Food tips, myths and facts

Food tips, myths and facts

January 24, 2018

How to get through Veganuary, and keep it up afterwards

Image credit: iStock/yulka3ice

Veganuary has become something of a tradition for the health-conscious. Giving up meat and dairy can be great for you if you do it right, leading to weight loss, improvement in mood and even a fuller wallet; plant-based diets can be surprisingly cheap, after all. However, it’s not always easy.

Plenty of people aim to go vegan for January, and many are now trying to make it permanent. However, they end up slipping, eating meat and giving the lifestyle up. It’s understandable, as sometimes the craving for certain foods becomes too much, but it’s also easily avoidable.

We can help you to get through a month of being vegan, and stick with it throughout the year. Just read on to find out more…


How does your body react to veganism?

One of the main pitfalls people experience upon giving up meat and dairy is that it can feel awful at first. This isn’t always the case, but for many people the initial jump into veganism can be unpleasant enough that they give it up for good.

However, usually this isn’t a sign that veganism is bad for you, but that you’re not doing it right. You can’t cut out meat and dairy without finding a sensible replacement for them – more on that later – and just because a food is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Replacing good-quality meat with vegan ready-meals is going to leave you feeling rubbish.

If you experience any negative side-effects from becoming vegan, the first thing you should do is research what nutrients your body needs, then check that you’re getting them. However, there are some changes to your body that you will probably notice, which are part of the vegan package deal.

A plant-based diet is usually much higher in fibre, for example, so you might find yourself going to the bathroom more frequently. This is a good thing, even if it takes some getting used to at first. The same goes for feeling bloated or gassy; this is because a vegan diet can lead to an increase in helpful bacteria in the gut. It might feel unpleasant, but it’s actually a sign of good health.

You might find yourself feeling tired or irritable at first, as well. Your body can develop a chemical dependency on certain meat and dairy products, and you might find yourself going through a mild withdrawal. Anyone who’s tried to give up sugar or coffee knows how this feels! It should only be temporary, however.

It goes without saying that if you experience any worrying side effects, you should consult your doctor. While it’s likely that it’s something we’ve mentioned here, it’s better to be safe than sorry in case it’s something more serious.


The benefits of veganism

If you’re struggling to stick to your commitment to being vegan, it might be worth reminding yourself of some of the health benefits. You might be craving a steak, but opting for tofu instead can be much better in the long run.

First of all, animal fats can be extremely bad for us. While any fat is bad when consumed in excess, animal fats have been linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease, and from arthritis to cancer. They also raise cholesterol more than plant-based fats.

Meat in general has also been linked to higher rates of certain cancers. In fact, one study found that eating meat – especially red and processed meats – increases the general chance of premature death by two per cent for every ten per cent increase in calories obtained from animal protein.

Meanwhile, vegans have been found to have better overall moods, fewer migraines and even better skin. If you’re ever desperate for some chicken nuggets or a hamburger, just remember all of this that you’ll be giving up!


What to replace meat with

If you’re going to succeed as a vegan, you’ll need some good proteins to replace the meat and dairy you’ve given up. Humans need nine chemicals called ‘essential amino acids’, which are the parts of protein that can’t be made in the human body. Meat contains all nine, which is why it’s referred to as a ‘complete protein’.

However, while you can generally find some in most plants and legumes, few vegan protein sources contain all nine essential amino acids. This means vegans need to be careful about what they eat, to make sure they’re getting enough of each of these vital chemicals overall.

The easiest way to manage this is to replace meat with soy, as this is also a complete protein. Soy milk, tofu, edamame beans and tempeh are all good options for getting enough complete protein in your diet.

However, there’s only one amino acid you’ll really need as a vegan: lysine. In general, you’ll get all of the others from plants, but lysine is a bit rarer and needs to be sought out.

Luckily, this amino acid is present in high levels in lentils, seitan, black beans quinoa and pistachio nuts, among other things. Mix these into your diet throughout each week, and you should find you get plenty of complete protein. This will not only make you healthier, it can also reduce your craving for meat.


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