Thinking of Going Vegan? Here's What You Need to Know
In years past, going vegan meant removing animal products from your diet. These days, there are those who go vegan only with their diets and those who go vegan with everything, including the upholstery in their cars, their clothes, and more. If you're considering going vegan, there are a few things you will need to consider before you take the plunge.
Decide to what extent you are going to commit. Are you willing to give up leather seats in your car, cosmetic brands/products that test on animals, or your favorite leather boots? If not, no need to worry, most vegans change their diet only. This article explores the dietary form of veganism.
What Does Being Vegan Mean?
Image via Flickr by awsheffield
Eating vegan means eliminating all animal and animal products from your diet. This includes, but is not limited to, meat, fish, milk, eggs, seafood, and even many sugars. Some products that aren't vegan-friendly are downright surprising, such as soy cheese. This is because of the casein in soy cheese. Because of this example and many others, label reading is a must for the committed vegan.
Benefits of the Vegan Life
While eating vegan has a lot of challenges, there are enormous benefits. These benefits go a long way to help with total body health and wellness.
Overall you will likely find that your BMI (Body Mass Index) will go down as you lose weight, your energy levels will probably increase, your hair, nails, and skin will often become healthier, and many people see improvement with allergies, PMS, and migraines. It is also widely believed that a vegan lifestyle helps prevent cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, several kinds of cancer, and diabetes, among many other diseases that have become too common in today's society.
Menu Challenges Vegans Face
There are some challenges that many consider overwhelming when it comes to being a vegan. These challenges will become easier for those who think ahead and plan ahead. This is perhaps the best advice one can give when it comes to becoming vegan. You will often be invited to graduation parties, birthday parties, retirement parties, wedding and baby showers, and more. Very few will have accommodations for the vegan attendees. Skipping these occasions is certainly not something you would probably consider. However, there are actions you can take, including going on a full stomach, casually continue making conversation while skipping the buffet, offering to bring something (vegan of course) with you to picnics, or being sure to check the vegan option (if offered) on reply cards to weddings.
Social Challenges Vegans Face
In addition to the party menu challenges, one also has to consider dear old Uncle Joe and other hecklers who inevitably will be cracking jokes like "How do you like your steak?" Although he doesn't mean anything by his humor, it wouldn't hurt to have a witty comeback prepared. While you may never stop those who don't understand your decision from commenting or joking, being ready for those situations will help you take some of the heat out of the situation while inconspicuously giving a little insight behind your decision.
If anyone questions your need for protein, you can always ask, "Where do cows and chickens get theirs from?" Say you're just cutting out the middleman. If they ask what you eat, you can always lightly joke, "Vitamin water and lettuce." Of course, if someone is interested, you can have a more in-depth conversation. In the end, it's just a case of respecting different points of view.
Vegan Health Challenges
Besides the conceptual and etiquette considerations, there are also health challenges that need to be considered. When eliminating meats, dairy, and all of their byproducts, there are vital nutrients that will need special attention to assure their needed levels are met. One of the main nutrients that vegans need to watch is vitamin B-12. This is the most difficult to get from a vegan diet, and you will probably have to look for fortified foods (soy milks or yeast extract) or find other forms of supplementation. Not getting enough vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia or heart disease.
Other nutrients needed include calcium, protein, vitamin D, Iron, zinc, and omega fatty acids. Be sure to take these important nutrients into consideration and talk with your doctor about acceptable supplementing of these nutrients.
While making the decision to become a vegan is not one to take lightly it is also a decision that doesn't have to be stressed over. Being vegan isn't for everyone. Give yourself time to think about how it will fit with your lifestyle, and how the pros line up against the cons for you personally. Considering all the above and finding the right resources to help support the implementation of your decision are key. With a little time and practice, you will find the confidence you need to make this an easier commitment all from learning, planning and preparing!