Going vegan – what you need to know

One of the best moments in my plant-based journey so far, was when I was out at a restaurant for my birthday with the boyf, and while looking for the one vegan option on the menu, he said, “Ah, what are you doing? The whole menu is vegan!”

Are you serious?

I can choose from the whole menu?

Best. Moment. Ever.

World Vegan Month

The start of November officially kicks off World Vegan Month, with November 1 being World Vegan Day.

With the rising popularity of Netflix documentaries such as ‘The Game Changers’, with celebs, elite athletes, activists, companies/brands (most recently iconic Aussie staple, Vegemite was certified vegan), and even politicians jumping on board the vegan/vegetarian train, it seems plant-based is here to stay.

According to the market research company, Roy Morgan, vegetarian eating is on the rise with 12.1 per cent of Aussies now eating all or almost all vegetarian – up from 11.2 per cent in 2014. 

“To keep Vegemite relevant today, it needs to appeal to all Australians,” said Vegemite Senior Marketing Manager, Matt Gray.

“With over 10 per cent of Australians choosing a vegan or vegetarian-based diet, it’s important that they can still enjoy the nation’s favourite spread.”

Four member organisations of the Vegan World Alliance have reportedly challenged country leaders, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to try vegan for a month starting November 1 – World Vegan Day.

“World resources are being stretched to beyond their limits, so we have to start living within our planetary resource budget as soon as possible,” urged Vegan Australia Director, Greg McFarlane.

“We are urging the Prime Minister to try vegan for the sake of the environment, for future generations and of course to prevent the needless suffering of animals.”

With a plethora of vegan foods now readily available, the lack of vegan options is no longer an issue.

Cafes and restaurants are also increasing their vegan/vegetarian menu options making it easier to eat plant-based.

Image: Shutterstock

Health benefits

The health benefits of a plant-based diet include:

  • Lower cholesterol (particularly LDL-cholesterol) levels
  • Less likely to suffer from heart disease
  • Lowered risk of some cancers
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower body weight
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

While the health benefits of eating more plants are clear, what do you need to know if you want to go vegan?

How to do plant-based right

If you’re planning to transition to a plant-based, vegetarian, vegan lifestyle, you need to consider the following as you make your dietary changes:

  • Balance is vital: to ensure you’re getting enough energy (calories/kilojoules) you need to make sure you eat enough. Going plant-based isn’t merely a case of ‘cutting out meat’. You need to replace the energy and nutrients from meat and other animal products with plant-based alternatives.
  • Vitamin B-12: This vitamin plays several critical roles, including keeping red blood cells healthy and protecting nerve tissues. While you can get B-12 from plant foods such as soy, seaweed, nutritional yeast, vegemite, seaweed and fortified plant milk, you might want to consider a supplement, especially if going vegan. Other food sources of B12 that vegetarians can include in their diet are yoghurt, milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Iron: Iron is a crucial nutrient for absorbing oxygen into the blood and transporting it to your cells – it’s essential for energy production! Plant sources of iron include legumes/lentils, dark leafy greens, meat substitutes like tofu and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Calcium: Critical for bone health, food sources include fortified plant milk, green leafy veg, tahini (sesame seed paste), sesame seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, tofu and dried figs. 
  • Zinc: Vital for the proper functioning of many enzymes in the body and a strong immune system, plant-based sources of zinc include wholemeal and grain bread, bran and wholegrain breakfast cereals, legumes and nuts.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: While plant-based diets, particularly vegan diets, can be quite low in fats, it’s important to include healthy fats in your diet. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseed oil, linseeds, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, pecans, soy and green veg.

If you’d like to know more about how to transition to a plant-based diet or if you’d like to see if you’re doing it right, get in touch! I’d love to help.


References:

Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2019, ‘Becoming a vegetarian’, October 2009, Updated October 23, 2018, Available from: www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian [accessed 2.11.19]

Saxebly, C, 2018, ‘Catherine Saxelby’s Complete Food and Nutrition Companion: the ultimate A–Z guide’, Copyright © Catherine Saxelby 2012, 2018, Hardie Grant Books.

Roy Morgan, 2019, ‘Rise in vegetarianism not halting the march of obesity’, April 12 2019, Available from:

www.roymorgan.com/findings/7944-vegetarianism-in-2018-april-2018-201904120608

[accessed 2.11.19]

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