So, these last days I am getting a lot of questions about how it is to be vegan (I follow only the diet part, having a whole-foods, plant based diet). Most of them used to come from my friends, who actually saw the change in my diet when we got together, enquiring if is it hard to be vegan. Nowadays these questions come from my patients, who are trying to make the change or are trying to understand why is this becoming so popular or from the readers of this blog.
Most of the times, they ask me about how can I manage to keep my focus and don’t strive towards eating meat or dairy products, since they consider that I am, just as they are, seduced by animal protein based products. After 9 months of making the change, I can say that I am just not attracted to these products, since I know how my body reacts to them, and I also know where they come from. Of course, the most popular question is: Where do vegans get their protein from? If you want to know the answers this and to the most common vegan questions, stick around.
Is it hard to be a vegan?
It is just as following any specific diet pattern. There is no trick behind. Yes, you need to do it right, but this is your health we are talking about. If you don’t keep your body (temple) healthy and clean, how do you expect to be able to perform or shine in other aspects of life?
It only gets hard when you do it with no information or no clear pattern and goal. If you just remove meat, dairy and eggs (all sources of animal protein) and do not replace them with complex carbs, vegetable protein and healthy essential oils, then it is really difficult. The real challenge is being able to cover your whole caloric need, while addressing to your macronutrient requirement, every day. Once you have that knowledge, it actually becomes quite easy, since you can play with all of your meals, making it really entertaining to plan ahead.
It being vegan healthy?
Yes, it is the best diet pattern you can follow to achieve longevity, a plentiful life and amazing energy levels. It is not based on avoiding diseases in the long run (it also does this by the way), it is based on being able to enjoy every day to your maximum capacity. Now, after performing long studies based on large populations in different parts of the world, we can safely say that being vegan is healthy, if done correctly.
Some of the benefits are:
- Increased energy levels
- Increased sexual drive
- Better focus
- Better athletic performance
- Decreased inflammation markers
- Decreasing weight without depravation
- Better and healthier bowel movements
- Healthier and more stable insulin response
- Increased antioxidants intake
Is being vegan expensive?
Rather on the contrary, being vegan is way cheaper than being a meat eater of following a regular western diet. I don’t know if you have noticed, but usually the most expensive items on the shopping list are the meat products, dairy and eggs. You can find really cheap vegetables, legumes, cereals, tubers, and most common fruits. In my personal experience, even while buying some meat replacement products or other products such as non-dairy “milk”, doing groceries is less expensive since I started following a plant-based, whole foods diet.
Being vegan in quite cheap, since you can find almost all of the produce in different places, from all around the world. There are only around 5 types of meat, but there are +300 types of produce, and they are available in different seasons, making them cheaper depending on the time of the year. It’s all about knowing what to eat and how to combine different types of food on an everyday basis.
Where do you get your protein?
The most popular question. “Whoa, you are not eating meat? Where do you get your protein from?”. Yes. Every time. Most people do not know that there are two types of protein, animal protein and vegetable protein. Animal protein is a more complex one, which carries all of the essential amino acids. Vegetable protein, on the other hand, is a more “simple” one, and does not have all of the essential amino acids. Having said that, When you combines two deficient vegetable protein sources, you can get a complete essential amino acid intake. Again, most people have no idea that almost every whole food has some protein. Some more than others. Whole-wheat cereals, legumes, green-leafy vegetables, algae, are some good examples of high protein content vegetables and whole-foods. The thing is that these products are not sources of saturated fat, so they have less calories than meat and animal protein products. This means that you usually need to eat a bigger volume of food in order to achieve your daily caloric requirement.
I could never be a vegan, I like meat too much
Yes, this was me as well. I was raised as a meat eater and, even for the first years of my career as a nutrition student I was totally convinced that animal protein was the best macronutrient and, the more the better. So, I ate a lot of protein. A LOT. Now, after chaining my diet habits, I can tell you that the craving for meat has disappeared. No more salivation every time I hear someone talking about a juicy steak or when I go by a McDonald’s. My body just understood that eating animal protein and saturated fat is not good for it and my mind now knows the science behind it that supports it. I used to like meat too much, but it was all I had ever tried. How can you know if you have never tried to go without meat for at least 2 weeks?
You don’t have to kill the animal to get dairy products and eggs, what’s wrong with eating those products
That is totally true. You don’t have to kill them. But let’s talk about the conditions in which this hens and cows are raised, tied up their whole life, not being able to see the light of the day and being constantly fed with hormones to produce more eggs/milk and antibiotics to prevent diseases that lurk around their habitats because of the precarious conditions in which they are raised. There is also the fact that we do not need the simple carbohydrates that milk provide. We do not need the saturated fat which milk and most dairy products provide. We do not need the saturated fat which eggs provide or the inflammation producing protein which both casein and albumin present once they are inside our bodies and our metabolism tries to break them down.
So, as you can see, it’s not only about not killing the animal, but also about being conscious about the conditions they are raised and the nutrients which these products provide.
How do I accommodate a vegan when I entertain?
If you are somewhat on the healthy spectrum, then you will always have some salad on the table. Just add some beans or some other legumes and some corn to the already made salad and you will have all the complex carbohydrates a vegan needs. Top that with some avocado or some olive oil and it will be a complete meal. Offer them some whole-wheat bread with some chopped tomato and olives and they will love you. Slice up some carrots and pour some lime juice over them, present them with a hummus dip and they will surely compliment your knowledge and flexibility. Do this and you will be able to accommodate any vegan AND also have an amazingly healthy and delicious lunch/dinner.
I only eat organic meat, is that ok?
Unfortunately, meat is meat. All meat is packed with saturated fat and animal protein, even if they are raised in the best conditions and with all of the quality standards. Yes, they will now have a huge amount of hormones and they will be cruelty-free products, but they will still be harmful for your metabolism, since the macronutrients do not change.
Why do vegans always look ill?
Vegans may look different. They look thinner, yes. They are usually people who enjoy the world and its marvels, not caring too much about what others think. So yes, they may look different but they are certainly not ill (if they are doing things correctly). Several studies prove that between omnivores (for this particular case let’s use the standard western diet as an example), vegetarians and vegans, vegans are the healthiest of the bunch.
So, now you know the answers to the most common questions about vegans. What are you going to do with your newly acquired knowledge?