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So, you’ve probably read many times about the awesome health benefits of veganism. But how does it actually work? You’ll still need protein and calcium, right? How can your body get all the essential nutrients without meat and dairy? Turns out you absolutely can. And we’re here to help you do exactly that.
Here are 10 easy tips to go vegan and make sure you get the most from your diet. You’re welcome.
1. Get your protein from veggies
Protein from animal products like cheese, meat and eggs have higher cholesterol and saturated fats. Not so great for your digestive health either. Plant-based protein, however, comes with rich fibre for easy digestion and in a variety of yummy foods. Tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, long beans, and nuts provide plenty of protein and taste great too.
2. Switch to whole grains
Unlike refined grain products like white pasta and white bread, whole grains are less processed, and therefore retain more fibre and nutrients, especially B vitamins. Whole grain rice and noodles usually have a denser texture, but the best part? They can help you lose weight and still keep your belly full.
3. Make every meal colourful
Pack a variety of different veggies to ensure your meals have a mix and balance of everything good. Get your protein from legumes and beans, calcium from leafy greens, vitamins from tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and gourds. The more, the tastier!
4. Love your veggies, obviously
Soup, boiled or stir-fried, as long as not overcooked, vegetables are nutrient powerhouses in every vegan meal. They give you all the vitamins, fibre and minerals you need, keep your calories intake low, and every one of them gives a distinct, fulfilling flavour.
For example, bok choi and carrots are a great source of vitamin A, spinach and broccoli are packed with vitamin K, while the Japanese eggplant is high in vitamin C, potassium and folate.
5. Take in more iron
Although vegan is definitely the healthier choice, not all nutrients are easy to come by. Iron, for instance, is mainly absorbed from meat and poultry. But there’s a simple fix: eat iron-rich foods like tofu, tempeh and soybeans together with vitamin C veggies like cauliflower, napa cabbage and other leafy greens.
Iron is a building block for haemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your bloodstream. Studies showed that vitamin C captures non-heme iron from vegetables and stores it in a form that enhances iron absorption. So, as we said: always have a mix in your meals.
6. Add the power of the sun
No, we don’t mean cooking with sunrays, but having a healthy intake of vitamin D: a pro-hormone that your body produces in response to natural sunlight. It helps keep your bones and teeth strong, supports your brain function, lungs and immune system, regulates insulin levels and cardiovascular health.
Vitamin D is commonly found in fishes like salmon and sardine, as well as milk and yogurt. Of course, there are vegan alternatives: mushrooms, soy milk and orange juice are all rich in vitamin D.
7. Watch for Omega-3
Another type of nutrient mainly from fish and eggs are Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, essential for eye and brain development. But vegans can have it too, from seaweed, edamame, and chia seeds.
Seaweed snacks are a tasty treat. Steamed edamame beans make delicious salads. Chia seeds mixed with water is an excellent egg substitute.
8. Be sure to get B12
Vitamin B12 is important to keep your nervous system in good shape. Problem is, it’s made by micro-organisms and not found in plants. Eggs, yogurt and milk are the usual sources. For vegans, however, soy, almond or coconut milk is a must to get enough vitamin B12. Some vegan-friendly fortified cereals or energy bars would do too. Lifelong vegans should consult a doctor for a regular supplement.
9. Shop smart, eat wisely
Not all vegan products are healthy. Like most processed foods, they often contain saturated-fat and made with palm oil or coconut oil. Always check the label and choose fresh, wholesome and nutritious foods, especially when it comes to snacks.
10. Plan your meals
Make the most of every meal accordingly. For example, include soy-based and protein-powered foods for breakfast. Pack a combo lunch of whole grain carbs, high fibre greens and beans. Then have a fulfilling dinner of nutrient-rich veggies for your body to regenerate in the evening.
Need some ideas? Try these 10 delicious Asian vegan recipes in your kitchen!