I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine years old, and have been 100% vegan for almost a year now.
I’m not one to go around and preach my views on veganism, but it always gets brought up if I’m out with people for a meal. What follows is a bunch of questions, as I’m sure all of the other vegans out there would understand.
From my own experience, these are some of the most common ones…
The decision to give up all animal products was a combination of my original reason as a kid to ditch meat (I hated the taste and texture), to now, after learning more about the dairy and egg industry.
Also, watching documentaries have 100% convinced me that I could never go back to eating any kind of animal product.
How do you get your protein?
How do I count thee ways… I get my protein from the following foods:
- Black beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Peanut butter
- Chia seeds
Also, diets with high animal protein can be linked to higher levels of the IGF-1 hormone in the body, which is cancer promoting. So plant-based protein sources could actually be better for you.
How do you get your iron?
Heme iron is found in animal products and non-heme iron is found in plant-based food.
The non-heme type is harder to absorb, but with the right foods, you can still get enough iron.
Here are some high-iron plant-based foods:
- Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans
- Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistachio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame/tahini
- Vegetables: tomato sauce, Swiss chard, collard greens,
- Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice
The less iron you eat in one go, the quicker it’s absorbed. Also, avoid coffee when having iron as it can interfere with absorption due to tannins found in it (even decaf).
Although a lot of people turn to spinach as an iron source, it’s surprisingly not a great choice. Spinach has oxalates which blocks absorption of iron.
Another tip – have your iron with vitamin C (hello, OJ) for better absorption.
But I’m a man, don’t I have to eat meat?
Incorrect. It has been drilled into our heads through ads that meat is associated with being a ‘man’ and forming a stereotype.
The LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ kind) is predominately found in animal products and has been linked to erectile dysfunction, a study by the Massachusetts Male Ageing Study found.
How can you live off salads?
A common misconception is that if you’re eating a plant-based diet, the only things you consume are boring salads.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. But, a filling salad with quinoa, falafel or tofu, tahini and vegetables is definitely on the menu.
You can pretty much get vegan alternatives from most places. For example, Mexican eateries are great as we can devour a giant burrito filled with tofu, beans, vegetables, guacamole and rice. Even Dominos do vegan pizzas now.
I don’t think I could live without cheese… where do you get your calcium?
A lot of people think that vegans have trouble getting enough calcium, and that the only source is from cow’s milk, which has been drilled into us since childhood through ads.
However, there are a lot of plant-based calcium sources out there:
- Cooked broccoli
- Cooked collard greens
- Cooked bok choy
- Blackstrap molasses
- Orange juice
- Dried figs
- Calcium-fortified milk alt
- Tofu (processed with calcium sulphate)
- Almond butter
Where do you get Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is the most challenging vitamin to get enough of as a vegan, as the best sources come from red meat and seafood.
However, there are still plant-based food to get enough B12 from, including:
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified cereal (such as corn flakes)
- Fortified soy products
- Fortified almond milk
I hope this helps non-vegans have a better understanding of how and why people turn to veganism.
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