If you’re thinking of joining the hundreds of thousands worldwide who have pledged to go vegan this January, then there are some things you’ll need to bear in mind.
Veganuary started back in 2014 and has since seen more than a million people take on the challenge of going plant-based for a whole month at the start of each new year. The hope is that, by doing so, more people will realise that a vegan diet really can work for them.
Nutritionist Resource member Sonal Shah specialises in vegan diets, and so understands all the benefits such a lifestyle can bring.
She says: ‘If a healthy, balanced vegan diet is followed, you will have more energy, better quality sleep, better digestion with less bloating, and less constipation.
‘Your mood and hormones will be better balanced, too, and you may even have better eyesight, hair and skin.’
But making such a big, sudden change in your diet does come with some caveats, and the adjustment isn’t necessarily that easy to make.
Cutting out staples of your everyday diet such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs can be a struggle for some, as finding adequate replacements for these foods isn’t always clear cut. So going vegan, even if it is just for a month, will require you to really think about what your body needs.
‘Not being aware of the alternate protein and other essential nutrients available in plant-based foods could be a reason why some give up,’ says Sonal. ‘This is why it’s important to check over your diet plan with a nutritionist, who can help you draw up a personalised list of alternative healthy vegan foods from each food group.’
By getting your diet checked, you can be sure you’re getting exactly what you need from the meals you eat.
However, short of that, you yourself will have to keep an eye on what you need and what sources you’re going to get it from. Sonal suggests you ask yourself: ‘Am I getting enough protein, essential fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals?’
‘Many vegans I see are low in iron, vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,’ Sonal continues. It is all too easy to lose out on essential nutrients if you aren’t careful.
If your levels of such nutrients do start to dip when you go vegan, you will more than likely experience tiredness and low mood, your immune system may be weakened, and you could start having problems with your hair, skin and nails.
To avoid these sorts of negative side-effects and really reap the many benefits of a healthy, balanced vegan lifestyle, you need to have the right sort of attitude. While going vegan for a month may not sound like that big of a deal to some, it is important for your health and wellbeing that you do things properly.
‘Motivation and dedication is essential, as is learning more about vegan diets and finding tasty recipes to keep you inspired. A diet shouldn’t feel restrictive, and if someone follows a vegan diet they should enjoy it,’ Sonal explains.
So, if you’re serious about doing Veganuary and plan to keep on eating more plant-based foods when January is over, make sure you’re doing it in the right way. If you do, you could be on your way to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
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