Proven Steps to Achieving
Vibrant Vegan Health

Vegan health is easy to achieve. We have more access to great websites, grocery stores, and restaurants than most of the vegans who laid the paths for us in the past.

With a bit of knowledge about vegan health, we can not only be eating properly, but thriving.

One of the most common questions I get from new vegans is, "How can I make sure I am eating a balanced, healthy diet?" My answer is always some variation of this: "Focus on a variety of vegetables and fruits (in that order), whole grains, and beans, drink plenty of water, snack on nuts, and take a vitamin B12 supplement."

That's really all you need to know about vegan health. Some people like to calculate to make sure they are eating enough calories, getting enough protein and calcium, and following the program to a tee. I prefer to think of veganism as a way of life, rather than simple a diet.

Let's break those vegan health categories down and talk them through:


Vegetables

The first key to vegan health is a throwback to the kitchen table, "Eat your vegetables!" You got it- mom was right all along! Though being forced to eat them as a child scarred more than one adult, it really is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Remember that with vegetables, variety is essential. An easy way to make sure you are getting plenty of vegetables is to use the color rule: Try to eat every color in the rainbow, every day. Think red beets, orange carrots, yellow peppers, green broccoli, blue blueberries, purple/indigo cherries and plums.

On top of all those colors, pile on a few more of the leafy greens like spinach, kale, chard, collards, and other greens. They are full of incredibly healthful nutrients.

Fruits

Fruits follow the same guidelines as vegetables, especially as far as colors go. Each color class of fruits (and vegetables) has a different vegan health benefit, so you want to eat as many as you can.

Most people love fruit, but if you struggle to eat enough of it, try adding pieces of fruit to meals you already enjoy. At breakfast, it's great in oatmeal and cereals. At lunch, think of throwing fruit into sandwiches and dipping pieces in chocolate. At dinner, you can even grill many fruits to bring out their sweetness.

If all else fails, blend up a bunch of fruit with some juice or water and ice and make a smoothie. Smoothies are super fun and easy to make, and without any added sugars, are incredibly healthful.

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Whole grains

Someone once told me he didn't know what a grain is, and I understood what he meant. A grain is an edible fruit or seed that was harvested from a grass crop; including wheat, rice, oats, barley, and quinoa (among others.) A whole grain is one that hasn't been split apart or broken in any way. Whole grains still have all their protein, starch, oils, and waters, and are considerably healthier than processed grains.

The problem is, grains are hard when they are whole and are softer and easier to eat when they have been processed. So, most people eat far more processed grains than whole grains. However, once you learn how to cook whole grains and adjust to the heartier taste, it's hard to ever go back.

I remember the first time I made whole wheat pasta. It tasted nutty and dense, and although I knew it was better for me, I still prefered the durum semolina wheat from Italy. But after a few weeks of eating whole wheat, I went back and tried the regular pasta and to my surprise, it tasted so bland I could barely eat it. It was too soft and too boring for my palate, and I felt like I needed a ton of sauce to jazz up the flavor.

Whole grains are easy to find in stores, and you should plan to buy many different types of grains. Wheat is the most widely consumed grain, and although it is healthy, our body gets other nutrients from the other grains, so we need to supply it with an assortment. If your grocery has a bulk section, stock up on them and learn to cook them. There are also pastas, breads, and cereals made from whole grains.

Make sure to look for the word "whole" before every grain mentioned and avoid "enriched" at all costs. Enriched grains have been stripped of all their whole goodness and have added nutrients to make up for the deficit. You are always better off eating what nature made than what humans enriched it with. It's kind of like orange juice from concentrate.

Legumes and beans

Beans are incredibly good for you. They're full of protein, fiber, and an assortment of other healthy nutrients. As with everything else, you should aim to eat many different beans. I sometimes find that people get comfortable with one bean and eat it in excess, which won't necessarily hurt them, but it will prevent them from gaining the benefits of other beans.

Beans are easy to eat in spreads. You can make hummus from chickpeas or white beans, black bean spread, and even kidney bean pate, and then add it to a sandwich of whole grain bread and vegetables.

The very healthiest way to prepare beans is to use dried beans, soak them overnight, and then cook them for a few hours. Canned beans are far more convenient, but they do pose a few health drawbacks. First of all, their liquid can lead to gassiness. Secondly, the aluminum cans leech into the beans. It's much safer to cook your own beans, but do make sure to cook them fully since undercooked beans can make you ill. Also, making your own beans is way cheaper than buying canned, and you can make so much more, while controlling how much sodium you want to add.

Nuts and seeds

One of the easiest and healthiest vegan health food snacks around is nuts. You can keep a selection in your fridge and pop a few in your mouth when you get hungry. They are full of protein and fiber, so they wake you up and fill you up so you won't overeat. Again, each nut gives you different nutrients, so eat a variety of them.

Make sure to eat them slowly- because they are dense and small, it's easy to eat a bunch all at once. Your body takes about 15 minutes to send a sensor to your brain telling you that you're full. Eat slowly.

I find that flax seeds are absolutely critical to my diet. Flax seeds and oil give our body essentail omega-3 fatty acids that help our bodies and brains function better. I buy whole seeds and grind them myself, then add a few teaspoons to my oatmeal every morning, which is plenty for me for the day. Other great options are sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds. In most grocery stores they have several options for seed butter near the nut butters.

Water

For great vegan health, make sure to drink plenty of water every day. You need about 6-10 eight ounce glasses daily. For every caffeinated beverage you drink, you will need almost three extra glasses of water to balanced out the dehydration it gives your body. Also, if you exercise more, or if it's a warmer day, you will need to increase your water intake.

You are dehydrated long before you feel thirsty, and all humans become more dehydrated with age. You might feel that as you get older, you just aren't as thirsty as you once were. You should still continue to drink as much as you can. Many health ailments can be attributed to dehydration, and often you can fix things simply by drinking more water.

Extra keys to vegan health

There are tons of milk substitutes on the market that can also be considered part of your grain, bean, and nut needs for the day; soymilk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc. These are great for snacks, smoothies, cereals, and to substitute in dishes that call for cow's milk.

As you can see, optimal vegan health isn't hard at all to achieve. Once you have a general hang of what types of foods to eat, you can be certain that you are eating a healthy vegan diet without constantly having to count your nutrients.




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by Cathleen Woods   |   © Copyright 2008-2016   |   Vegan-Nutritionista.com

Disclaimer: Everything in this website is based upon information collected by Cathleen Woods, from a variety of sources. It is my opinion and is not intended as medical advice.
It is recommended that you consult with a qualified health care professional before making a diet change.