Eating vegan essentially means you avoid any animal products. That includes meat, eggs and dairy foods as well as others. Veganism has grown in popularity in recent years and many people choose this style of eating for health reasons. However, experts say that eliminating entire food groups can put you at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. That’s not to say that a vegan diet can’t be healthy, but it should be something you research and are prepared for before you get started. Here are the most important things to know.
1 You’ll Have to Take a B12 Supplement
Why? Because B12 is a nutrient you can only get from animal foods, which means you’ll have to fill the gap with a supplement. You need B12 for DNA and healthy blood cells and nerves. A deficiency can lead to fatigue, weight loss and depression so you definitely don’t want to skimp on it. In addition to a supplement, many foods are fortified with B12 to help you get your daily intake recommendations.
2 Be Careful of Junk Food
Yes, white bread, pasta and donuts can all be vegan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy choices. All have refined carbs, which aren’t good for your body. When you give up animal products, make sure you’re replacing them with healthy options, such as whole grains, fruits, veggies and perhaps some tofu or other meat substitutes.
3 Watch Your Iron Intake
Because lean meats are one of your best sources of iron, eliminating from your diet can spell disaster. Low iron levels can lead to anemia, which produces fatigue and other symptoms you’d probably rather avoid. You may need to take an iron pill on a daily basis to make up for the lack. Legumes, leafy greens and sunflower seeds are great food sources to add to your meal plans.
4 Veganism Could Improve Your Mood
Eating vegan could be the best choice for you, but it should never replace treatment plans your doctor has in place to treat mood disorders. That being said, research shows that a vegan diet can actually make you happier. This is because this style of eating is lower in arachidonic acid, something that can cause your mood to dip. Talk to your doctor before making huge dietary changes.
5 Shopping Will Be Harder….at First
Shopping when you completely overhaul your diet can be time consuming and frustrating. You’ll have to read nutrition labels and ingredients lists very carefully to ensure that you are choosing items that fit with your new vegan diet. Expect to spend a lot more time on grocery shopping until you get the hang of things.
6 You’ll Be Eating at Home More Often
Eating a vegan diet might not be so easy if you are out. That’s because it’s hard to know every little detail about how a meal is prepared. Many people find that it’s easier to prepare meals at home so you have all the control. However, you can still dine out, but you’ll have to be diligent about asking about prep or you’ll have to seek out dedicated vegan restaurants.
7 Go Slowly Instead of All at Once
Many diet experts recommend easing into the vegan way of eating, rather than just going all out all at once. This allows you to get used to the style of eating and learn more about what you can and can’t have without the frustration that comes with trying to change everything all at once. If you need help, a licensed nutritionist can give you shopping advice and help you create a menu.
8 Watch Your Sources of Protein
Because the foods that are the highest in protein come from animals, such as milk, cheese, eggs and meat, you will have to pay careful attention to your protein intake. Protein is important for virtually every body function, so you definitely don't want to skimp. Alternate sources include tofu, edamame and nut milks. Talk to your doctor to figure out how much protein you need.
9 Be Ready for Lots of Questions
When you make such a huge dietary change, be prepared for your friends and family to want to know what's going on. They will probably be skeptical and will have tons of questions about your new choices. Stay patient and stand your ground and they should come around eventually, even if they just support you in your veganism instead of joining you.
10 You Don't Have to Go Broke
Finding alternate foods can be pricey. Think about how much gluten-free foods cost these days. But switching to a vegan diet doesn't have to cost you a lot. In fact, cutting meat your meal plan and focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables and grains could save you a bundle on your weekly grocery budget.