The rough guide to going vegan

Get your protein Consume a variety of whole-grains and pseudo-grains  

Maybe you’ve never really liked the taste of meat or are lactose intolerant. Or perhaps, it is one of the numerous videos that highlight the horrors of factory farming. Whatever your reasons are for going vegan, you’re now wondering how you’re actually going to do it right. Here’s how to.

Find support networks

Communications professional Smriti Raghunandan, a self-confessed animal lover, had been a vegetarian for over five years. When she first went vegan in January 2017, she did so overnight. “It was because of the jallikattu issue,” says Smriti, admitting that letting go of dairy was especially hard. “I loved my curd-rice.”

Like many other people who’ve modified eating patterns drastically, she had to battle naysayers from her close social circle. But what helped was the fact that she also had many friends who were vegan too, she says.

Having a supportive social network does help one sustain this new lifestyle, says an article on Raise Vegan, one of the largest vegan parenting communities. With social media and cooking videos, it is that much easier to get a recipe for chia seed pudding, to find out how to supplement right, or discuss how best to deal with vegan bloat. “Meeting other vegans can be a great way to chat about vegan living, share your favourite recipes and encourage each other with vegan experiences,” says an article published on The Vegan Society, a 73-year-old UK-founded educational charity.

Plan your protein

How you get your protein is the first challenge, but it really isn’t that much of an issue if you plan your meals properly, believes Delhi-based sports nutritionist, Lovneet Batra. “If plant-based diets are managed well, they don’t come with the deficiency associated with them,” she says, adding that the two major vitamin deficiencies, D and B12, attributed to vegan diets, can affect anyone really.

Consuming a variety of high-quality foods, including whole-grains, pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth, nuts, seeds, soy, legumes and pulses, will usually help you get enough protein, believes Lovneet, who says that required protein levels vary considerably. The average person needs 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight. “It is not like we are deficient in protein. You just have to make an extra conscious effort,” says Smriti, who gets her protein from sprouts, legumes, mushrooms and tofu.

And if all else fails, opt for a good vegan supplement. There are enough vegan protein powders in the market made of split peas, hemp, pumpkin seed, brown rice, soy or seeds like sunflower and chia. Take, for instance, the Mumbai-based Ace Blend that combines French golden split pea protein with Californian brown rice, into which is also thrown ashwagandha, amla, chlorella, barley grass, spinach, lycopene, grape seed and green tea.

“Plants are generally known to be an incomplete source of protein; what ‘completes’ a protein, is its amino acid profile,” says Shivam Hingorani, Founder, Ace Blend. On their own, both peas and rice lack certain amino acids, but “when you combine the two, the combination is dynamic! They not only prove to be a replacement for whey protein but also enhance the experience without any synthetics included,” he says.

The rough guide to going vegan

Base your meals around unprocessed, whole foods

If you think that adopting a vegan diet could leave you a few pounds lighter, you are probably right. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a plant-based diet offers myriad benefits, including lowering heart disease and cholesterol, managing obesity, hypertension and diabetes and improving energy levels and gut health.

Additionally, “there are infinite advantages to the vast array of nutrients found in plant foods,” says an article in The Permanente Journal, pointing out that plants are especially rich in phytochemicals and fibres, “the two categories of nutrients that are possibly the most health-promoting and disease-fighting.”

However, things like nut and seed butters, granola and coconut milk, while healthy in small quantities, are energy-dense and may end up packing on the pounds if you eat too much. You can be vegan and end up consuming a lot of junk — biscuits and chips are vegan too, after all.

“I went crazy with all those things when I first went vegan,” says Smriti, adding that it took her time to learn how to eat right. She researched extensively to create meals that centred around raw foods, like fruit and vegetables, good carbs and enough protein “I don’t eat things from a box,” says Smriti, who has dropped over 10 kilos, has higher energy levels and falls sick less often since she started.

It’s your choice

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    Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:41:14 PM |

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