A Vegan Diet for Beginners

When converting to a vegan diet, it is important for you to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

A vegan diet can be one of the healthiest ways to live and it is simple – contrary to what most people think.

falafel vegan meal with friends; vegan diet

Your health can benefit from a vegan lifestyle because it can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, according to The Vegan Society.

A vegan diet is generally a high alkaline diet which can help protect your body from hosting other illnesses and help fight against chronic diseases too.

Veganism is also great for the environment because it can reduce the world’s water requirements and water pollution.

When converting to a vegan diet, it is important for you to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

You need to create a diet for yourself that is rich in protein, iron, calcium, other essential vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and strong.

Most people are concerned about the following when they are considering a vegan diet:

  1. How am I going to get enough protein?
  2. Will I get enough calcium and iron?
  3. And will I get enough Vitamin D?

This is what we are going to talk about today – along with our top tips to begin a plant-based diet, so let’s get to it.

How am I going to get enough protein?

Something that people are concerned about when starting a vegan diet is if they are going to get enough protein.

First things first, an idea that society has planted in our minds is that we NEED animal protein at every meal and we simply don’t.

Protein needs vary from person to person. However, according to Healthline, women need about 46g of protein and men need about 56g per day.

Your body needs protein to build and repair tissues, and it helps your body create all the necessary enzymes, body chemicals, and hormones.

If your body doesn’t get enough protein you can have skin, nail and hair issues and suffer from a fatty liver.

Most people think they won’t get enough protein, however, there are plenty of healthy plant-based protein options available.

Here are some plant-based protein sources that you can include in your meals to help you reach your recommended daily allowance (RDA):

Beans & Legumes

  • Tempeh: 24g
  • Lentils: 18g
  • Edamame: 17g
  • Adzuki beans: 17
  • Chickpeas, Lima, Navy, Kidney Beans: 15g

Nuts & Seeds

  • Cashews: 10g
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 10g
  • Almonds: 8g
  • Sunflower Seeds: 7g
  • Brazil Nuts: 4g
  • Hemp Seeds: 3g
  • Chia, Flax, Sesame Seeds: 2g

Grains

  • Seitan: 24g
  • Buckwheat: 11g
  • Amaranth: 9g
  • Quinoa: 9g
  • Wild Rice: 7g
  • Brown Rice: 5g
  • Oats: 4g

Vegetables

  • Spinach: 5g
  • Collard Greens: 5g
  • Broccoli: 4g
  • Portobello Mushrooms: 4g
  • Brussels Sprouts: 4g
  • Kale: 3g
  • Artichoke: 3g
  • Potato: 3g
  • Swiss Chard: 3g

Will I get enough calcium and iron?

Another concern that people have is if they will get enough calcium and iron from a vegan diet – and the answer is yes. You have to know how much you need on a daily basis and where you can get them from.

The Vegan Society recommends about 700 mg of calcium a day if you are an adult.

Your body needs calcium so your blood can clot, helps your muscles contract and keeps your heart pumping. Also, 99% of your teeth and bones are made of calcium.

And one important thing to make note of is that your body can’t produce calcium according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Therefore, it is very important for you to consume calcium to help keep your bones and teeth strong.

You can get calcium from broccoli, collard greens, almonds, mustard greens, sesame tahini, soybeans, and kale. They are high in calcium.

Always check fortified foods/juices for calcium too!

As for iron, The Vegan Society recommends for you to get about 8.7 mgs a day. And if you are a menstruating – you should increase your iron intake to 14.8 mg a day.

Our bodies need iron because it helps our red blood cells carry oxygen to our lungs and throughout our bodies.

According to WebMD, if you don’t get enough iron in your diet you can become anemic.

You can get iron from lentils, raisins, tofu, kale, chia seeds, spinach, swiss chard, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and lima beans.

Always check your food items for iron too!

And will I get enough Vitamin D?

And lastly, another concern that people have is if they will get enough vitamin D from a vegan diet – and the answer is yes. Just like protein, calcium, and iron – you have to know much you need on daily basis and where you can get them from.

The Institute of Food and Agriculture recommends this daily amount for Vitamin D for each life stage.

Life Stage Vitamin D (mcg/day)
Children and teens 15
Adults, up to age 70 15
Adults, ages 71+ 20
Pregnant and breastfeeding women 15

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps maintain healthy bones and teeth – according to Healthline. It is found in most dairy and meat products. You can also get Vitamin D from sun exposure.

However, for a vegan lifestyle, you can find it in fortified dairy or juice products. Check your vegan dairy and juice products for Vitamin D.

Healthline also states that if you don’t get enough from Vitamin D from sun exposure and eating foods rich in Vitamin D.

Also, you can get additional Vitamin D from dietary supplements to reach the daily recommended intake needed.

It is important for you to get enough Vitamin D in your diet so you don’t become Vitamin D deficient or increase your chances of osteoporosis (brittle bones) or osteomalacia (weakening of bones).


Tips for Starting A Vegan Diet

Want to adopt a plant-based diet but don’t know where to begin? Here are some great tips to start.

  • Get rid of all animal products in your household. This means you should get rid of all meat, dairy, eggs, and oils. Instead of throwing all of this food away, donate them to your local food bank.
  • Research the benefits of veganism for yourself. Research how much you should be eating in one day to get all your necessary vitamins and minerals. Search vegan blogs and recipe databases for vegan recipes that appeal to you. Start creating a collection of vegan recipes in an organized binder to keep track of your favorite vegan recipes.
  • Create a meal plan to help you with your grocery list. For the first 30 days of your new vegan lifestyle be sure to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

You can start your vegan diet gradually or you can go cold turkey with all your animal products. It is ultimately up to you.

Try new food items and food combinations so you can figure out what you like and don’t like.

Be sure that you get enough protein, iron, calcium and Vitamin D in your vegan diet, so you are getting all the nutrients that your body needs.

Adopting a plant-based diet can help improve your overall health.

A plant-based diet is a natural way to reduce high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes prevention, lose weight, and improve your digestion.

Here are five simple steps to help you start a plant-based diet for healthy living.

1. Replace Meat with Plant-Based Proteins

Animal-based proteins are considered to be inflammatory because after a few hours of consumption it causes inflammation in the body. This happens because of bacterial toxins that are known as endotoxins. All of this inflammation can increase one’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers according to Michael Greger M.D. FACLM.

Begin replacing your animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins such as lentils (8.84g per ½ cup), tempeh (15g per ½ cup), organic firm tofu (10g per ½ cup), and edamame (8.5g per ½ cup) according to Medical News Today. These plant-based protein alternatives are rich in protein and have more fiber than animal meat.

2. Watch What You Are Snacking On

Plant-based friendly snacking is healthier than processed snacks. Processed snacks are low in nutritional value, low fiber, high in refined carbs, and high in sugar.

Replaced your snacks with fresh fruit and vegetables, fruit smoothies, and green juices.

You can always enjoy some nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts) and seeds (pumpkin). They are great snack options because they are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

There are plant-based processed snacks that are healthier than processed snacks, but it is best to eat foods in their natural organic state.

3. Be Sure To Eat Enough

Don’t deprive yourself of the proper nutrients and minerals that your body needs.

It is important for you to keep a healthy weight.

In order for you to keep a healthy weight make sure that you are consuming enough calories for your lifestyle.

The T. Colin Center for Nutrition Studies suggests for you calculate how many daily calories you need. Visualize the proper portions and know how many calories you are consuming.

Once you know your caloric intake and how big the right portions are for you – it’s important for you to hit that number on a daily basis. This will help prevent you from losing too much weight and keep you properly nourished. Also, it will help you plan your meals and snacks.

Be sure to eat throughout the day to help you keep your metabolism up.

4. Incorporate Whole Grains Into Your Meals

Don’t forget to add whole foods to your diet.

Add whole grains to your meals such as spelt, wheat, oats, brown rice, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa to your meals.

Whole grains are a great way to help you feel full in between meals.

The Whole Grain Council shares that whole grains have B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, and iron. They also make note that if you eat whole grains it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

5. Eat Plenty of Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Now that you are eliminating your intake of animal products incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

Fruits and vegetables are very diverse in flavors so you can add them into any meal with some herbs and spices. You can have a creative and colorful dish in a few minutes.

The USDA states that fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, fat, and calories.

Fruit and vegetables are rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folic acid.

Eat fruit alone, make them in smoothies, or fruit salad.

As for vegetables, eat them alone, make juices, or have them in a salad.


Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Benefits of a vegan diet extend far beyond weight-loss. Adopting a plant-based diet can help increase energy levels, increase consumption of fiber and vitamin C, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cancer.

People who adopt a gluten-free plant-based diet have reported increased energy levels, improved digestion and skin health, and improvement in overall wellness.

A plant-based diet is shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk for heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The USDA states that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect the body from chronic illnesses.

Additional health benefits of a plant-based diet can help reduce blood pressure and the development of kidney stones and decrease bone loss because of all the potassium.

healthy vegan diet

What Nutrients to Look Out For?

Some vegans may become deficient in certain nutrients that are commonly found in animal products. Keep these nutrients in mind when choosing what to eat:

Iron

Iron is a mineral that is involved in carrying oxygen to all our body parts. It is also needed for hormone and tissue production. Plant-based sources of iron include:

  • Iron-fortified foods, such as cereal and bread
  • White beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, and peas (see pea protein benefits)
  • Nuts and raisins

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral stored in our bones and teeth, making them strong and hard. It is also used for nerve function, muscle movement, hormone and enzyme release, and blow flow. Plant-based sources of calcium include:

  • Kale, broccoli, and collard greens
  • Calcium-fortified goods, such as cereals, juices, tofu, and plant-based beverages.
  • Chia seeds and sesame seeds

Zinc

Zinc is important for maintaining a strong immune system by attacking bacteria and viruses. It is also used to make DNA and protein and helps heal wounds. Plant-based sources of zinc include:

  • Zinc-fortified foods such as cereals
  • Beans, nuts, lentils, and whole grains
  • Hemp seeds and squash seeds

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps make DNA and keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. It is also involved in preventing a certain type of anemia that causes weakness.

  • Plant foods don’t have vitamin B12 so it is important to get them through fortified goods such as cereals and nutritional yeasts. They can be found in supplement form; most multivitamins contain vitamin B12.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin is a vitamin that helps convert food into energy and is used in the growth, development, and function of our bodies’ cells. Plant-based sources of riboflavin include:

  • Many green vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, and spinach
  • Fortified goods, such as cereals and bread

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that we need to get from food. They are an important part of cell membranes and heart, blood, and immune function. Plant-based sources of Omega-3’s include:

  • Walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
  • Plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils

Vegan diet benefits range from each individual, but all it takes is one decision to start. If you are looking to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet – look no further.

Closing Remarks

You can see that a plant-based diet offers many health benefits for healthy living.

Find new plant-based recipes so you can discover new dishes to try or make your favorite dishes plant-based. If you’re new to vegan cooking and don’t have the time to get busy in the kitchen, using a plant-based meal delivery service will take out the hassle of meal prepping and meal planning, making it easier to adopt a vegan diet.

Be sure to eat enough so you can get all the nutrients that you need to have a strong and healthy body.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and incorporate whole grains into your diet.

And don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.