Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Veganism and Eating a Balanced Diet



'Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.' (The Vegan Society)

Many choose this lifestyle for environmental and animal welfare reasons, often becoming a vegetarian first and naturally progressing to Veganism.  I myself became a vegan last year for health reasons, once I had decided to make this lifestyle change the more reading I did the more passionate I became about animal welfare and the environment,  something I shall blog about at a later date.  

There are many ways to be a vegan and not all vegans eat in a similar manner.  Veganism stretches from 'raw food' to 'junk-food' vegans, the latter being an unhealthy choice.  It seems an obvious fact to state, but the closer a food is to its natural state then the better it is food your body, keep away from processed foods! We are part of nature, therefore eating the food that nature made keeps us in optimal health from the inside out (in combination with positive thinking, keeping active and optimal spinal movement).

Since I changed my diet the most common question I am asked is 'But where do get your protein from? Surely you are lacking essential nutrients such as Iron!?'
 When people become vegan, most naturally adopt a healthier diet full of vegetables and fruits, naturally high in fibre, vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat and sugars.  Sugar has had a substantial amount of bad press recently and I feel at this point it is important to remember that although fruit does contain a lot of sugar, these are good naturally occurring sugars!  Please do not cut them out! 

To get all your nutrients the most important thing is to eat a variety of different foods an array of colours of the rainbow and include whole foods like Oats and Brown Rice.  A whole food is one that contains a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate and the vast majority of vitamins and minerals.

Richest sources of Plant Protein
Sun dried tomatoes
Soybean sprouts
Winged beans
Lentil sprouts
Baby Lima beans
Dried Seaweed
Grape Leaves
Green Peas
Alfalfa sprouts
Peas and Onions

All these foods contain 14 - 4% protein in a descending order.  We require approximately 10% of our daily diet to be protein, so plenty to choose from! These same vegetables also contain a good dose of Iron, so no need for red meat.  
Another major concern, particularly for parents, is 'Surely there is a lack of Calcium in your diet without dairy?'  This is when I like to remind people that some of the largest animals on earth (elephants and blue whales) eat only plant foods and have very strong skeletons.  Cows themselves only drink milk as a baby, once weened they rely on grass and exercise for strengthening their skeletons.
We too can do the same.  Lots of green leafy vegetables and MOVE! 

Following a vegan diet I have lost weight easily, but not quickly.  I never considered myself fat, but I was definitely carrying around an insulating layer.  If I am honest I was living in a bubble of self denial that I was happy to be carrying extra pounds (of which I am still carrying a few), however since losing over 14lbs I am much more confident, my clothes fit better and my skin glows more (all those amazing vitamins and minerals as well as all the water in the array of vegetables I eat!)

The most important thing to remember is if you decide you want a healthier lifestyle (obviously you do), make small changes first.  This does not mean you have to become a vegan, but you could start by making wise meat choices, know where it came from, inform yourself.  Then begin increasing the veggies in your diet instead of eating a ready meal.  Choose fruit instead of a manufactured sweet.  Brett Hill has written a simple guide on where to start and how to achieve habitual change,   Over time you will suddenly notice how differently you are living, how easy the changes were to implement and will be reaping the benefits!

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Rachel Hodson MChiro DC BSc (Hons)

Rachel Hodson is a Chiropractor at The Octagon Chiropractic Clinic