Switching to a plant based diet has been shown to be beneficial for our individual health, as well as the health of the planet. By now you have probably tried at least a day of eating fully vegan, and some of you have successfully completed the WildFit Challenge as a vegan! We want to help you thrive, so we have created our top five tips to optimize your vegan diet. Are you still hesitating in adding some entirely plant sourced days? Hopefully the info below will help guide you in:
1. Ensure that most of what you eat is not only plant based, but fresh.
Often when becoming vegan, it is tempting to purchase all of the brightly coloured ‘Vegan’ packages that we see. This is usually due to the perceived stress of changing out eating patterns and finding new recipes. However, by eating packaged foods, we decrease the nutritional capacity of the food energy we are taking in.
As the transition to veganism usually means a larger proportion of our diet is carbohydrates, it can be easy to get caught up eating a lot of sugar, creating a sugar addiction, and thereby increase unhealthy weight gain and illness.
By prioritizing healthy plant fats from sources like coconut, avocado, olives, and various nuts and seeds you ensure that you feel satiety in your meals and are less tempted to overeat carbohydrates. Getting enough protein and fiber from leafy green vegetables will also decrease your dependence on sugars and keep cravings down, so make your Alkagizer or big salads a daily staple.
2. Eat in Seasons
Veganism is sometimes seen as restrictive, because there are many foods that are off the table. As a result, we sometimes get in a rut with the things we are eating. As you may know, one of the principles of WildFit is that variety is key to vitality. Even too much of some super healthy foods like spinach and almonds can create imbalances in our mineral composition and gut flora.
To avoid the pitfall, have a safeguard plan. Create a seasonal food map for yourself, based on your health goals. Spend some time understanding when foods naturally come into season, so you can eat a wide variety of plants when they are freshest. Prioritize a wide variety of colours as well as textures in your fruit, veggies, seeds and fungi to gain the greatest abundance of nutrients.
To ensure optimal health, try to spend at least half the year keeping even natural sugars to a minimum. This will provide some much needed rest to your whole system, enable detox and reduce inflammation. It can be difficult to commit to this, as you may already feel limited in your choices. However, by focusing more on the umami, savory and bitter flavours of foods you will cut sugar cravings and give the body more of what it may be missing. You might be surprised how light and free you feel once you make the transition!
3. Ensure your food purchases are congruent with your reasons for veganism
There are tons of reasons to go vegan, including standing against animal cruelty and factory farming as well as for personal health gains. Fortunately, veganism has grown in popularity by 600% in the last five years. Unfortunately, greenwashing and deceptive marketing has followed this trend, cluttering the marketplace with unreliable labels. Make sure you know what you’re really getting by reading the ingredients and seeking out information about the companies you buy from.
A simple question to ask yourself is: are the food products I am buying aligned with my ethics? Something labelled ‘vegan’ can still be factory produced, contain tons of chemicals, refined sugars and other inflammatory substances, and be created at the expense of wildlife habitat. Is the soya or palm oil in your tempeh sustainably sourced? Did you know that there is partially hydrogenated canola oil in your meat substitute? Did you know tofurkey and seitan are made of a well known wheat protein called gluten?
The good news is there are tons of simple vegan recipes out there that satisfy your savoury and umami taste buds and are made from completely supportive foods. Before relying on packaged products to make up the bulk of your diet, refer to the vegan recipes in the WildFit database.
4. If you are going to eat filler foods, make them the best ones possible.
Being a vegan often means a greater dependence on filler foods like grains, legumes and soy to meet protein and energy needs. These needs can also be met with high quality nuts and seeds. These are all the offspring of plants, and the plants do not want those babies to be eaten. For this reason they coat them in plant chemicals called antinutrients which confuse the digestive system of their predators and often cause damage to the digestive system over time.
So, if you are going to eat plant babies, it’s best to be a bit sneaky about it to reap the benefits. When you soak and sprout the seeds, the antinutrient protective shield comes down. This is also when the plant seeds are most nutritious, as the plant has made all these nutrients available for the new young plant to thrive. Mung bean, organic alfalfa, green lentils, and buckwheat sprouts are all some yummy ones to include in your seasonal rotation.
It is also just good sense that since you are making this choice at least in part for your health, try to avoid non functional foods like gluten containing grains and inorganic soy and corn as often as possible.
5. Consider supplementing with food, rather than pills
There are certain nutrients that are specifically lacking in a vegan diet- namely vitamin B12, vitamin D, Long-Chain Omega-3s like DHA, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. This is partially because certain nutrients are only in abundance in animals or in soil (from decaying animals). It is also due to the fact that vegans, like anyone, can sometimes neglect their nutrition in favour of foods that satisfy the palate, which can cause issues with digestion and absorption.
Before buying a ton of supplements, make sure you have your bases covered with a whole foods diet. Supplements are often created from synthetic sources under a lot of heat, light and pressure which degrades the quality of the nutrients. Isolated nutrients are also more difficult for the body to understand and process, and therefore absorb. Taking specific nutrients and not others can also create further imbalance in your body.
Eating with awareness does not need to be daunting. For example, ground chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds are all good sources of ALA, which can convert into DHA in your body. So, if you eat a chia pudding for breakfast that is made with B12 fortified almond milk, you will meet some of your requirements. Iron is best absorbed from plants when combined with Vitamin C, so add a squeeze of lemon juice to your steamed leafy greens. Phytates, one of those previously mentioned antinutrients in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes inhibits the absorption of some minerals, especially zinc and iron. However, mineral-absorbing enhancers, such as garlic and onions, to increase the bioavailability of iron and zinc in plant foods. Vitamin D can be found in mushrooms grown outdoors and sea vegetables. Sea vegetables also contain an abundance of iodine. Calcium is simply mentioned for those still adhering to dairy propaganda. There is actually a ton of calcium in plant foods, and by soaking/sprouting the majority of your phytate containing foods you will be able to absorb more of it.
If you are open to it, you can also consider occasionally eating pasture raised chicken’s eggs and non sentient, sustainably caught bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops) to ensure that all your nutritional bases are being covered without supporting the supplement industry.
Overall, whether you have become a full vegan, a seasonal vegan, or are just starting with meatless Mondays, thank you for doing your part to lighten the load of the earth and make more conscious choices. WildFit is a plant based diet, and we want to help you succeed in living this lifestyle for the sake of your health, animal welfare and the environment. If you have questions about bringing more plants into your daily diet, don’t hesitate to ask. Any personal tips you want to add? Leave them in the comments below!