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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Vegan Diet

Plant-based diets continue to rise in popularity—and for good reason. They’re healthy, ethical, and effective for those who work out often. With so many people attempting to go vegan or vegetarian, you might be tempted to, as well. But, before you decide to start a vegan diet overnight, do your research. In an attempt to ease the transition, Aaptiv compiled the biggest mistakes new vegans make when starting out (plus how to avoid them).

Assuming All Vegan Foods are Healthy

Many people jump head-first into veganism thinking that it’ll help them get healthier and shed pounds. It’s true a vegan diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your heart health. But you still need to be aware of what you eat.

Not all products labeled “vegan” are created equal. A lot of processed vegan foods are filled with preservatives and artificial ingredients. Which means, sadly, that vegan mac n’ cheese and dairy-free ice cream aren’t necessarily doing your health any favors. It’s common for meat replacements (like veggie burgers and meatless chicken) to have a long list of unfamiliar ingredients, too. It’s true that a few choice ingredients in these alternatives might be better than their counterparts (for example, coconut milk vs. cow’s milk). But it all comes down to macronutrients, vitamins, nourishment.

A good rule of thumb is to always check the ingredients and the nutrition label. If it includes any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, ditch it.

Not Eating Enough Whole Foods

Plant-based foods are typically quite healthy. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans all contribute nutrients, vitamins, and necessary fiber to a very healthy diet. There are, as mentioned, a lot of processed vegan foods and meat substitutes that are full of unhealthy ingredients and additives. They’re easy swaps that remind us of standard non-vegan staples.

Instead of opting for these fake foods, though, use veganism as an opportunity to eat more whole, nutrient-dense, non-processed foods. Get creative with starchy vegetables and other plant-based sources of protein. Swap the meat replacements in your meals with jackfruit, mushrooms, lentils, cauliflower, or potatoes. When stocking up on groceries, try to minimize the amount of packaged foods you buy. The exceptions to this, of course, are foods like rice, beans, and oats.

Thinking You Don’t Have Many Options

Many new vegans complain about the lack of food options when dining out or in general. When you’re just starting, the lack of animal products can zap your energy levels. But don’t lock yourself in a kale-filled box. While vegetables should definitely be a major player in your plant-based diet, they’re far from all you can eat. In fact, eating only raw fruits and vegetables will likely put you severely under your daily caloric needs.

Trust us when we say that there are countless snack, meal, and even dessert options for vegans. Thanks to the versatility of vegan ingredients and the creativity of vegan food bloggers, there’s no shortage of vegan recipes to try. Do your research and learn common vegan swaps. With some effort, you’ll never feel unsatisfied.

Eating Too Much Protein and Not Enough Fat

It’s a myth that all vegans suffer from protein deficiency. Most vegans eat enough servings of vegetables alone per day to satisfy their daily protein needs. Yes, vegetables have protein. To put it comparatively, 100 calories of steak has eight grams of protein, while 100 calories of broccoli has eleven. Plus, a variety of plant-based foods are high in the macronutrient. Beans, lentils, and legumes average around 13 grams of protein per cup. One cup of quinoa has 18 grams of protein. Edamame (18 grams per cup), chickpeas (12 grams per cup), and soybeans (28 grams per cup) also contain large amounts of protein.

So long as you eat enough of the right foods throughout the day, protein shouldn’t be a problem. It’s estimated that those on a vegan diet actually get 70 percent more protein than they require.

If you exercise frequently and use fitness tools, like Aaptiv, getting enough protein is a necessary complement to your training.

The nutrient you want to eat more of is actually fat. Our bodies can’t absorb all of the great nutrients we eat without it. It won’t serve you to avoid healthy fat-filled dressings or always opt for the fat-free options. Eat enough healthy fats by including foods like avocados, almonds, olive oil, and tofu into your diet.

Not Drinking Enough Water

As if you needed another reason to drink enough water! Everyone needs water. But it’s especially important for high-fiber diets, which includes veganism. Studies show that while the average meat and plant eater gets around 27 grams of fiber a day, the average vegan gets around 41 grams per day. Because water is essential to the digestive system, this means that it’s important to drink up. It helps move fiber through the digestive tract, while also preventing bloating and constipation. Make sure that you’re spreading your water intake throughout the day to aid in digestion and keep hydrated.

I like to think I eat healthy. But I’ve beginning to wonder if I eat too healthy. Or rather, if I eat too much healthy food.

The thought occurred to me one night one night as I lay on the couch one night after dinner, softly rubbing a stomach bulging from a dinner of brown rice and roasted vegetables. Did I just overeat? I’m a vegan. Is that even possible? Aren’t vegetables just, like, water and vitamins?

I decided that even if none of it came from an animal, I should still know how much food I’m taking in each day. Carrots, I’ve heard, have calories, too.

But before I started tracking how much I was actually eating, I wanted to find out how much I should be eating. Using a handy calculator tool, I found that based on my height, weight, and age, my basal metabolic rate (how many calories my body burns just being) is around 1,765 calories. Since I would classify myself right now as “moderately active” (exercising three to five times a week) I’m aiming to take in around 2,735 calories a day. (Try the Runner’s World Calories Burned Calculator.)

All of this number-crunching is already burning precious, precious energy. I’d better start fueling up…

For a typical breakfast, I’ll make about two cups of oatmeal (320 calories). I usually toss in a banana (105 calories), about a tablespoon of almond butter (98 calories) and maple syrup (52 calories).

Or when I’m really feeling especially trendy, I’ll toast up two slices of sourdough bread (370 calories), drizzle on about a tablespoon of olive oil (120 calories), and top them with half an avocado (115 calories).

All in all, I’m usually my starting my day by putting between 575 and 600 calories in the ol’ plant tank.

I work as a server at a restaurant called Egg. (I wrote about it in my first Veggie Might column). I swear it’s not as hypocritical as it sounds. So if I get a little peckish I’ll snack on a small bowl of granola (400 calories per half cup) and soy milk (65 calories per half cup) or a handful of almonds (410 calories per half cup) between taking orders. So, I can safely tack on another 450 calories.

My lunch usually comes from the restaurant, too. If I sneak the guys in the kitchen enough cold brew, they’ll take a break from cranking out perfectly rolled omelets and throw me together a salad of two cups of mixed greens (15 calories), half a cup of roasted squash (90 calories), and a little splash of grapefruit vinaigrette (150 calories). Along with a bowl of our tomato soup (110 calories), my midday meal comes in around 365 calories.

One of the casualties of making a living slinging hash browns at the crack of dawn is that morning runs are pretty much shot, so after my late-afternoon trot I’ll blend up a cup of frozen blueberries (85 calories), a tablespoon of almond butter (98 calories), a frozen banana (105 calories), a cup of raw kale (333 calories), and a cup of water (calorie-free, baby!) making for about a 320 calorie recovery smoothie.

That just leaves dinner. And on one of these cold and dark winter nights, I’m more likely to try to piece together a coherent dish out of whatever I can find in my cabinet than head to the grocery store. My recent go-to has been a cup of spaghetti (220 calories) tossed in half a cup of a quick homemade tomato sauce (100 calories), dusted with half a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (10 calories), and “garnished” with a store-bought seitan sausage (240 calories). After another helping of pasta (I am nothing if not honest), my personal Olive Garden experience clocks in at 890 calories.

So that puts me at around 2,575 calories. If I have a little glass of wine (125 calories) I’m right in that 2,700 calories sweet spot! If I go back for another, well… I can I can always tack on a few extra miles to tomorrow’s run, right?

I like to think of myself as a waif-ish little leaf-eater who had to maintain a steady intake of fruits, nuts, and seeds to keep his body from going into shock, but it turns out that I’m finding plenty of ways to fuel. On an average day, I’m bumping up against, sometimes probably even going over, what I should be taking in. And this was me on my best behavior! Nary a bag of tortilla chips, nor a six pack of Modelo in sight.

I did pretty alright crafting my own vegan meal plan just by following my gut (buh duh duh!), but now that I’ve tallied it all up, I’ve found some places definite soft spots in my diet that I think a lot of athletes who are trying to eat a more plant-based diet might run into.

First, I lean pretty heavy on the simple carbohydrates. They’re a great source of energy before a workout and important for recovery, but give your body more than it needs, and it’ll break down the excess and pack it on your runner’s butt.

Second, I’ve got to tone it way, way down with the almonds. Nuts are high in protein, but they’re also pretty fatty. But here I am throwing almond butter into everything—stereotypical.

Third, it may be an unintended consequence of my foray into food journaling, but it’s come to my attention I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a rut. When you’re eating little to no animal products, it’s super important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to make sure you’re still getting all of your vitamin and minerals. A man cannot live on bananas and tomatoes alone!

Caloric intake alone won’t give you a complete picture of your health and fitness, but it’s important information to have if you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. And if you’re making a big adjustment to your diet, like taking out or even scaling back on meat, tracking your calories for a day or two can give you a quick snapshot of what you’re doing right and where you could could be helping your performance even more. But don’t obsess over it! Listen to your body, give it what it needs, and take it easy on the almond butter. For my sake.

Ryan Haney is a Brooklyn-based, vegan writer, and 3:02 marathoner. Check back every few months for his sarcastic musings on being a plant-based runner.

What to know about becoming a vegetarian

A person may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies when making the switch to a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet.

The specific nutrients that a person may be lacking will depend largely on the type of vegetarian diet that they eat.

For instance, a person who still eats dairy, fish, eggs, or a limited amount of meat may not have any issues with nutritional deficiencies. Conversely, people who follow vegan diets may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals, depending on their dietary intake and restrictions.

Some of the nutrients that are most likely to be lacking include:

Protein

Most people get their protein from meat, fish, or poultry. Lacto, ovo, and lacto-ovo vegetarians can get protein from both plant and animal sources. People who follow a vegan diet will not get protein from animal products. Some substitutes can include:

  • certain grains, such as quinoa
  • legumes
  • beans
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • nut and seed butters

Read more about some of the best meat substitutes for vegetarians here.

Iron

Iron is another nutrient that is present in red meats and other animal-based products. However, a person can get iron from other sources, such as:

  • broccoli
  • beans
  • raisins
  • whole grain wheat

Read more about the best iron-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans here.

Calcium

Calcium is primarily in milk and other dairy products. Some potential replacements for people following a vegetarian diet that does not include dairy include:

  • tofu
  • edamame
  • kale
  • fortified cereals
  • collard greens
  • almonds
  • rhubarb
  • fortified plant milk, such as soy or rice milk

Vitamin D

The body produces vitamin D when the skin gets direct exposure to sunlight. However, certain factors can make it difficult to get enough vitamin D in this way. For example, in many countries, there is not much sun during the winter months, and people tend to cover up.

Also, many people prefer to limit the time that they spend in direct sunlight to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

As the dietary sources of vitamin D are mostly animal products, vitamin D supplements are the best way for many vegetarians and vegans to get consistent, absorbable vitamin D.

Zinc

Zinc is another nutrient that is important for a person’s body. Many animal-based foods are high in zinc, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. However, there are also plant-based sources of zinc, such as:

  • soy products
  • beans
  • nuts
  • beans

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish, such as salmon. These healthful fats are important for overall health, especially brain health.

Although plant-based omega-3 fatty acids also occur naturally in chia seeds, algal oil, and flax, these are a type called alpha-linolenic acids, which the body has a limited ability to convert to active forms. Therefore, a person may wish to look for fortified products or talk to their doctor about omega-3 supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is important for many functions in the body, including red blood cell production. A vegetarian can obtain vitamin B-12 from:

  • eggs and milk, if they are following a vegetarian diet that includes these foods
  • certain fortified cereals
  • fortified plant milk
  • nutritional yeast
  • supplements

Gas From a Vegetarian Diet

Q1. I recently became a vegetarian, and I’ve noticed that I’m experiencing more gas than usual. Any suggestions?

Your body will likely experience a period of adjustment when you convert from an omnivore diet, eating both animal and plant foods, to a vegetarian diet, eating only plant foods. Don’t give up on your new diet. By understanding the cause of increased gas and making a few slight modifications to your eating habits, you can make vegetarianism easier on your intestines.

A vegetarian diet is often much higher in fiber since plant-protein foods, such as dried beans, soy, and whole grains, are high in fiber — unlike animal-protein foods, such as meat, fish, and poultry. Fiber is also found in nuts and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate made up of large chains and tree-like structures of sugar molecules, commonly called starches, or polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. As these starches pass undigested through the digestive tract, they ferment in the lower gut and produce intestinal gas. On the other hand, fiber has many health benefits, including improving cardiac risk, blood sugar control, and digestion.

It’s likely you’ll experience more gas when you first switch to a high-fiber vegetarian diet. During this transition phase, your gut is colonizing the new bacteria it needs to aid in digestion. Over time, your body will adjust to the increase of fiber in your diet, and you’ll have less gas and bloating.

To help your gut transition, try adding yogurt with live cultures to your diet. If you are following a vegan diet, which contains no animal foods at all, yogurt may be substituted by probiotics, a supplement containing just the bacterial cultures. These live cultures, or probiotics, are good bacteria that help promote the natural balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. One caution: always start yogurt and probiotics slowly to allow your body time to adjust. Increasing too quickly will likely make your gas problem worse, rather than better.

Another option to reduce gas is to try over-the-counter products containing the enzyme alpha galactosidase, made from the fungus Aspergillus niger, which helps digest these starches so less intestinal gas forms. You may only need an enzyme supplement during the transition phase to a vegetarian diet.

Finally, you may always be more susceptible to gas from certain plant foods. The goal is to include as large a variety of plant foods as possible, but you may want to limit or even avoid a few personally offending gas-producers. Don’t worry; you will still reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet even if you don’t eat every single plant food available.

Q2. I often feel bloated in the afternoon and evening, to the point that my belly protrudes. What can I do to help with this?

A: As many as one in four adults, most of whom are women, experience bloating or an increased pressure feeling in the belly as the day progresses. Half of these people also have distention, an actual increase in belly size. Once your primary care practitioner excludes a serious medical condition as the cause, try a systematic approach to managing your discomfort. No single solution works for everyone, but you may find some or all of these tools will help keep your symptoms under control.

Dietary:

  1. Eat smaller meals — less food at one time. Chew your food thoroughly.
  2. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when exercising and in hot weather.
  3. Limit processed foods. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables that don’t aggravate your symptoms, fish, and lean meats.
  4. Determine if you have any food sensitivities, and then avoid those foods. Common culprits are lactose, sorbitol, gluten, fat, coffee, chocolate, artificial flavoring, shellfish, and chili — and you may find others. The goal is to exclude only your problematic foods and continue to eat a balanced meal plan. A registered dietitian can help you identify your problem foods and plan a healthy diet.
  5. Lose weight if your BMI is greater than 25.
  6. Improve the balance of bacteria in your gut by slowly introducing yogurt with active cultures. You may also consider a probiotic supplement.

Activity:

  1. Increase physical activity. Walking can ease bloating and has many additional health benefits.
  2. Strengthen core muscles, balancing abdominal and back muscles, through calisthenics, weight training, and yoga. You may also want to work with a personal trainer.

Additional Therapies:

  1. Wear an abdominal binder or girdle until your muscles are stronger.
  2. Try an herbal solution or dietary supplement to help bloating and cramping.
  3. Consider psychotherapy or hypnotherapy with an experienced provider.
  4. Talk to your doctor about medication options, such as laxatives for constipation, antispasmodics, prokinetics and tricyclic antidepressants (taken in low dose at night).

How to Combat Gas/Flatulence on a Plant-Based Diet? Plant Proof’s Top Tips

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Gas, flatulence, passing wind, bottom burp… there’s plenty of names for it! How can we deal with gas or bloating on a plant-based diet?

Are you on a plant-based diet or transitioning and having issues with bloating or gas? Or perhaps you have heard about this and want to make sure that by adding more plant-based foods to your diet you do not have a similar ‘problem’? I get it – an awkward topic…and can be terribly embarrassing, but one that everyone is interested in and thinking about so let’s discuss it.

Why would someone experience different digestive feelings/sensations when transitioning from a diet that is mainly animal products to a plant-based whole food diet?

When you transition from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet, more often than not (for 99.9% of people) you will be consuming more fibre than previously. This is a tremendous thing, offering many health benefits, but can take some time to adjust to. Dietary Fibre passes through the small intestine (undigested) to the large intestine where it is ‘attacked’ by bacteria and ferments, binds to cholesterol, absorbs water and softens the stool. Within a plant-based diet, there are different types of fibre. Some are well fermented by bacteria (produce more gas) in the large intestine (this is called soluble fibre) and some that pass through with minimal fermentation (insoluble fibre) by bacteria (produce less gas). Foods that are high in soluble fibre are things like lentils, beans, oats, peas and most fruits. What makes things a little difficult is the type of fibre which causes more gas can vary from individual to individual depending on their bacteria make up in their digestive system. However, there are some general tips that can help a lot of people. In addition to the below tips, listen to your body and try and identify any single source of fibre that you think is the culprit and reduce in your diet and then slowly build it back over months as your system adapts.

What is the role and benefits of dietary fibre?

Dietary fibre has been shown to assist with constipation, reduce cholesterol, remove toxins, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and much, much more. For more in-depth information and a comprehensive list of plant-based dietary fibre sources, read the Plant Proof detailed blog on Dietary Fibre benefits.

Here are my top tips to manage your dietary fibre intake and letting your digestive system settle into a new way of eating:

  1. Ease into fibre. Rather than having high fibre foods with every meal, start off with 1-2 meals a day and then slowly add it to the point where you are getting 30-35g a day which is split across all your daily meals. For example, rather than just going straight from eating meat to eating tonnes of legumes, rice, quinoa, oats, etc., start by swapping white rice for brown. Or white bread for brown bread. Then after a few weeks, if well tolerated, add in some beans to one meal. Let your body adjust and then add in another high fibre food to a second meal and so forth. Use the chart below to start off with 10-15g of fibre a day and then slowly build up to 30g+ per day.
  2. Try and cut out unnecessary foods that can cause excessive gas like gassy carbonated beverages, beverages with sorbitol or sugar-free candy/gum.
  3. When you increase fibre you MUST increase your water intake or you risk becoming constipated. Water is key to a successful transition to a higher fibre diet. Do not forget this.
  4. Limit the amount of raw veggies and try to steam all your vegetables at the beginning. Slowly build up to better handling raw vegetables over time as consuming some food raw has tremendous benefits.
  5. Fresh Papaya and Pineapple (not dried fruit) seem to help a lot of people with reducing gas. They both contain important enzymes for digestion.
  6. Have ginger tea or put fresh ginger in your smoothies.
  7. Fermented foods for probiotics will help improve your digestion and may reduce gas. If you are having a bit of soy each day, try and aim for tempeh instead of tofu. Tempeh is fermented so will be better digested by most people.
  8. If you are gluten intolerant, limit foods with gluten to avoid irritation of the digestive system.
  9. Avoid too many processed fats (oils). Fats in nuts and seeds and avocado are fine.
  10. If you are cooking with raw legumes, soak them overnight (8-24 hours) in water and then after boiling them dry them right off before serving (the liquid contains the oligosaccharide sugars that cause fermentation in your large intestine…and the production of ‘gas’). The trick here is knowing what type of water to use for certain beans:
    • Black Beans/Fava Beans/Lentils – soak in warm water with some lemon or lime juice and apple cider vinegar
    • Split peas – in water with a 1 tsp of baking soda
    • White/Kidney or Brown beans – soak in soft water (water free of minerals so slightly acidic) or tap water with a bit of lime juice
  11. If you are eating canned beans drain them thoroughly, then rinse and dry before cooking up or eating cold.
  12. Move. Exercising, even if that means just 2 x 30 min walks a day, will help increase the speeds that high fibre meals move through your body and keep you more regular. This, along with lots of water, helps reduce bloating and constipation when you start eating higher fibre meals.

Remember, this is completely normal. Everyone adjusts. If there is a particular food that you identify as the main culprit, just remove it and over time, you can 9 times out of 10 slowly introduce it back in.

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Adopting a plant-based diet full of healthy foods is one of the most well-researched ways to improve and support your long-term health. But what do you do when you switch to a vegan diet and your digestion takes a huge plummet south?

Our first suggestion is to stop worrying — there are some simple reasons this can happen, and you don’t need to let these reactions deter you from eating a plant-based diet. Digestion is a complex process that is different for every single person out there, and there is a list of great tips you can keep in mind when eating vegan that might help your digestion more than you might think.

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For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App – with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, plant-based and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help you get healthy!

Take a look at our top five tips that you can use to improve your digestion, reduce bloating, and help you feel fabulous while eating the plant-based foods you love!

1. Eat Light to Heavy

Source: Quinoa Fruit Salad

Eating a large breakfast and a smaller evening meal is recommended by some health professionals, but the truth is, that method simply doesn’t work for everyone. Our digestive process requires a great deal of energy when we eat heavy meals, so if we start our day off with a large meal — or even just a complex meal — our bodies have to work hard to break them down. This can lead to fatigue, bloating, sluggishness, and even stomach pain during the day.

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If you experience these side effects, then rethink the order of your meals, and even try waiting an hour or two to eat anything in the morning after you get up. This tip will also allow your body to become hungry naturally, which is a great way to get in touch with your natural hunger levels. Start out with a light meal and eat a slightly larger lunch, and then have sizeable dinner while listening to your body’s natural hunger levels. Eating light to heavy will not hurt your health, but it may very well improve your digestion fairly quickly.

So, what should you eat first? Try having a bowl of some fruit!

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Fruit is very easy to digest on an empty stomach and gives our body prime nutrition for our first meal during the day. Fruit is also high in natural enzymes that can help with digestion first thing during the day. So experiment with having a small bowl of fruit first, and then later move onto something more filling such as oatmeal or breakfast quinoa with a smoothie. Then you can have a more complex meal such as a veggie bowl for lunch or dinner.

2. Take a Quality Probiotic Supplement and Digestive Enzymes

Source: Nourishing Winter Bowl

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When you first begin eating more plant-based foods, your body is going through many beneficial changes, but it will also be getting rid of old wastes from animal products. This process can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish when you first begin.

The foods you eat can also make a big difference in how your body responds to adopting a new dietary course, so first and foremost, eat whole plant-based foods instead of processed vegan foods. Additionally, take a daily probiotic supplement that contains acidophilus and Bifidus strains of bacteria. These two strains of probiotic cultures can both help combat gas, bloating, and irregularity. Make sure the product is dairy-free and vegan, since many probiotics are made with dairy during the culturing process. See What to Look for in a Probiotic for more tips! You can also eat probiotic-rich foods for even more support, such as plant-based probiotic-rich options.

Also, consider taking a vegan digestive enzyme supplement after consulting your health care provider. Digestive enzymes are different than probiotics. Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria that help digestion, reduce gas and bloating by balancing gut bacteria, and can help your body fight off unhealthy strains of bacteria. But digestive enzymes actually help you digest your food more easily and break them down more quickly so you’re less likely to be bloated. Look for digestive enzymes with a wide range of enzymes, such as advanced enzymes or multi-spectrum enzymes for the most benefits.

How to take them: Take a probiotic daily on an empty stomach when you first get up and take a digestive enzyme or two with each meal. You should notice a huge difference, but be sure to buy a quality, plant-based brand so you get the best results.

3. Be Aware of Healthy, But Difficult-to-Digest Foods

Source: Spicy Black Bean and Orzo Chili

Whole plant-based foods are full of nutrition, but some of the healthiest foods on the planet can be difficult for those new to plant-based eating to digest, and even for people who have been eating healthy for years. Some people’s bodies are just more sensitive to certain types of foods than others.

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Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cabbage, garlic, onion, and beans tend to cause digestive upset in some people. They contain certain carbohydrates that break down and ferment in the gut, which is beneficial for health but can be very uncomfortable for you! So don’t rush into these foods at first, and eat more of your vegetables steamed, rather than raw, at first.

Garlic and onions add a lot of flavor to meals and are full of nutrients, but they’re also two common foods that lead to digestive distress and can wreak havoc on a sensitive tummy. If you have a history of digestive upsets such as gastritis or ulcers, garlic and onions may also aggravate it. Instead of spicy foods including garlic and onions, opt for herbs such as oregano, thyme, and rosemary, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to see if this helps you out.

When it comes to beans, try to eat smaller servings of small legumes like red split lentils or split peas over large types of beans, and be sure to cook them really well. In fact, try to eat smaller meals that are simple throughout the day for better digestion. A good example of a simple meal is roasted sweet potatoes, steamed zucchini, and a red lentil soup seasoned with herbs and spices. You can also experiment with eating fewer nuts which can be difficult to digest for many people since they are richer in fat than fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

4. Eat Lighter and Take it Easy With Fats

Source: Grilled Apricot and Endive Salad With Apricot-Mint Dressing

There’s no need to fear healthy plant fats, but the truth is, fat takes longer to digest than any other macronutrient. When you eat fat with a meal, it slows down the digestion and breaking down of nutrients of all other foods you eat with that meal, which can cause a lot of gas and cause you to be bloated. So experiment with eating lower-fat meals made from fruits, veggies, healthy starches like sweet potatoes and squash, and whole grains instead of higher-fat meals.

You can also experiment with eating an oil-free diet for better digestion. Oil is a dense, processed form of fat that can strain an already sensitive system, so check labels on products you buy and choose those without added oil. Try these 5 Oil-Free Dairy-Free Salad Dressings instead of one with oil, for example!

5. Prioritize Whole Foods Over Processed Food

Source: Banoffee Nice Cream

Whole foods are always going to be healthier for your body than processed food, and this is especially true when it comes to digestion. While you don’t need to obsess about every single thing you eat on a vegan diet, you will greatly benefit by skipping the processed vegan foods whenever possible and eating real, simple foods.

For instance, instead of tubs of processed vegan ice cream, enjoy ice cream made at home from frozen fruits like banana and berries that you can make in your blender or food processor. Instead of boxed cereal or granola, make a bowl of oatmeal with berries, flaxseed, cinnamon, and chia seeds. Or, instead of a pre-made vegan burger with all kinds of added oil and processed protein, make your own veggie burgers at home.

When you eat real food, you skip a lot of problematic ingredients that are often found in products and make things much easier on your system. Not only will you feel more energized and lighter as a result of better digestion from eating real foods, but you’ll also naturally take in more nutrients.

All in all, don’t give up if you have digestive struggles on a plant-based diet because there are multiple tips you can use to improve things quickly. Want more tips on digestion? Check out this article on How to Deal With Digestive Difficulties on a Plant-Based Diet.

More Gut-Health and Digestion Related Resources:

Check out the following resources and don’t forget to check out our Digestion, Allergies, and Gut Health Archives for our latest content:

  • Top 10 Fiber-Rich Plant-Based Foods for Better Digestion
  • 5 Simple Foods That Quickly Relieve Stomach Cramps and Aid in Digestion
  • How Peppermint Oil Can Help Ease Digestion and Improve Stress
  • 10 Warming Foods That Can Improve Your Digestion
  • Bloated on a Vegan Diet? Here’s Why and How to Improve Your Digestion
  • From Inflammation to Digestion, Here are Health Ailments That Flax Seeds Can Alleviate
  • Want to Eat Plant-Based but Having Digestion Problems? Here’s What Worked for Me
  • Important Nutrients You Need for Healthy Digestion
  • How to Regulate Your Digestion Using These 10 Foods
  • Tips to Improve Stomach Acid Levels Needed for Good Digestion
  • Warm Foods and Drinks That Benefit Digestion
  • Fermented Foods That Can Improve Your Microbiome and Digestion
  • The 101 on Raw Food and Digestion
  • Tips and Natural Remedies to Tackle Indigestion
  • This Unique Vegetable Has the Power to Do Wonders for Your Digestion

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!

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Making the decision to go vegan can cause you to experience a world of judgment from family, friends, pets, house plants (who also have feelings, according to some), and even — on very rare occasions — strangers on the Internet.

What kind of person would choose this life of ridicule? Truth be told, it’s such a social inconvenience, and not to mention all those lettuce leaves you have to eat. It can all be a bit much. There are so many reasons not to go vegan, but here’s a list of the top ten to help you realize why you absolutely should not embrace a plant-based way of life.

10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Go Vegan

The vegan Seoul Burger at Filth Foods in London | image/Filth Foods

1. The Food Is Truly Terrible

Everyone knows that vegan food is all nuts and berries and grass. Lots and lots of grass. It’s definitely not possible to get your hands on vegan pizza, burgers, chicken, ice cream, donuts, or anything that isn’t grass. That is unless you live near most any kind of bodega, grocery store, farmers market, warehouse club, or big-box supermarket that stocks those items. Or maybe even a fast-food chain like McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Subway, or White Castle.

In the UK, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Asda, and Marks & Spencer all offer a wide range of plant-based ready meals and comfort foods, including chicken nuggets, kievs, sausages, and veggie fingers. Pizza Hut offers jackfruit pizza and so does Pizza Express, even McDonald’s offers a vegan wrap. But if you want to follow a true vegan lifestyle and only camp out in fields of wheat where it’s impossible to get a hold of these things, enjoy that terrible life?

Vegan Quorn Crispy Chicken Nuggets | image/Quorn Foods

2. You’ll Miss the Taste of Meat

Unlike meat-eaters, vegans cannot season their foods with herbs, spices, condiments, and sauces to add flavor to the texture. It is this common practice that makes meat desirable and actually tasty, and it cannot be replicated in vegan food.

Unless, by some miracle you manage to come across Iceland’s jalapeño “No Bull” burgers, or Quorn’s crispy chicken nuggets, or Honest Burger’s juicy “bleeding” beef-like Beyond Burger, which is also sold in Tesco, the biggest supermarket chain in the UK. Without easy access to recipes on the Internet, you also can’t mimic the taste of fried chicken using simple ingredients like seitan or cauliflower or create your own version of pulled pork using plant-based ingredients like mushrooms, jackfruit, or even banana blossom.

Vegan Sloppy Joes with Protein-Filled Lentils | image/Minimalist Baker

3. You Will Become Protein Deficient

Protein deficiency is a genuine fear among the vegan community. This is because of the lack of access vegans have to protein. Unless you don’t eat actual food, vegan sources of protein — like beans, nuts, seeds, plant-based meat products, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, and a wide variety of legumes — are hard to come by.

If you are an athlete, it is also tricky to be a success in your field without eating meat for protein. Lewis Hamilton — a vegan F1 driver who won 11 circuits last year — proves this. As does Icelandic weightlifter Hulda B. Waage, aka the Vegan Viking, who broke three national records last year.

Vegan Cheesy Cannelloni | image/panaceas_pantry

4. You’ll Miss Cheese Too Much

It’s not that you’re addicted to cheese, it’s just that you can’t foresee a life without the gooey, stringy, melty, tasty yellow stuff that’s made from cow’s milk. It’s understandable.

This is one of the ultimate reasons not to go vegan, because if you do, you’ll have to eat cheeseless pizza forever — unless you buy Ristorante’s latest spicy vegan cheesy offering, or pop into Pizza Hut or Zizzi or Pizza Express or order a takeaway from Papa John’s, which all offer dairy-free cheese options.

If you don’t want to eat out, or you fancy making your own cheesy dish — like this one by Panceas Pantry — you simply can’t. Unless you buy a supermarket brand of vegan cheese from Asda, Sainsbury’s or Tesco, or you try out plant-based cheddar, red Leicester, or mozzarella from popular Greek brand Violife, which is hard to find because it’s in most major supermarkets.

Vegan Breakfast with Tofu Egg at Gordon Ramsays Bread Street Kitchen

5. You’ll Miss Eggs Too Much

Eggs are a staple of many diets, and a key part of many meals, like a traditional full English breakfast. There’s no way you can make a vegan version of an egg. It’s ridiculous to even try.

Unless maybe you were a top chef like Gaz Oakley, who created a vegan egg for Japanese-inspired chain Wagamama. Or if you were Gordon Ramsay, who added tofu eggs to the menu at his London restaurant Bread Street Kitchen. Or even if you were just an ordinary non-professional chef, who could pop into their local supermarket and buy tofu to scramble, or who could use the internet to buy Follow Your Heart vegan eggs to scramble or bake with.

Vegan Sandwich Options from Boots | image/kimgoesvegan_

6. You Can’t Easily Buy Food on the Go

It has always been difficult for vegans to grab a sandwich on the go and in the last few years, there has been no change to this fact. If you don’t count the fact that Boots now offers a number of vegan-friendly sandwiches as part of its meal deal range — including an all-day breakfast option — Tesco has a large selection of wraps and sandwiches by plant-based brand Wicked Kitchen, and even convenience store chain Spar has launched a vegan coronation chickpea sandwich, then there isn’t much at all.

If you’re passing a Greggs, there’s a chance you might be able to quickly grab a vegan sausage roll, but no guarantee. It’s now sold in all 1,800 stores across the country, so it’s like gold dust really.

Mushrooms are rich in B12

7. You’ll Become B12 Deficient

Following a vegan diet is not the only time you will be at risk of a B12 deficiency, a number of experts have said that most people — plant-based or not — are vulnerable to becoming deficient in this vitamin. Getting it on a vegan diet though is particularly hard unless you buy yourself one of the many B12 vitamin sprays or tablets on the market from supermarkets or health food stores like Holland & Barrett.

You could also try eating particularly uncommon vegan foods, like marmite, mushrooms, cereal, and plant-based milk.

Vegan Food at Frankie & Benny’s | image/thelittlelondonvegan

8. You Can’t Eat Out Easily

Eating out as a vegan is harder than it has ever been; a major issue is that there seems to be not enough plant-based choice on the menu.

At Frankie & Benny’s, for example — an Italian American restaurant chain — there are now 20 vegan-friendly options on the menu, including pasta, pizza, and burgers. At Pizza Express, you can eat a three-course meal, and you have to decide between Vegan Giardiniera or vegan jackfruit pizza as the main course. In Wetherspoons — one of the UK’s most popular pub chains — there is a whole separate vegan menu, including chickpea curry, a full English breakfast, and a meaty burger. So, yeah. It’s pretty tough.

Vegan Supermarket Food Haul | image/kentish_vegan

9. You’ll Always Be Hungry

As has been highlighted throughout this list, there just isn’t much for vegans to eat, aside from grass. Unless you have access to nearby supermarkets, restaurants, delivery chains, for an abundance of simple plant-based recipes, you’re going to be hungry. It’s just a harsh truth of the plant-based way of life.

No Cheese Hoummous Pizza by Iceland | image/mybasicveganlife

10. It’s Too Expensive

Going vegan can really break the bank, especially with all that extra lettuce you have to buy.

Jokes aside, it’s not easy for everyone to switch instantly to buying plant-based foods over their normal shop. However, whole foods and vegetables can be some of the cheapest items to buy. And supermarkets are adding healthier, plant-based products to their shelves.

If you’re yet to be convinced, according to a study from earlier this year, cutting out meat collectively saved British consumers around £2.8 million in 2018.

Summary Article Name 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Go Vegan Description There are many reasons why not to go vegan; here’s the top ten, to help you realize why you should not embrace the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet. Author Charlotte Pointing Publisher Name LIVEKINDLY Publisher Logo

After decades in which the number of people choosing to cut out meat from their diet has steadily increased, 2019 is set to be the year the world changes the way that it eats. Or at least, that’s the ambitious aim of a major campaign under the umbrella of an organisation simply called EAT. The core message is to discourage meat and dairy, seen as part of an “over-consumption of protein” – and specifically to target consumption of beef.

The push comes at a time when consumer behaviour already seems to be shifting. In the three years following 2014, according to research firm GlobalData, there was a six-fold increase in people identifying as vegans in the US, a huge rise – albeit from a very low base. It’s a similar story in the UK, where the number of vegans has increased by 350%, compared to a decade ago, at least according to research commissioned by the Vegan Society.

And across Asia, many governments are promoting plant-based diets. New government dietary guidelines in China, for example, call on the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50%. Flexitarianism, a mostly plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat, is also on the rise.

‘Conquering the world’

Big food companies have noticed the shift and have jumped onto the vegan wagon, the most prominent ones tightly associated with EAT through its FReSH program. Unilever, for instance, is a very vocal partner. Recently, the multinational announced it was acquiring a meat-substitute company called “The Vegetarian Butcher”. It described the acquisition as part of a strategy to expand “into plant-based foods that are healthier and have a lower environmental impact”. Currently, Unilever sells just under 700 products under the “V-label” in Europe.

“The Vegetarian Butcher” was conceived in 2007 by farmer Jaap Kortweg, chef Paul Brom and marketer Niko Koffeman, a Dutch Seventh-Day Adventist who is vegetarian for religious and ideological reasons. Koffeman is also at the origin of the Partij voor de Dieren, a political party advocating for animal rights in The Netherlands. Like EAT, the Vegetarian Butcher seeks to “conquer the world”. Its mission is “to make plant-based ‘meat’ the standard” – and the alliance with Unilever paves the way.

The dietary shift would require a remarkable turn around in consumer habits. Of course, there is much that both can and should be done to improve the way that we eat, both in terms of consumer health and environmental impact. And yes, a key plank of the strategy will be shifting consumers away from beef. But the extreme vision of some of the campaign’s backers is somewhat startling. Former UN official Christiana Figueres, for example, thinks that anyone who wants a steak should be banished. “How about restaurants in ten to 15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated?”, Figueres suggested during a recent conference. “If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.”

This statement is typical of what social scientists call “bootlegger and Baptist” coalitions, in which groups with very different ideas – and values – seek to rally under a common banner. And this is what worries us. The campaign to “conquer the world” can be rather simplistic and one-sided, and we think this has some dangerous implications.

A skewed view?

EAT, for example, describes itself as a science-based global platform for food system transformation. It has partnered with Oxford and Harvard universities, as well as with the medical journal The Lancet. But we have concerns that some of the science behind the campaign and the policy is partial and misleading.

It is long on things that we all know are bad, such as some excesses of factory farming and rainforest clearing to raise beef cattle. But it is mostly silent on such things as the nutritional assets of animal products, especially for children in rural African settings, and the sustainability benefits of livestock in areas as diverse as sub-Saharan Africa to traditional European upland valleys. And, if vegetarian diets show that traditional markers for heart disease, such as “total cholesterol”, are usually improved, this is not the case for the more predictive (and thus valuable) markers such as the triglyceride/HDL (or “good” cholesterol) ratio, which even tend to deteriorate.

More importantly, most nutritional “evidence” originates from epidemiology, which is not able to show causation but only statistical correlations. Not only are the associations weak, the research is generally confounded by lifestyle and other dietary factors. Not to mention that part of the epidemiological data, such as the PURE study, show that the consumption of meat and dairy can be associated with less – rather than more – chronic disease.

A balanced diet? Its_al_dente/.com

Not so simple

In any case, even if plant-based diets can in theory provide the nutrients people need, as long as they are supplemented with critical micronutrients (such as vitamin B12 and certain long-chain fatty acids), that is not to say that in practice shifting people towards them will not result in a great many people following poorly balanced diets and suffering ill health in consequence. And when a vegan diet fails, for instance due to poor supplementation, it may result in serious physical and cognitive impairment and failure to thrive.

The approach seems particularly risky during pregnancy and for the very young, as also documented by a long list of clinical case reports in medical literature. Animal products are exceptionally nutrient-dense dietary sources – removing them from the diet compromises metabolic robustness. Without sufficient insight in the complexities of nutrition and human metabolism, it is easy to overlook important issues as the proportion of nutrients that can be absorbed from the diet, nutrient interactions and protein quality.

The same debate needs to be had when it comes to consideration of the environmental question. Too fast or radical a shift towards “plant-based” diets risks losing realistic and achievable goals, such as increasing the benefits of natural grazing and embracing farming techniques that reduce the wasteful feeding of crops to animals, lower climate impact and enhance biodoversity.

A shift towards a radically plant-based planetary diet loses the many benefits of livestock – including its deployment on land that is not suitable for crop production, its contribution to livelihoods, and the many other benefits that animals provide. It mistakenly assumes that land use can be swiftly altered and ignores the potential of farming techniques that may even have mitigating effects.

Sustainable, ecological and harmonious animal production really should be part of the solution of the “world food problem”, considered from both the nutritional and environmental scenarios. The Earth is an extraordinarily complex ecosystem – any one-size-fits-all solution risks wreaking havoc with it.

More articles about vegetarianism and veganism, written by academic experts:

  • Vegan diet: how your body changes from day one

  • Why aren’t more people vegetarian?

  • Vegans: why they inspire fear and loathing among meat eaters

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People who make the decision to change their diets and embrace a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle can do so for a number of reasons. Some believe in the sanctity of all life and are against all forms of animal cruelty. They seek to exclude the exploitation of other animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Some also believe that eating meat is unhealthy and/or that raising beef cattle and dairy cows is bad for the environment and ecologically irresponsible.

Taking each of these points into consideration, let’s take a look at the big picture to clear up any misinformation and save you from compromising your health by becoming an herbivore. We won’t get into a discussion of individual moral ethics. This article will discuss eating animals strictly from a heath perspective.

Animal cruelty

Paleo dietary principles align very well with happy well treated animals so whenever we refer to eating animals, the reference is to grass fed pastured animals. Eating animals that have been well treated, well fed and let free to graze on pastures all day long are healthy. Their fat content will be much higher in Omega-3 and they are without hormones and antibiotics, in strict contrast to CAFO animals that are diseased, distressed, and physically unhealthy.

Unfortunately, in order for one organism to live, another has to die. It’s part of nature’s food chain. Vegans and vegetarians don’t have any problem with big cats killing zebras, gazelles, and giraffes. They’ll also kill livestock if they can. Wolves kill deer, caribou, mountain goats and hares. There are no vegetarian snakes. They eat frogs, rabbits, and eggs. Even predatory ladybugs eat aphids and other pest insects. When it comes to humans, however, some vegetarians believe that killing animals for food is immoral and harmful to the environment that supports them.

  • Cultures who have been known to be primarily plant eaters did so because meat was scarce, but they supplemented their diets with grubs, larvae, cicada nymphs, grasshoppers, and other insects, learning what was edible by observing other animals.
  • Currently, more than half the world’s population of 7 billion people still favors and farms these excellent sources of protein from dewinged dragonflies to fire roasted tarantulas.

Everyone should feel a moral twinge when it comes to factory farmed animals. Most are indeed treated cruelly beyond what any living thing should be made to endure. Animals raised in CAPOs are often malnourished, hungry and thirsty, in pain, injured or diseased, live in distress, and cannot express their natural behaviors. This has a direct affect on their nutritional density.

That’s one of the reasons our Paleo Dietary Guidelines recommend eating only grass fed animals (or wild animals and seafood) that are free to roam and eat what they choose, living in comfort and contentment every day of their lives. Animals are rarely “stocked”. Calves, for example, are birthed from the existing herd and the rancher knows each animal personally.

Eating meat is unhealthy

Eating plants definitely has its benefits. There are thousands of phytonutrients, and likely many more undiscovered, in all of nature’s colorful bounty. They’re also loaded with major and trace minerals. However, eating a “plants only” diet has its drawbacks.

  • Plant-based sources tend to be low in saturated fat, a component of the brain and a macronutrient vital for human health.
  • Plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but fiber is not actually digested. Too much of it can cause cramping, bloating, and other abdominal discomforts including constipation. Without sufficient amounts of water to help move the bulk through the system, intestinal blockage can lead to malabsorption and toxic accumulation.
  • Many grains and wheat in particular contain insoluble fiber which can add to intestinal discomfort. Our Paleo Dietary Guidelines recommend not eating wheat or other industrialized grains.
  • Humans have a much shorter digestive structure than herbivores and don’t have specialized organs to digest cellulose, the main fiber in plants.

Meat contributes greatly to our overall health and contains many nutrients that cannot be obtained in any amount from plants.

  • Creatine creates energy reserves in muscle and brain tissue.
  • Carnosine is an antioxidant that protects against degeneration.
  • DHA and EPA (the active forms of omega-3) convert ALA (plant omega 3) to an active form.
  • Vitamin B12 helps make DNA, prevents certain types of anemia, and contributes to the health of nerve cells.
  • The myth of saturated fat being bad for health has been debunked. Studies have shown that saturated fat has a greater effect on raising the good cholesterol than it does on the bad (1). There is no conclusive evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
  • Meat is a complete protein source with a higher biological value.
  • Meat is a good source of the difficult to get vitamin D, contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, and the minerals zinc, selenium, and iron.
  • Humans are omnivores and thrive best on animal and plant sources combined.

Meat and dairy are bad for the environment

Paleo principles do not condone eating factory farmed cattle or milk cows, industrial poultry, or other animals who do not graze freely. Grass fed animals graze on untreated fields and eat weeds, grasses, shrubs, insects, and grubs which eliminates bowel distress and the accompanying methane gas emissions caused by a grain diet.

  • The pervasive use of chemical pesticides in industrial agriculture is poisoning our food and the planet. Most are neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors that destroy the nervous systems of insects or cause them to be unable to reproduce. All the same effects are passed on to humans when we eat these plants, and this is reason enough to be wary of a “plants only” diet.
  • Vegan proponents point to grain production for cattle feed as the cause of deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction, but industrial agriculture involves huge mono-cultures like wheat, corn and soy. Virtually all their agricultural systems depend on crude oil, including planting, harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation. The importance of eating locally produced meat and locally grown vegetables and fruits, when available, is huge.
  • Growing crops of corn, wheat or soy (which are currently all genetically modified unless organic) where there would normally be grass destroys animals’ natural feeding grounds.
  • Modern industrial agriculture conglomerates destroy the delicate ecosystems surrounding them including topsoil, streams and rivers that are home to worms, frogs, turtles, crustaceans, aquatic vertebrae, beavers, and the birds and animals who feed on them They devastate the earth instead of feeding it.

In the big picture, following our ancestors’ footsteps makes sense. We haven’t evolved to eat only plants or only meat. Hunting and growing your own food is the best option, but not everyone has that luxury.

We’ve long ago changed the natural order of things and we cannot go back. If you were on the fence about eating meat, take hope in the fact that change takes place slowly and restoring the planet is not unthinkable. Complete health for the earth and all its inhabitants means humans must include foods from all natural categories like grass fed animals, wild game, and foods naturally processed by smoke, fermentation, or curing. Exclude industrially processed food of any kind.

Vegan diet and bloating

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