What Is The Vegan Lifestyle & The Benefits Of Being Vegan … and MORE!
Everyone wants to be healthy, and everyone wants to be comfortable and content in their choice to create that healthy lifestyle, right?
So, what is the vegan lifestyle, and what are some of the benefits you could get that make you more comfortable and content taking on this new way of life?
Well, I am going to explain to you what being vegan is first, then I will share with you the lifestyle and benefits to being vegan, and finally, offer you some ways to substitute specific nutrients, as well as healthy food substitutes that actually work for the palate!
Let’s start with trying to understand what the vegan lifestyle actually is.
So you think you want to be vegan, right?
A vegan lifestyle or diet is similar to that of a vegetarian diet. The big difference is that people who choose a vegan way of life do not partake in the consumption of anything derived from animals, including the animal itself.
For a dietary vegan this means, no meat – beef, pork, poultry, fowl, game, seafood, dairy products, and no eggs. But, don’t fret – these items, for the most part, can easily be replaced.
Even though there are differences in opinions about the consumption of honey, it truly comes down to each individuals choice since insects aren’t considered animals.
The ethical vegan, however, goes a bit further than just a diet. They completely reject the commodification of animals.
They do not wear or use anything that has been derived from an animal such as wool, and leather, and they reject the use of insect products as well. So, if you’re going to be an ethical vegan – no honey!
At this point, you might be thinking, “hmm..”.
Let’s look at some of the benefits that may make it worth your while.
Understanding the benefits and deciding if it’s right for you…
The most important thing to understand about the vegan diet, is that it must be well planned so that you get all the nutrients your body needs! This is what makes it so successful.
If the diet is properly planned, it can be appropriate for all stages of life, including pregnancy and lactation.
When we are getting everything our bodies needs in the vegan diet, we begin to discover some of the benefits ourselves. Starting with the fact that we feel better in general!
Lots of health benefits have been linked to the vegan diet due to higher amounts of nutrients such as fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, as well as containing more unsaturated fats.
Some of the big benefits are better gut health, cancer risk reduction, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and the reduction in the risk of heart disease.
It may also be helpful in treating obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
There is also evidence that the vegan diet aids in weight loss more effectively than other vegetarian like diets.
Even with such great benefits, there are a few possible problems that could be real issues that you’ll see in the next segment.
There’s always a monster in the closet…
Nutrients seem to be the largest concern that many folks have. I’m betting this is yours too!
This concern is very legitimate if you are not researching and planning ahead what to replace foods with, and where to get the nutrients that are difficult to achieve from plants!
Here, I will give you a list with a quick run down of what those troublesome nutrients are, and show you ways to substitute them.
Get out in that beautiful, natural sunshine! This is the BEST way to get your vitamin D if possible. Depending on the weather, season, or location, you might not have a lot of sun. In this case, a sun therapy lamp would be a good option. These lamps can be purchased inexpensively and they produce results.
shiitake mushrooms, and some of the vitamin D fortified foods.
This is needed to help absorb the vitamin D.
Plant sources containing calcium include broccoli, turnips, bok choy, and kale!
Using products that have been fortified with calcium consists of the different plant based milks, fortified tofu, almonds or hazlenuts, and the use of a quality calcium supplement.
Dried purple nori (edible seaweed) alone, has the full recommended daily allowance needed for a vegan diet.
Other options include using one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, and consuming Tempeh – a fermented soybean food.
Lots of foods to choose from when seeking iron.
Soybeans, black-strap molasses, lentils (beans), chick peas, spinach, tempeh, tofu, and lima beans are all great sources of iron.
Tip: Taking vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.
Eating kelp (seaweed) is a natural way to achieving normal levels of iodine to keep your thyroid in good working order.
If you do not use iodized salts, or the salts are iodized too low, you may need an iodine supplement.
The omega’s consist of ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA is found in leafy green vegetables, avocadoes, hemp, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nuts, as well as flaxseed oil, and olive oil, among other things.
EPA and DHA are not considered essential, because our bodies create them from the ALA.
So, enough ALA should maintain adequate levels of the EPA and DHA as long as you have a well planned diet in place.
Healthy food substitutes – Some are actually palatable!
Substitutes are a very important part of choosing a diet. They can even determine, for some, whether or not you will accept and stick with the vegan lifestyle.
Mock meats, like veggie burgers (wheat based), and tofu (soy) are a common source of plant protein.
- Soybeans are a staple to most vegan dieters and are a complete protein.
- Soy milk and tofu (bean curd) are the most common way to consume soybeans.
Plant based milk options are soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and rice, and they are all great options. Some are better for cooking, and others are better for eating cereal and things like that.
- My family’s favorite is the unsweetened almond milk. It has the consistency of 1% to 2% cows milk and is lower in dietary energy, carbohydrates and protein. We use this for cooking, as well as for our cereals.
- Coconut milk is an awesome option when creating fruit smoothies – aka ice cream.
- Soy offers large amounts of protein, which is about 7 g per cup.
Almond butter has also been a good replacer for my family. It can even be used when making cupcakes :o).
Butter can also be replaced with alternative vegan products such as Earth’s Balance’s.
For homemade mayo, you simply soak raw cashews in boiling water, puree them with lemon juice, sea salt and cider vinegar. This can also be used to make vegan sour cream.
Processed vegan mayo substitutes include commercial brands such as Vegenaise, Nayonaise, Mindful Mayo and Plamil’s Egg Free Mayo.
Sour cream replacements are fairly simple to find as well.
- Unsweetened soy yogurt can replace sour cream by itself.
- For baking cakes and bread you can use 3/4 cup of coconut milk mixed with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice as a replacement for 1 cup of sour cream.
- soaking raw cashews in boiling water, then pureeing them with lemon juice, sea salt and cider vinegar makes a great tasting sour cream. This can also be used to make vegan mayo.
Vegan cheese is typically made from soy, nuts and tapioca, and it melts like regular cheese. You can also find it as a processed vegan alternative in brands like Chreese and Daiya.
- If you’re looking for the “taste” of cheese for a vegan recipe, nutritional yeast is a common ingredient replacement.
- Cheese substitutes can also be created at home!
Eggs are probably the easiest I have found to replace.
For ONE egg, any of the following makes a good replacement:
1 tbs of flaxseed meal with 3 tbs of water
¼ cup of prunes, mashed bananas, or applesauce
1 tbs soy flour and 1 tbs water
Other options include, chia seeds and peanut butter. Check out my article, “Do vegans eat eggs” for more egg replacement ideas!
Let’s reiterate what we’ve learned…
For a dietary vegan, the plant based foods list consists of grains, seeds, legumes (beans), fruits, vegetables, edible mushrooms, and nuts.
All meats, dairy, and eggs will need to be replaced.
There are many health benefits associated with the vegan diet, and is a suitable diet for any stage of life – including pregnancy and lactation.
Some nutrients may be difficult to achieve through the vegan diet and fortified foods, and may need to be supplemented.
There are lots of good options to use for nutrient replacements and healthy food substitutes.
With a well planned vegan diet and the appropriate attention being applied to specific nutrients, this can provide a healthy alternative lifestyle for anyone.
I hope this has been helpful to you in making your choice of lifestyle. If you feel it can help someone else, please make sure to send it on to them as well.
If you’d like to leave your comment below, sharing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, I would truly enjoy reading about them as well as answer any questions you might have the best that I can.
Always be kind and SHARE with people you know and love.
YOU are much appreciated :o) !!!