VEGAN: ONE YEAR ON
Curious about the changes and experiences you gain from a vegan lifestyle? Curious about the benefits or challenges? Or do you possibly just what to grasp an insight as to what veganism is like? Well, read on!
Firstly, I just want to acknowledge the fact that here I am sharing my own personal experiences, and these may not be the same for every individual who has tried going vegan. However, I will include information and statistics from independent sources which demonstrate factual information based on accredited studies about veganism.
1. Skin health & the
The most prominent change I discovered transitioning into a vegan lifestyle was an improvement in my skin, as it became clearer and any acne was significantly reduced. Due to my atopic dermatitis (otherwise known as eczema), I have experienced considerable difficulties over the past three years with my facial skin and knuckles in particular. I had drastic brick-red flushes, which could last up to eight hours at a time, followed by flaky, cracked skin only leaving me with sore open wounds. It was not pleasant. As I was vegetarian at the time I was still consuming dairy, however dairy has the strongest link to increasing and causing acne and skin problems!
However, after approximately one month vegan I noticed that my crimson flushes occurred less frequently, decreased in severity and the dryness of my skin also substantially decreased. Today, my skin is much healthier and experiencing little problems with my eczema and acne; just in time for prom!
A study from the Appalachian State University concluded that a plant-based diet can significantly decrease oxidative damage within the body, therefore strengthen the immune system as a vegan diet is often much higher in antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin E) and is enriched with phytochemicals from sources such as soy. However, It is important to note that a vegan diet should also consist of maintained levels of vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. These are readily abundant in leafy greens, flaxseeds, chia seeds and vitamin B12 fortified nutritional yeast.
My immunity has also greatly increased, as I’m glad to say I’ve contracted no colds so far this winter! Before going vegan I would often catch a common cold up to three times each year (along with other unpleasant bugs), however since being vegan I have felt healthier, fitter and not under the weather when other people it my household have been greatly suffering. So, unfortunately I’m not having a sick day any time soon…
2. Lunches for school
School and food. This was one unavoidable challenge for me, as having usually relied on freshly cooked food, plated on sparkling hot plates for four years didn’t do me too much justice when my school canteen only offered one vegan meal per week. Hum, I wonder what they thought when they decided to provide suitable options for that one vegan student, but ironically also decided to only be able to feed that student once a week? Oh, well!
Excluding the single vegan option each week, the only other vegan alternatives were, fresh fruit, baked beans, steamed vegetables and a selection of soda and – water. This was not going to be a suitable arrangement – so, I introduced myself to food prep. I began preparing packed lunches for the whole week each Sunday which often consisted of roasted vegetables, cooked wholegrains and legumes with pumpkin seeds and pomegranate molasses dressings to cheesy baked casseroles and peanut butter and jelly pittas. It was even more delicious!
As time went on, I have found this a much more pleasurable activity as it enables me to ensure I’m getting in my required nutrition, I’m choosing my own meals, I can decide the portion sizes, it often saves money than purchasing lunches from school and beyond all else I find my meals are even more enjoyable. This is because I have full satisfaction from the time i’ve spent preparing it and I can add additions like avocado, mexican spices, fresh lime juice. Some of my favourite dishes perfect for meal prep are courtesy of:
3. Improved metabolism
& Digestive health
Sometime which i can be quite a controversial subject when debating veganism is digestive health. This is often due to the fact that consuming a wholefood plant-based diet your body needs to physically break down more food and is often consuming more fibre. The concern for this with few people is gas and bloating, however this is not true with all people and often comes down to food combining which I will link here.
Personally, I found veganism greatly increased my metabolism as I have energy more often, it is a lot easier to maintain my figure and has reduced my bloating or feeling of heavy satiation. I have found that this has massively improved my confidence and now I feel comfortable wearing crop tops and tight fit clothing. Surprisingly, as my metabolism had increased I found I was able to consume greater volumes of food and eat more often, which was beneficial as it allowed me to eat more intuitively (still having the occasional snack) and fixate less on the next time I was going to eat something.
Studies have found, transitioning to a vegan diet positively alters your gut microbiome ( i.e. the types of bacteria cultivating in your digestive system). This has found to reduce inflammation and boost the metabolism. This is also due to increased energy levels and sleep, which enable your body to regulate accumulated toxins. But ultimately, the positive impact on the metabolism is due to a higher consumption of fibre.
The increasing fibre in my diet I found to reduce congestion in my digestive system and it greatly improved my regulation so I feel able to participate in more activities, sports, and feel lighter in my body.
4. EATING with family
On the other side, a slight challenge which arose was the dilemma of eating with family, as all other five individuals in my household are ‘heavy carnivores’ as they like to say… This subject often proves to be a tricky one for all people with seperate dietary requirements in general, which can often lead to tension in the kitchen, heated disagreements and even a lack of understanding and support.
When I transitioned to veganism I was already fully independent with cooking and none of my family ate together anyway (yes they preferred to spend time far away from each other glaring at football in separate rooms) , which personally made a plant-based lifestyle easier to explore so I could try new cuisines or ingredients that my family may have be reluctant to try.
The meals I would cook were not particularly hard but often in fact easy, quick and nutritious dishes which quickly dispelled the myth that ‘eating a sustainable vegan diet is hard work’. Meals I often turned to included: mixed bean chilli, tarka dhal, roasted sweet potato salad, quinoa buddha bowls, sun-dried tomato scrambled tofu, carrot cake pitta bread, aubergine stew, vegan mac’ n’ cheese and even a coconut banana cake for my 15th birthday!
In contrast, most people following a vegan lifestyle find it very troublesome at meals as one dish may be prepared for the whole family. If this is the case – remember your motives for going vegan; don’t be dissuaded by other people! For example, you may be be having spaghetti bolognese, so prepare the marinara sauce with the pasta (yes. Most pasta is vegan because it is made out of wheat) and then separate an individual portion into a small saucepan to mix in lentils, beans or vegan mince whilst your family cooks in beef in the other pot. This is a simple and reliable method that can be applied to many dishes.
Here is a great link to check out some simple plant-based substitutes when cooking for a family.
In turn, it does make it a lot easier to get exploratory enjoyment from plant-based food if you cook more independently because it offers you more flexibility and may even expand your families interest in plant-based food, for instance if you make that delicious vegan mac n’ cheese, delicious roasted butternut squash tarka dhal, or even some fruity sultana oatmeal cookies to show them how good a healthier, wholesome lifestyle can be!
5. FOOD EXPLORATION &
As touched upon, a major benefit I gained from going vegan was educating myself on nutrition, the benefits of consuming certain foods and how they would impact my body, emotions and health long term such as reducing your risk of heart disease by 40% and even reversing it. The prominent tool I used for this was Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist. First going vegan I found this a simple necessity. It enabled my to plan a healthy, balanced vegan diet which ensured I had a diet particularly rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamin A , C, E, calcium and iron.
For example leafy greens, such as kale, broccoli, sprouts and legumes are packed with more than a sufficient amount of calcium and iron. On top of that, almond milk is fortified with the same amount or more calcium (124 mg/100 ml) than dairy milk (120mg/ 100m), but offers no dietary cholesterol, saturated fat or casein. (Happy, happy, happy.)
Study on dairy protein, T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University
“Rats fed on a diet of 20% casein showed significantly enhanced levels of early cancerous tumour clusters over a 12 week study, compared to rats fed on a diet of 5% casein showing no evidence of cancer growth.
In addition to this evidence based information, I was also educated on protein which is every person’s common concern upon entering the mysterious plant-based realm… (okay, a little bit of exaggeration there.) 1. Veganism has been approved safe for all stages of life including infancy, pregnancy and lactation. 2. A well-planned vegan diet can provide a more than sufficient intake of protein from such sources as:
– Soy (tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy milk/ yoghurt)
– Legumes and pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas)
– Wholegrains (quinoa, buckwheat, wholewheat flour, brown rice)
and much more…
100g of beans and 100g of beef both contain 22g of protein and 100 calories of broccoli contains 11g of protein, whereas 100g of beef contains 8g of protein in addition to 7.4g of saturated fat. Also, did you know that despite the popularity of animal products, 60% of protein in our diet actually comes from plants?
Personally, I found this meant veganism had little to no restrictions for my macronutrients, along with the rocket in availability of vegan food in 2019, there was an ocean stretch of plant-based food available, from the nostalgic Greggs vegan sausage roll to rolling fields of varieties of vegan cheese.
The availability of this information and surplus vegan products meant I was well equipped to live a healthy and balanced vegan lifestyle, enjoy all of my favourite foods in vegan versions, and enjoy social situations where food was involved.
6. RESPECT & SUPPORT
Shifting to a vegan lifestyle in January 2019, brought some unexpected challenges in the term of family support. As despite my enthusiasm, research and confidence I had for transitioning to veganism, my family just couldn’t understand the true meaning I had for doing it and simply saw it as a short-lived fad as my aunt quoted, “Well, make sure you look at other diets first.” Um, okay…
This struck me in many ways, as it made me feel slightly distant from those around me because I had modified my moral, so compared to my families moral, unconsciously my moral belief in veganism questioned their moral, threatened their moral; a natural reaction to any different situation which may then be perceived as ‘radical’.
But despite this, I had respect from my family and respect from my friends (who had to put up with me anyway) because they understood that I went vegan to try to do good, even from my nan who is 80 years old, and doesn’t really understand what veganism is…
Moreover, social network accounts with plant-based ethics such as, livekindly, veganuary, #plantbaseddiet gave my constant motivation and support through my plant-based journey. They enabled my to talk to similar people, check out amazing sweet recipes, new vegan products and even inspiration in the kitchen. I have found facebook significantly supportive, as I was able to join vegan groups within my area and now I have made local vegan friends, visited some awesome plant-based events and made knowledgeable of vegan food options in my area. Thank you VGN Boulevard!
Despite these early challenges I faced with social support, not only were my family now happily picking up vegan cookies any time they saw them for me :), but I also gained a much greater amount of self-respect. As I was putting into action my love for all animals, belief in a less polluted environment and a healthier lifestyle – I crafted myself a much more positive self-concept and had more confidence. This lead to me being more comfortable in whatever I wore, being more grateful in my life and a new love of snacking! I have even been less stressed at school and have achieved amazing marks in my mocks – which I believe just trying to live a little bit of good had to do with!
In conclusion, it is my opinion based on my personal experience that the benefits of veganism have greatly outweighed any challenges. I feel more open to try anything new and will gladly eat anything with ‘vegan’ on the label. For me, veganism made me feel good and has allowed my to explore a passion for cooking and I love that I can embrace that I am different and having a positive influence on others.
I would recommend anyone to try veganism making sure it is a well-planned plant-based diet using Dr. Greger’s daily dozen here. However, I do not advocate replacing any medication with a plant-based diet and if you have any concerns, you should arrange an appointment with your doctor. Veganism, shouldn’t be used as a tool to lose weight, but it can improve health and plant-based diets are supported by leading nutritionists. Veganism has been shown to increase longevity and it is possible to put on muscle mass on a vegan diet.
By JAMIE WATERS
Spread the word
“THE ONLY REGRET I HAVE GOING VEGAN IS THAT I DIDN'T DO IT SOON ENOUGH”