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Many people interested in adopting a vegetarian / vegan eating style, have some doubts before taking the plunge; The best thing in these cases is to gather information that allows you to know the benefits and limitations that you will get when making the change to manage them properly.
Every day it is more common to hear from celebrities who recommend plant-based diets or see advertising for products aimed at the vegan community, and it can really bring many benefits if done properly.
First of all, we must objectively analyze the benefits and potential deficiencies of a plant-based diet in order to promote its benefits and learn to manage its weaknesses. In this article, I summarize some of the recommendations that I usually apply in consultation when a person asks me to start a vegan/vegetarian diet to optimize its results, always putting the person's overall health first.
1. What is the vegan diet?
The vegan diet, beyond being a simple eating pattern from which products of animal origin are excluded , is usually accompanied by a lifestyle that is adopted for ethical-moral and health reasons, in order to improve physical condition and positively impact the environment , avoiding the use of clothing, shoes and accessories made at the cost of animal sacrifice or negative impact on the environment.
Although veganism is something that many may consider fashionable, it is important that you know that doing it correctly implies commitment and true knowledge when it comes to nutrition. It does not mean just eating plant-based, it involves learning to give your body what it needs with food that does not come from animals that have been mistreated for later consumption, food that does not negatively impact the environment or grains used to feed livestock. that could be directly used by humans.
However, here I would like to give my opinion. In this sense, it is crucial not to confuse the food itself with its production process, since we can produce food with animals in an ethical way, while we can consume vegetables in an unethical way, an example of which is the huge soybean plantations that displace Wild animals in their natural habitat. These plantations seriously affect the environment and animal life . We can also talk about the packaging and transportation process until they arrive at the supermarket, in the form of tofu burgers and paid for at delicatessen prices.
In short, I believe that the basis lies in awareness and responsibility for how food reaches our plates. You can be vegan or vegetarian and remain unaware of how your tofu sausage made it into your dinner that night.
That being said, the ethical-moral decision behind this choice is personal and highly subjective. My goal with this article is none other than to give you the tools to optimize your health through eating protocols that you decide to follow for ethics, health or pleasure.
2. Eat smart and listen to your body
Labeling a style of eating does not tell us anything and that is that having a 100% vegetable diet does not automatically make us a vegan person.
In fact, there are foods that are entirely plant-based that a strict vegetarian could perfectly eat but are not "fit" for vegans.
Let's give an example. Many wines use gelatin or egg albumin during the clarification process. It is not an ingredient, you will never see it on the label, but it invalidates it as suitable from a "vegan" point of view due to its obtaining process and the involvement of animals in its production.
In this sense, it is important that if you decide to implement this way of eating, it is accompanied by an internal decision from self-care. Towards oneself and to what surrounds us. Learning and giving your body everything it needs to extract nutrients from entirely vegetable and sustainable sources in its extraction process and making it available to you.
The fact that a diet is labeled as plant-based does not by itself make it nutritious and healthy. You can follow a western vegan diet based on ultra-processed foods (hamburgers, pizzas, vegan ice cream, etc.) and then be anything but healthy. Now, if what we do is base our diet on vegetables, fruits, seeds, and whole grains, things change. The " vegan " label is in no way synonymous with health. Nor is it any healthier than another "non-vegan".
Here we have an example of an unhealthy vegan section for you and your pocket ;)
While this is an example of a real vegan section.
3. The "musts" of a plant-based diet
A vegan diet can be anything but boring, it is a golden opportunity to investigate the plant world, there is life beyond onions and iceberg lettuce :)
- Include enough protein
Although protein of animal origin has a higher biological value, it is also true that it is not strictly necessary and that we can obtain sufficient essential amino acids through sources of plant origin such as cereals or pseudocereals, legumes such as lentils, tofu, and beans. In any case, you can always resort to supplementing with vegan proteins with a good aminogram made from pea or hemp isolate .
- The controversial Vitamin B12!
This vitamin is undoubtedly the one that generates the most doubts and "respect" among people who are starting this type of diet. The overinformation that exists on the Internet is the source of so much confusion in this regard.
B12 is an essential vitamin to keep our neurons and blood cells healthy. It is not of animal origin but bacterial . In fact, although most human beings do not have this capacity, there are mammals capable of taking advantage of the vitamin B12 of their intestinal bacteria.
The lack of B12 is a known problem among the population, most vegetarians and vegans have a deficit . Some typical symptoms of the presence of deficit are: numbness, tingling in legs and arms, memory loss, disorientation, constant mood swings.
Even if you do not perceive symptoms, you can also detect its deficiency in blood tests by observing the following values: B12, methylmalonic acid and homocysteine.
It is important that you know that the deficiency of this vitamin not only affects vegetarians, but also those who have some type of intestinal pathology such as Crohn's disease, absorption problems or who take certain drugs such as antacids that hinder its absorption. Alcohol consumption is also crucial in absorption .
That being said, opting for a good B12 supplement is best for people on plant-based diets. And yes, ovolacteovegetarians, you too ;)
- Vitamin D, vital to absorb calcium
You can get it from vegetable yeast, from fortified drinks and foods. You can also opt for sun exposure. Your skin should be exposed directly to the sun, without protective creams, for around 20 minutes a day.
- Calcium, necessary for your bone structure
Is dairy consumption necessary? This is a topic subject to enormous controversy because vegan defenders affirmed that we can extract the necessary calcium from broccoli, kale or spinach and, although it is true that we find this mineral in these types of vegetables, it is even more so than The amounts that you need to ingest to get your body to absorb what it needs are certainly not easy to achieve in your day to day. Solution? I propose my favorites:
- Train strength! Whenever we talk about bones and bone mass, it is inevitable to refer to physical activity, especially the exercise of muscle mass.
- Increase the consumption of vitamin k2 (fermented soybeans, sauerkraut) key to the health of your teeth and bones.
- Sunbathe as we have previously indicated, vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium, thus favoring the health of your bones.
Do not forget to consume sprouted legumes, cereals and seeds, as well as sources of vitamin C such as colored vegetables (peppers, cabbage, radish, etc.) and citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemon) because vitamin C helps the greatest iron absorption.
We leave you a table of foods rich in iron to keep them well in mind.
|Amount of iron per 100 grams|
If you want to start changing your diet or include some vegetable/vegan meals in your day to day, in the next article we will leave you a proposal for a full plant-based day where you can find different options that are very easy to make and 100% vegetable. Enjoy them!
7- Craig WJ, Mangels AR. American Dietetic Association position: vegetarian diets. Act Diet. 2010; 14:10-26.