Everyone seems to be going vegan these days after the release of the documentary “What the Health”. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film, however, I think we can all agree that eating fewer animal products is never a bad idea.
If you have recently decided to adopt a vegan diet, make sure you don’t fall victim to these three mistakes.
1. Assume you’ll get enough protein without any effort.
It is possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet, and if anyone else tells you otherwise then they are misinformed. However, it doesn’t just happen automatically. There is no such thing as a vegan fairy godmother that sprinkles protein fairy dust on you every night. Getting enough protein on a vegan diet requires effort and planning, but it does get easier with time.
At first, you might have to keep a journal documenting all the protein you eat, but after being vegan for a season or two, you’ll be able to eye things and know what you need to eat and in what quantity for your protein needs.
So, how much protein do you need?
Well, it all boils down to the individual. How frequently do you work out? Are you male or female? How much do you weigh? Are you under stress or are you pregnant? These are some of the factors that contribute to determining how much protein you need. A simple 0.45 grams of protein per pound like the USDA recommends may not be enough.
According to women’s hormone expert, Dr. Sara Gottfried, you should eat an average of 0.75-1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass(1). If you are an athlete, or under extreme stress, or lactating, or pregnant, you should eat on the higher end. If you lead a more sedentary life, or work out less than 3 times a week, aim for the lower end.
I agree with the amounts listed by Dr. Gottfried, but with one exception: if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, 0.4-0.5 grams per pound of lean body mass should be sufficient for your needs (per Dave Asprey)(2).
Another term which all aspiring vegans should become familiar with is complete protein.
A complete protein refers to the building blocks of protein, called amino acids. There are twenty different amino acids that form a protein, and nine that the body can’t make on its own. These are known as essential amino acids. They are essential because we need to eat them, as our bodies are incapable of producing them. For a food to be deemed a complete protein, it must contain all the nine essential amino acids in close to equal amounts.
So while meat and eggs are indeed complete proteins, nuts and beans aren’t. But hold the phone! This doesn’t mean you can’t get all of your essential amino acids on a plant based diet! We don’t need every essential amino acid in every bite of food, we just need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day. Also, there are some plant based complete proteins – my favorites include buckwheat and quinoa.
So with a combination of different plant based foods each day, it’s relatively easy to get all of the essential amino acids your body needs. You just need to put in the time and effort.
2. Load up on sugar, because hey-it’s vegan, right?
Let’s get the facts straight. When you eat sugar (and this includes any food with a high glucose level like honey, agave nectar, bread, fruit, etc) your insulin levels will automatically spike. So if you are eating too much sugar, this will lead to higher blood glucose levels, which can eventually lead to diabetes.
I don’t care what you heard on “What the Health”. Chicken does not cause diabetes – carbohydrates and sugar does. This does not mean I’m saying go out and eat chicken. You can be an EcoVegan by abstaining from animal products and eating a low glycemic diet at the same time.
The closest truth to the claim that meat causes diabetes is that processed meats will throw off the omega 6 to omega 3 balance in your body, which can increase your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, and rheumatoid arthritis. (3)
But guess what?
Eating lots of crappy vegetable oil (which is vegan…) and processed fake meats does the same thing!
You can’t just say ALL of something is bad. It’s not that easy.
3. Judge Others
In “Grist for the Mill”, Ram Dass says that we are all on different levels and stages in this life. We can’t expect others to be at the same stage as we are. So if you are vegan (and this goes for the vegetarians out there, too) in this life, that’s awesome. Consider yourself one lucky human being to have found this path in this lifetime, and give yourself a pat on the back for being just a little bit more enlightened….
That is unless you start judging and preaching to everyone who eats meat or animal products.
You might not like their choice, and I get it, it can be super frustrating! But it’s none of your business.However, if someone asks you about why you’re vegan, then let it rain!! Get on your soapbox because it’s an excellent opportunity to share with others why you’ve chosen this path.
Health Coach Jenna