By Published On: November 8, 2021Categories: Plant-Based Health & Wellness0 Comments

Are you an athlete looking to switch to a plant-based diet? Have you come across articles talking about vegan diets and wondered what the craze is about? Well, look no further because we’ve got the answers to all your questions!

WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?

First, let’s understand what a vegan diet is. A vegan diet is a diet that consists of only plants and foods made from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, pulses, seeds, and nuts. These foods are highly nutritious and include essential vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. However, it excludes any animal products and byproducts. If you’re planning to follow a plant-based diet, you will have to think about alternate sources for certain vital nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins like vitamin B12 and D.

Now, you might be thinking, how is veganism different from vegetarianism? Vegetarians consume animal byproducts like milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. whereas veganism is more exclusive, as it completely avoids animal products and byproducts. Strict vegans go beyond following the diet and avoid using any product involving the human use of animals such as leather goods, wool, silk, beeswax, soaps and candles that include animal fats, and cosmetics that manufacturers have tested on animals.

A similar plant based diet is the Mediterranean diet, which is popular in countries like France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. This diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats. It aids in weight loss and helps prevent heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET

The vegan diet helps increase energy levels and improve cognitive function, like enhancing athletic performance both on and off the playing field. Let’s take a look at the various nutritional benefits of following this diet.

  1. Weight Loss: Vegan diets naturally tend to reduce your calorie intake, which results in weight loss and helps in reducing harmful abdominal fats. It also leads to a lowered appetite.
  2. Triglycerides: Low-carb diets effectively lower blood triglycerides, which are fat molecules that increase your risk of heart disease. Less triglycerides leads to lowered chances of heart disease.
  3. High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This is known as the “good” cholesterol. Low-carb diets are high in fat, which leads to an increase in blood levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
  4. Reduced Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels: The best way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels is to reduce carb consumption, which may treat and possibly even reverse type 2 diabetes.
  5. Metabolic Syndrome: This is a condition highly associated with your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Its symptoms include abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar levels, high triglycerides, and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet helps in reversing all five critical symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

PLANT-BASED ALTERNATIVES

One of the main concerns while following a vegan diet is low protein intake. We have compiled a list of plant-based alternatives to help you maintain your protein levels.

  1. Seitan
  2. Tofu
  3. Lentils
  4. Beans
  5. Hemp seeds
  6. Chia seeds
  7. Green peas
  8. Spirulina
  9. Soy milk
  10. Oats

SUPPLEMENTS

A well-planned vegan diet can fulfill your nutritional needs. However, if you are unable to meet the recommended nutrient intakes through foods or fortified products, then it is advised to take certain useful supplements as they are beneficial while following a vegan diet.

These supplements include:

  1. Vitamin B12: Foods rich in Vitamin B12 are unwashed organic produce, mushrooms grown in B12-rich soils, nori, spirulina, chlorella, and nutritional yeast.
  2. Vitamin D: Opt for D2 or vegan D3 forms manufactured by Nordic Naturals or Viridian.
  3. Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA): Plants with a high ALA content include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and soybeans.
  4. Iron: Iron-rich foods are cruciferous vegetables, beans, peas, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Iron-fortified foods, such as cereals, enriched breads, and some plant milks can also help increase iron levels.
  5. Iodine: A food that has high iodine levels is seaweed. If you don’t like seaweed, you can take a supplement or add 1/2 teaspoon of iodized salt to your daily diet.
  6. Calcium: Calcium is best absorbed when taken in doses of 500 mg or less at a time. Plant sources of calcium include bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, and fortified plant milk or juices.
  7. Zinc: This can be consumed in the form of zinc gluconate or zinc citrate. Zinc-rich foods include whole grains, wheat germ, tofu, sprouted breads, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Vegan diets are based on probiotic-rich whole foods and provide an array of health benefits due to the increased amount of nutrient-rich, whole plant foods in your diet. You can maintain your health by including at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, cutting down on highly saturated fats, and keeping your salt intake in check.

Remember to consult with your doctor or dietitian to help you choose the right diet plan.  It’s crucial to get help from an expert to ensure you get the right mix of nutrients in your new eating plan.

Planted Table

Chef Lauren and Megan from Planted Table

Hi, we’re Chef Lauren and Megan from Planted Table.

After transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, we want to inspire others with tips, easy vegan recipes and more. Our blog features our vegan journey and recommendations on lifestyle, cooking, nutrition, travel, parenting and more.

If you live in the CA Bay Area, check out our meal delivery service, Planted Table Meals.

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