How to Have a Healthy Vegan Diet
Going vegan produces a lot of worry in many loved ones. There is a fear you won't get enough protein, calcium, and Vitamin B12. There is also a worry that vegans are sickly and not choosing to eat healthy. On the flip side of the coin a lot of vegans don't necessarily eat healthy. In order to have a healthy vegan diet you need to consider the common concerns and how to address them in your diet, you have to consider vegan junk food verses health food, and you have to work hard to eat a variety of foods.
Vegans and Protein
Often one of the first things that a person is asked about when they talk about being a vegan is protein. How do they get enough protein to live a healthy life? The answer is a lot simpler than many people believe.
First of all, somewhere along the lines people have really gotten the wrong idea about how much protein that a person needs in order to be healthy. I read an article just yesterday where the author wrote that you need 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight. This means a 200 pound man needs 200 grams of protein a day to be healthy. By time I got to the end, I really felt the article was just trying to get you to buy protein supplements from the bottom of the site because that's really the only way you could get enough protein in a day without overeating.
Some studies show that you don't need a whole lot of protein and that even 10 grams of protein each day is enough. However, if you want to go with the USDA recommendations then you should get about 1/3 of a gram for each pound. The good news is that even this amount is easy for a vegan to get without taking supplements or worrying as long as they are eating healthy foods in variety.
Vegan Protein Foods
It isn't hard to get enough protein in a vegan diet if you are eating a variety of healthy foods. However, it isn't a bad idea to have an idea of what types of vegan foods are high in protein.
- Legumes – Beans, lentils, soy based products (soy milk and tofu included), peas, and tempeh all contain lots of protein. Another good source of protein is fake meat that is made with soy.
- Nuts and Seeds– Nuts are great for you. They contain protein and healthy fats. Many people are afraid to eat them because of their fats, but in moderation they are really good for you. Seeds are also good for you and have lots of protein including flax seeds which are an excellent source of omega 3's.
- Quinoa – This is a seed that is one of the few plant proteins that is complete (it has all the amino acids you need). It cooks up like a grain and is often served as a side dish with vegetables or as a breakfast cereal with fruit. In either case, it is rich in protein (and yummy too).
- Other Sources – While many other foods have a lot lower amounts of protein it is still there. You can find protein in oats and other grains, breads (because of the grains), and even some vegetables such as broccoli. In fact, 1 cup of cooked broccoli has 4 grams of protein in it.
Vegans and Calcium
Calcium is another nutrient that you don't need near as much as people think you do. In fact, studies have shown that by eating meat you leach calcium from your bones to lower the acid levels in your body caused from digesting meat. Other studies have shown that countries that drink milk and eat a lot of dairy products have high incidents of osteoporosis and bone fractures. With that in mind, eating less meat (or none at all) and eating less dairy product is a great way to help your body out. However, you still need some calcium.
Vegan Calcium Sources
Calcium comes from a wide variety of foods and vegans have lots of different choices as well. You can get a good amount of calcium from almonds, alternative milks (calcium fortified soy, rice, or almond milk), blackstrap molasses, bok choy, broccoli, calcium fortified orange juice, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, okra, soybeans, tahini, tempeh, tofu, and turnip greens.
Vegans and Vitamin B12
In the end, vegans actually should be concerned with Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is actually created by bacteria. Animals eat dirt, feces, and bugs which have the bacteria on them that makes Vitamin B12. Their body then uses that vitamin. People usually get their Vitamin B12 from the meat that they eat (thank you animals for eating bacteria while eating gross stuff). Well, as a vegan you aren't getting B12 from the animals and you probably don't want to eat a bunch of dirt, feces, and bugs to get it. It is important that you take a Vitamin B12 supplement. You can either do this in a daily multi-vitamin or in a weekly Vitamin B12 dose.
Vegan Junk Food
Junk food has become a large part of a lot of people's lives and letting it go can be really hard. There is a lot of vegan junk food out there and many people think that because it's vegan it's healthy. None the less potato chips and French fries just aren't healthy. You need to make sure that you are eating junk food in moderation, even vegan junk food. You can be a vegan and eat just as much junk as anyone else if you let yourself.
Vegan and Variety
It is also easy to fall into the habit of not eating much variety. You should make fruits and vegetables the foods you eat the most, but you should also make sure that you are eating a variety of them. You should also eat a variety of grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. The only thing you shouldn't eat a variety of is junk food. Instead you should choose lots of good foods. Some people say, “Eat the rainbow”. You do want to make sure you are eating a huge variety of colors each day for the best nutrients possible.
You should have a healthy vegan diet and you can do that by making sure that you choose the right foods and eat a variety. Avoid junk food and go for great food instead. You can be healthier than ever before and avoid eating meat, dairy, and eggs!