Have you ever thought about totally vegging out and becoming vegan?
I feel like that is a question that some of us may have asked ourselves before. Could I sustain this type of diet? Is it for me? Could I not only survive, but thrive on a diet based of purely plants?
Whether it be a religious conviction, environmental concern, ethical statement supporting animal welfare, personal preference or a possible health consideration, there are a variety of reasons why one may choose to follow a plant based diet. A vegan diet contains only plants in the form of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts. Plain and simple, vegans do not consume anything that comes from an animal. (1)
The Heart and Stroke Society of Canada have found that “vegetarian and vegan diets may lead to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, healthier weight, less incidence of Type 2 diabetes, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.” (2)
Sounds pretty appealing right?
There has been a lot of buzz around vegan diets, especially with the new documentary to hit Netflix called The Game Changers. As a nutrition coach (in training), something that I want clients to always consider when either reading a study or watching a documentary about food and food consumption is to think critically about the message. There is always a potential for bias, so it is important to do your own research and then from there decide whether these findings can benefit you.
We have all heard the sayings “food is fuel” and “you are what you eat.” This could not be more true. Food is our lifeline and it is very important to take it seriously and put thought and consideration into what we put into our bodies.
With that being said, I do not want you just to decide one day on a whim, “I think I want to be vegan, that is healthy right? The Game Changers documentary said I can do it” then proceed to put zero thought or consideration into this change and then live off a diet of white pasta and vegan donuts. Just like the vegan’s meat eating counterparts, their consumption needs to come from a wide variety of foods and constantly ensure they are balancing their plate. On top of that, they need to make sure that they are not depriving themselves from any nutrients that would have been present in the now eliminated animal products. (3)
It needs to be understood and taken very seriously that a great deal of planning and consideration needs to go into a vegan’s food consumption, and even more so for a vegan athlete. In some cases, a diet based exclusively of plant foods (especially those that are poorly planned,) can increase one’s risk of both macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies. Every food has a mix of amino acids. Dairy, eggs, poultry and fish all have the correct combination of amino acids to call them complete proteins. A complete protein simply means that they have all of our required essential amino acids. Since strict vegetarian and vegan diets exclude all of these food items, they need to be very mindful of their food consumption since most plant based foods do not contain all of the essential amino acids. The good news is, with the proper mix of vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes vegans can achieve enough protein in their diet and consume the proper combination of essential amino acids. (3). So the answer is yes. You can both survive and thrive following a vegan diet as long as some sincere thought and consideration goes into the foods that you are consuming.
What are some really great plant based protein sources you ask? I have put a list together of some great options. Whether you are vegan or not, these are some delicious ingredients that everyone can work to incorporate into their daily consumption to help amp up their protein intake. Not only are these ingredients a great source of plant based protein, but many of them also pack a powerful punch of fiber! And let’s be honest, we all appreciate that added fiber! Am I right?
Here is a really great start:
Grains, Bread Pasta:
Black Bean Pasta
Nuts and Seeds:
Beans and Legumes:
Food combining some of these options is a great way to start to build a balanced vegan plate. Want to know more about plant based sources of protein? Let us know!
Eat your veggies!
Harvard Women’s Health Watch. (2018). Becoming a Vegetarian. Retrieved January 11, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2018). Vegetarian Diets. Retrieved January 11, 2020, from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/specific-diets/vegetarians
WAG Coach Certification Course. (2019). Chapter Two: The Science. Retrieved January 11, 2020.