Switching to a plant-based diet is a powerful step you can take towards a more ethical, environmental, and healthy lifestyle. When done right, not only can this diet improve your general health, but it can also boost your energy levels and help prevent chronic diseases. For those reasons, veganism has now become very popular for people all around the world.
If you are looking to make healthy changes to your life by embracing veganism, it can be difficult to know where to start. Never fear, because you’ve come to the right place!
Here is our quick guide to everything you need to know about a plant-based diet.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
The vegan diet is a key part of veganism, a lifestyle that excludes all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty. For that reason, being vegan means not eating any food that contains any animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy. People choose this kind of diet for various reasons, from ethics and environmental concerns to health considerations and dietary risk factors. Despite what many people think, you can still meet your daily nutritional needs with a plant-based diet by focusing on natural and minimally processed plant foods.
Is a Plant-Based Diet an Option for Gymers?
Getting enough protein can be tough for gymers, which is why shakes and supplements are consumed to up their intake. Regular whey is made from the watery part of milk that separates from curds in the cheese-making process, which makes it a non-vegan product. So clearly, vegans can’t consume whey powder. Or can they?
It turns out that vegan protein powder can help you build and maintain as much muscle as animal-sourced whey. You should choose ones that mix different types of plant proteins so that you consume all the essential amino acids and a wider range of nutrients. However, you can consume a single-ingredient protein powder and make up for the missing amino acids with your foods during the day.
To get rid of the slightly ‘earthy’ taste of plant-based protein powders, you should consider mixing it with a few ounces of orange juice. By doing this, you are actually boosting the vitamin and nutrient content of the powder as well.
How Many Types of Plant-Based Diets Are There?
There are various types of plant-based diets that you can consider. All of them follow the basic rule of veganism (no animal products) but differ in several aspects:
- A whole-food diet: you only consume whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- A raw-food diet: is based on the same kind of food choice as a whole-food diet, with one condition: that your foods should be cooked at temperatures below 118°F.
- An 80/10/10 diet: limits fat-rich plant intake, such as nuts and avocados. This diet encourages the consumption of raw fruits and soft greens instead.
- The starch solution: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet that encourages cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruits.
- A raw till: is the combination of 80/10/10 and starch solution, where raw foods are consumed until 4 pm and there is an option of a starch solution meal for dinner.
- The thrive diet: allows only raw food or minimal cooking at low temperatures.
- A junk-food diet: relies heavily on processed animal-free foods, such as mock meats and cheeses, fries, or desserts.
What Are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?
There is a lot of excellent research which has pointed out some of the major benefits of a plant-based diet, including:
- Better weight management: People who follow a plant-based diet are more likely to have a lean body than those who don’t. The food that they consume makes it easier for them to lose weight and keep it off without stressing about calorie deficits.
- Prevention of chronic diseases: There are many studies that have found that consuming plant-based and whole foods can help prevent, halt or even reverse some chronic diseases, such as heart attack or diabetes.
- A smaller environmental footprint: A plant-based diet reduces the consumption of animal-origin products, which places much less stress on the environment than a regular diet. It also requires a far greater amount of water to cultivate meat than it does to grow plants.
How to Practice a Plant-Based Diet?
To truly embrace veganism, you need to avoid animal products and animal-derived products such as meat and poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, bee products, and animal-based ingredients. While it is easy to recognize the origins of regular foods such as meat or eggs, you may have a difficult time defining animal-based ingredients, simply because they don’t appear to be that obvious. Some ingredients you should watch out for are whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3, and fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids.
Fortunately, there are many plant-based alternative choices you can happily enjoy:
- Tofu, tempeh, and seitan: fantastic sources of protein to replace that usually found in meat, fish, poultry, and eggs
- Legumes: provide many beneficial nutrients and plant compounds as well as increased nutrient absorption when cooked properly
- Nuts and nut butter: a good source of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E
- Seeds: also contain a good amount of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
- Plant kinds of milk and yogurts: not only taste great but also help you achieve daily dietary calcium intakes
- Nutritional yeast: can be used as a cheese replacement
- Whole grains, cereals, and pseudocereals: a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B-vitamins, and several minerals
- Fruits and vegetables: both fantastic for increasing your iron, calcium, and vitamin intake
As much as you are feeling inspired, a sudden shift to a plant-based diet isn’t always the best way for everyone. Your body can be shocked if you suddenly cut out animal products altogether. At first, try to increase to 1000 calories of legumes, whole grain, and starchy veggies each day. This will keep you feeling full so that you can gradually eat fewer animal products over time. Veganism is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle that will become a part of who you are. If you experience any setbacks, don’t sweat over the small things and remember why you wanted to make the change in the first place.