Vegans avoid all animal food and by-products. This means no meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, dairy products - anything that could have come from an animal is a no go. A typical vegan diet consists of grains, vegetables, pulses, nuts and fruits. Vegans even make a concerted effort to avoid cosmetics, soaps and shampoos that have been made with animal products.
Vegetarians are more specific with dietary choices, which fall under a few different terms. It can get a little bit confusing – here are a few different types of vegetarians.
This diet includes dairy products but not eggs.
Not quite as strict – will eat dairy products, eggs and occasionally fish or chicken.
Will eat fruit and nuts only. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, it is recommended to complement with a vast array of supplements.
Q. Does being a vegetarian/vegan mean no protein?
It is important to include protein with every meal because protein is essential for a healthy body. It is needed for cell growth and repair for every tissue in the body. For non-vegetarians, protein is provided by meat, fish and eggs. For a vegan or vegetarian diet, the best sources of protein are from soy, lentils, beans and tofu. Fortunately getting enough protein is made even easier now with many health food stores selling pea protein and rice protein, ideal for those that don’t want to include animal protein in their diet.
Q. How to replace the nutrients that might be lacking
People who lead a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle can often run low on Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. These deficiencies can cause you to feel extremely run down. Luckily there are a plethora of supplements you can take that’ll help keep your levels healthy.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-based foods, therefore a lot of vegans and vegetarians can have low levels, which can cause tiredness, nerve problems, weakness and a loss of appetite. If you’re not already stocking up on B12 supplements, consider including these in your diet.
Calcium is needed for strong bones, teeth and helps maintain a healthy pH of bodily fluids. Vegetarians that consume dairy products usually have the levels of calcium their body needs. However, vegans who keep a stricter diet should include supplements like Supercal
, which contains calcium along with other very important cofactors your body needs.
There are ways to get benefits of omega-3
fatty acids through flaxseeds, flaxseed oil,
hemp, chia seeds
and nuts. These all provide you with omega-3.
Getting enough iron is essential for energy, a super easy and effective way to keep iron levels healthy is to supplement with Iron Chews
– which are delicious tasting too. Eating plenty of plant foods high in iron is another important source, like spinach, other leafy greens and spirulina. Spirulina
is such a rich source of nutrients that it has been said if there was no food left on the planet our bodies could survive off spirulina alone.
Zinc also plays many key roles in the body. Like B12 and omega-3, the best foods for it are all animal based, meaning vegans and vegetarians need to get their zinc needs from plants. Legumes, nuts and seeds (like pumpkin and sunflower seeds) are particularly good for providing you with zinc.
Q. What is the benefit of being vegan or vegetarian?
There are many benefits of a vegetarian diet, which is why many communities and religions have continued the practise for thousands of years.
A vegetarian diet generally contains more fibre and less saturated fat. Vegetarians tend to have healthier cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of type 2-diabetes and are more likely to be of a healthy weight.
Q. What about eating out?
You’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant or café that doesn’t offer vegetarian options. However, places with good vegan meals might be a bit more difficult. It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research before deciding where to dine. Heart of the City
and Happy Cow
offer great reviews of cool places that cater to vegans and vegetarians.
Q. Are you a parent who have children that want to become vegetarian or vegan?
We have 5 tips to watch for:
For more tips, read more at these helpful sites:
- Don’t be afraid to supplement with wholefoods and superfoods – think spirulina. Spirulina is a complete protein meaning it contains all essential amino acids the body needs and contains about 57% of protein. Add to smoothies, juices and even baking and desserts.
- Add good quality fats to each meal particularly coconut, olive oil, flaxseed oil and avocado. This keeps you feeling fuller for longer and provides extra energy.
- Snack on nuts and seeds - they contain a whopping 25-30% protein.
- Eggs are an amazing food however you prefer them cooked – poached, scrambled, or boiled. An average size egg contains at least 5 grams of protein.
- Experiment and visit local markets and health food stores for ideas.
It might take a little bit of time to get used to it at the beginning, but once you learn how your body performs, being vegan or vegetarian is a very sustainable diet, followed by thousands of people around the world. The main point to keep in mind is to always ensure your body is getting everything it needs.