Diet Zest “Healing through food” movement is growing by the day! 🙂