Thinking about adopting a vegan diet? This is what you should know first

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The shift of consumers to vegetable-based alternatives has altered the options for fast food and food, while Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have become big companies capitalizing on this trend. According to a 2017 study, up to 6% of American consumers declare themselves vegan, up from just 1% in 2014.

“I chose to follow a vegan diet partly for environmental reasons and partly for health reasons,” said Rebecca Roitman, a student in Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University.

“Years ago, it wasn’t popular, but more and more people are following the vegan route,” said Amy Kimberlain, a registered nutritionist who has counseled many customers who want to convert to vegan eating.

Like Roitman, many choose veganism for its health benefits. In fact, studies have found that, like vegetarian diets, vegan diets have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer, according to Sharon Palmer, nutritionist and nutrition expert. plants and sustainability.

Another key motivation is the fact that vegans have less impact on the environment, according to Palmer. And others simply want to follow a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons.

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And vegans have good media among celebrities. Natalie Portman, Zac Efron, Ariana Grande, Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna, Alicia Silverstone and James Cameron follow a vegan diet. Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Markle and Bill Clinton have incorporated vegan eating into their lives.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger, who claims to be “99% vegan,” co-produced the popular Netflix film “Game Changers” about vegan athletics alongside Cameron and Jackie Chan. Vegan professional athletes include Serena Williams and David Carter, the NFL defensive striker known as “The 300-Pound Vegan.”

Of course, the rich and famous vegans have professional help to stay on track and stay healthy (since there are so many unhealthy vegan foods). Therefore, educating yourself on how to successfully become a vegan is critical if you don’t have a chef and private instructor.

While vegan eating certainly has its benefits, the choice also has some considerations. Before getting into the vegan movement, here are five things to keep in mind.

A vegan diet is more than just a “vegetable-based diet”

A vegan diet is much stricter than flexitarian eating, or even vegetarianism. In fact, a vegan diet is 100% vegetable, meaning it lacks all animal foods, including dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk, cream, butter); the eggs; meat, poultry or seafood; and for many, honey, Palmer explained.

A vegetarian diet excludes all animal meat (meat, poultry, seafood) but allows dairy, eggs and honey. Flexitarists focus on plant-based foods, but may include animal foods in limited amounts, such as meat, poultry and fish, as well as dairy and eggs.

While some people, including food bloggers, may use the terms “herbal” and “vegan” interchangeably, “herbal” is a “general term” and doesn’t equate to being vegan, added Kimberlain, who is also national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For example, although all vegans are vegetables, not all vegetable eaters are necessarily vegans. “Vegetable eaters can have a small portion of cheese or other animal protein,” Kimberlain said.

You will have to be creative when cooking

Cooking on a vegan diet can be challenging at first, but there are many creative ways to use vegan substitutes. You can use tofu instead of meat in stir-fries and stews, and use extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter for sauteing, Palmer advises.

She also likes to replace milk cheese with cashew nut cheese, which is made by soaking and processing the cashew nut with some spices. And using mushrooms in recipes can add umami flavor.

Kimberlain likes to use a “linseed egg” for baked goods: it’s a tablespoon of flaxseed flour mixed with three tablespoons of water, “until it’s stuck together like an egg”.

Another ingredient he uses is agar-agar instead of gelatin, which gives a gelatinous texture similar to cakes. And aquafaba, the liquid from chickpeas, can mimic the properties of egg whites and can be used for meringue or mousse.

You will have to be an expert in vegan restaurants

“It’s always a good idea to check the menu online before dining out and even call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure there are (vegan) options,” advises Palmer.

Restaurants often indicate with a “v” or sheet that a menu item is vegan, but be sure to ask. “A risotto made with Parmesan cheese and chicken stock is not vegan,” Kimberlain warned. “And if you’re going for (a) vegetarian burrito, order guacamole instead of cream and cheese.”

You can also simply ask the waiter to remove cheese from many classic restaurant dishes, such as veggie burgers, veggie pizza, pasta with tomato sauce, veggie fajitas, and bean tacos or burritos, Palmer advised.

It can be challenging to meet some nutritional needs.

“It takes real planning to ensure nutritional adequacy in a vegan diet,” said Kimberlain.

For example, as protein digestibility decreases in a vegan diet, plant protein requirements are slightly higher for vegans than for those eating animal foods, Kimberlain explained.

That’s why it’s crucial to include a protein source in every meal – such as tofu, beans, tempeh, nuts and seeds – even at breakfast.

“A person can have oatmeal with vegetable milk and fruit for breakfast, and I ask them to add hemp seeds, flaxseed or chia, or even a peanut butter,” Kimberlain said. This not only increases your protein, it also keeps you fuller longer and adds healthy fats.

In addition, soy milk is generally a more protein-rich option than, for example, almond or cashew milk, although some vegetable milks can be fortified with pea protein.

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Calcium is another nutrient of concern in vegan diets, although it can be consumed in plant sources of calcium such as tofu, almonds, kale and broccoli, explained Palmer.

It is also important to check whether milks of vegetable origin, such as soy, and yoghurts, are fortified with calcium, in addition to vitamin D.

“Some of the alternative milks are not fortified with calcium or vitamin D, and the same is true with plant-based yogurts, such as those made with soy, coconut or almonds,” Kimberlain said.

“Although it is great that there are alternative products for those who change to a more vegan diet, it is important to seek calcium and vitamin D fortification in these products,” he added.

Vitamin D can also be found in sun-exposed mushrooms, fortified orange juice and sunlight exposure, according to Palmer.

Since fish rich in omega-3s are excluded from vegan diets, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from plant sources such as walnuts, flax seeds, hemp, chia, and seaweed supplements.

And iron and zinc are other important minerals that can be difficult to get from vegan diets.

“Iron of vegetable origin has less bioavailability, so the needs are greater,” explains Kimberlain.

Lentil soup and nut butters are good vegetable sources of iron. Nuts, cereals and soy-based foods can also provide zinc.

But vitamin B12, which comes naturally only from animal sources, is another story. “Vitamin B12 should be supplemented in the vegan diet,” says Palmer.

“If you’re a vegetarian, you get B12 from eggs. But for someone who is vegan, this is the only nutrient I would recommend supplementing,” agreed Kimberlain.

It is also advisable to have a blood test to check that your vitamin and mineral levels are adequate.

“I’ve been a vegan for almost five years and I have regular blood tests to make sure I’m not at risk for nutritional deficiencies,” added Roitman.

may take time

Going vegan is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you’re eager to start this new eating style, it’s a good idea to keep your expectations in check.

“It can take three to six months to fully convert to veganism,” says Kimberlain.

However, making one change at a time – like going vegan for breakfast and then moving on to lunch after mastering your morning meal – can cost a lot less.

(Translated text. Read the Spanish original here.)

Reference: CNN Brasil

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