Are you ready to grab your bikini and dive in? There’s no holding back, it’s time to let go of the rope and experience one on the strictest, purest forms of vegetarianism. You are here because you’ve decided that you are ready for a change! Maybe you need a little help slimming down, want to feel more energized, had enough of those aches and pains, or maybe you want to do it for different reasons, like saving the animals or the planet. These are all very good reasons, so I say step into the water and see what veganism has to offer! With this diet no animal products are consumed, bee products are avoided, and you will probably choose not to buy leather products. Don’t look so down, there is a bright side! You will get to move away from the old way of thinking and eating and try something new! You will be making tasty meals, while incorporating more fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds into your diet. Are you ready? Let’s go…
I was vegan for 8 months before I ran into health problems. I followed every step provided by vegan websites, but unfortunately I wasn’t properly educated and found myself eating too much fruit (especially for where I live), too many nuts and seeds, and not enough calories. So, I created this dietary guide for anyone who has a desire to eat this way. My advice would be to listen to your body and be aware of the slightest changes that may impact your health in a negative way. You should feel amazing and full of energy with this new way of eating, if you don’t, then I would look at your calorie consumption and the nutritional concerns listed below. Now, get educated and have fun with your amazing adventure into a new and healthy way of eating.
For your health: Since vegans are often more health conscience, they tend to be lower than average in weight, offering many health benefits such as lower cholesterol, less obesity, heart disease, breast, uterus, and prostate cancer. The high fiber diet also helps to regulate bowel movements lowering the risk of colon cancer.
For your wallet: One of the complaints I always get is that eating healthy is more expensive, but I found that statement not entirely true. The money I saved by not buying packaged meat, cheese and other dairy products ended up saving me more money then I thought. I bought dried beans and rice in bulk which amounted to less than half of what I spent on meat and dairy products.
For the mind: Eating this way transformed my way of thinking and allowed me to connect with my spiritual side. It opened my eyes to the way we have become; the way humans have become, ordering more food than we can eat and then tossing it after a few bites. When we take time to be mindful and grateful for our food and the planet we become aware of the implications of our choices and those who have suffered or laboured to allow us to nourish our bodies.
• My vitamin B-12 became severely deficient after being on the vegan diet for just 6 short months! B-12 is stored in the liver until it is needed by the body, but if a person stops eating B-12 foods, the body stores will usually exhaust by 3 years. I would not wait this long for your B-12 stores to run low! Start supplementing right away or get frequently tested.
• Non-heme Iron (plant) may be more difficult to absorb than heme iron (animal) iron. Make sure proper food combining is done. Eating vitamin C with iron foods can increase the absorption by 5 times! Great combos are: hummus with lemon juice and beans with tomatoes.
• The vegan diet contains very low vitamin D, so make sure you are exposed to sunlight between 10am to 2pm without sunscreen (not winter or cloudy days) for 15-30 minutes, if you do this then supplementation shouldn’t be a concern in the spring and summer months. I like to get my vitamin D levels checked every winter to make sure I’m on the right track.
• Zinc may be low unless nuts and seeds are consumed daily.
• Calcium is a mineral that is difficult to absorb especially if you have low stomach acid. This can be corrected by taking a HCL capsules with a meal (this is only necessary if your calcium or stomach acid is low).
Other substances that may interfere with calcium absorption are:
Oxylates reduce calcium absorption (spinach, beet greens)
Phytates beans, wheat and nuts (reduce phytate levels by soaking beans, grain, nuts & seeds)
Caffeine interferes with calcium absorption and leaches calcium from bones.
Vitamin D deficiency inhibits calcium absorption.
Deficiency symptoms: Fatigue and weakness, dizziness, heart palpitations, ringing in the ears, memory loss, numbness, tingling, soreness in hands or feet, poor concentration, Female: menstrual disturbances.
Food sources: nutritional yeast. Can be produced by bacteria in the digestive tract by consuming fermented foods daily (sauerkraut or kimchi with each meal is best).
Supplement: B12 methylcobalamin – 1000mcg sublingual.
Deficiency symptoms: Lack of energy or strength, dizziness, pale skin or pale lower eyelid, dark circles under the eyes, ‘spoon’ shape nails.
Food sources: Blackstrap molasses, curry leaf with one date, 1-teaspoon spirulina or wheatgrass with 1-teaspoon camu berry powder, lentils with bell pepper, beans and dark green leafy vegetables with lemon juice.
Supplement: 10mg or more for 3-4 months. This should be discussed with your doctor.
NOTE: Avoid substances that may interfere with iron absorption: Calcium foods or supplements, zinc or vitamin E supplements, coffee and chocolate, polyphenols (peppermint tea or chamomile tea). Always try to consume iron foods with a vitamin C food.
CAUTION: Iron supplementation is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. It is an oxidant mineral and will do more harm than good if you are not iron deficient.
Deficiency symptoms: muscle weakness, osteoporosis, malformation of bones, muscle cramps, and insomnia
Food source: Shiitake mushrooms
Supplement: 1000 IU – 5000 IU of vegan vitamin D (mushrooms). Check with your doctor to discuss the correct amount for your needs.
Deficiency symptoms: White spots on fingernails, acne, poor sperm production, cuts/wounds heal slowly, poor dream recall, loss of appetite.
Food sources: Pumpkin seeds, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, soybeans.
Supplement: Adults: 15 to 50 mg daily. Children: 10 mg
NOTE: Long turn zinc supplementation can induce a copper deficiency. At 30-50 mg daily add 2-4mg of copper.
Deficiency symptoms: Osteoporosis, bones break easily, irregular heartbeat, brittle nails, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
Highest food sources: (1 cup) Tempeh 184mg, Kale 100mg, collard greens 84mg, broccoli 42mg, and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds 88mg, 1 tbsp. almond butter 55mg
Supplement: A plant/food based calcium supplement of 250-300mg (in addition to eating a balanced diet can be useful).
NOTE: I would strongly discourage children or pregnant women from eating a vegan diet unless you are prepared to get help from a professional. I’m not suggesting that this cannot be done, only that you are at more of a risk of developing deficiencies, growth problems and health problems.
Recipes coming soon