So, you’ve decided 2018 is going to be your year and that means getting healthy and losing weight. Right? Well, you’ve already heard about low-fat, high-carb, gluten-free, GMO-free, ketogenic, high-fat low carb and even vegan diets. It can seem confusing, and honestly, a bit overwhelming. How are we supposed to know what we should be eating? Well, I’m here to guide you should you wish to dip your toes in the vegan water.

Let’s break it down. Over the last 50 or so years, a lot of research has been conducted. I think one thing we can ALL agree on is that food is meant to heal our bodies and help us stay in optimal health. Who doesn’t want to look and feel their best? If you want to try something that is proven to be healthy for your body, do wonders for your skin, and yes, even help you shed those unwanted pounds then keep reading.

Backstory:

Not too long ago, and ironically enough on Thanksgiving, I was waiting for dinner to be prepared when I decided to watch a documentary (I had been on a documentary kick for about two weeks because let’s be honest, Netflix). I loaded up a documentary called “Earthlings,” not knowing anything about it (I normally don’t watch trailers as I like to be surprised—well, I was surprised, let me tell you). The documentary essentially shows you how your meat is made. That means how several different types of animals are killed, how your meat is cleaned (I use that term very lightly), and also, how different things are added to make it look and taste better (hormones, colorants to make fish appear pinker, etc.). Now, this documentary made Ellen go vegan, and that day, it made Lina go vegan as well. Not knowing anything about veganism (or even vegetarianism), I was angry, distraught and disgusted as to what I had been putting in my body and what I was supporting. I became vegan in under 24-hours. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the easiest of starts—I didn’t know what to eat, what was happening with my body and my skin, and most of all, how to stay full. I definitely couldn’t eat salads all day long, so lucky for you, I’ll provide some important information in this article to help things go easier for you, should you wish to try.

What’s a Vegan?

A vegan is someone who does not eat meat (this includes fish), dairy or eggs. Normally, most vegans apply this outside of the diet realm and don’t wear fur, leather or any other items that may have animal on them. Most also buy cruelty-free items and try to avoid using products with animals or animal by-products (i.e.- a blush which has crushed beetle in it, yeah that’s a thing). Someone who refers to themselves as plant-based means they eat a vegan diet but it ends there. They may or may not wear furs, leather or buy cosmetics with animal by-products. According to the dictionary, a vegan is: “a person who does not eat or use animal products.”

What Do I Eat when I Go Vegan?

The approach I would recommend you take is to start off by trying to reduce your intake of meat and dairy (unless you’re like me and just want to go all in). Focus on adding more whole, plant-based foods (rice, potatoes, fruits, veggies) and reducing your meat, dairy and eggs. Removing (or reducing dairy) is one of the top recommendations most people give for better health. Dairy is high in saturated fat (which can lead to stroke and heart attacks), it’s an amatory (the root cause of many chronic diseases), and the growth hormones in dairy can stimulate malignant cell growth and proliferation. When you give up dairy in particular, you will notice your skin glowing and acne reducing (seriously, try it). Know that dairy lurks in every food (chicken, tomato soup, salsa, iced-tea and many other not-so-obvious sources), so make sure you read the labels carefully.

I highly recommend picking up The China Study by Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II. It is one of America’s best-selling books about nutrition and it encompasses the most comprehensive study ever done (really, ever, in the world) as to why everyone should ditch dairy, meat, eggs, poultry and fish. The China Study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer. It concludes that people who eat a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet—avoiding animal products as a main source of nutrition, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates—will escape, reduce, and even reverse the development of numerous diseases.

Disclaimer: When you become vegan, and eat this way, know that there are some side effects. Almost everyone loses weight eating this way (I myself lost 50 pounds), your nails and skin will improve, your energy will be through the roof, your bowel functions will increase as you will become more regular (fiber, baby), stronger and shinier hair and much, much more. However, when you initially go vegan the first few weeks can be a bit rough. You may experience the whole ‘bad before better’ thing that can occur for some. You may get bloated (beans, baby), your skin may break out (all the gunk has to surface somewhere as bacteria busts out, and sadly, at the beginning, it may be your skin), and you may experience some headaches.

The reason this occurs is because your body essentially goes into withdrawal mode. You are removing dairy (which has opiates- ever wonder why you feel ‘addicted’ to cheese?) and meat, which have a ton of sodium, sugar, colorants, hormones, opiates like I mentioned, and other gunk I don’t even have the time to list. So obviously due to all of this, your body might be out of balance the first few weeks, but don’t worry, you will balance out and experience the benefits mentioned in the above in no time. Trust me, breakouts for one week are a small price to pay vs. clear skin moving forward. Not to mention, improved focus, energy and weight-loss.

I will list some resources at the end of this article which will provide you with jam-packed information as to why going vegan is so healthy for your body, how your health can improve, and obviously, how that helps in weight-loss and overall health. In the below, I will list some sample meal options should you wish to try eating one vegan meal a day or one vegan meal a week.

What About Protein?

I’m glad you asked. Protein is necessary for building, maintaining and repairing tissues in the body including our muscles, bones, skin and blood. It also regulates hormones and enzymes, fights infections and heals wounds. There are twenty amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Our bodies can make eleven of those and nine are called “essential amino acids,” which must come from the food we eat. A variety of plant-based foods provides all nine of these essential amino acids so don’t worry—plenty of protein to go around.

Women typically need around forty-six grams of protein per day and men require roughly fifty-six grams. It’s simple to gauge your individual needs by multiplying your weight (in pounds) by .36 to determine daily protein needs in grams. Remember, even kale and broccoli contain protein. A resource I initially enjoyed using was checking out www.nutritiondata.com to find out how much protein each food contains. It definitely simplifies things.

ve also compiled a short list of protein rich foods, and remember, most, if not all, mock-meats and dairy alternatives have protein.

Protein Sources: Lentils (9 grams per half cup along with 15 grams of fiber), Seitan, Tofu, Tempeh, Black Beans, Quinoa, Amaranth, Soy Milk, Flax Milk, Hemp Milk (almost all of the milks, really), Green Peas, Artichokes, Hemp Seeds, Oatmeal, Pumpkin Seeds, Chia Seeds, Edamame, Spinach, Black Eyed Peas, Broccoli, Asparagus, Green Beans, Almonds, Spirulina, Tahini, Nutritional Yeast, Chickpeas, Peanut Butter and obviously, vegan protein powders.

One of the biggest bonuses when becoming vegan (aside eating a variety of foods and becoming more creative in the kitchen) is that you experience an abundance of minerals and vitamins. As an example, the majority of plant-based foods that have protein have an added bonus such as a high content of fiber and are mineral and vitamin rich.

B12:

Vitamin B12 is crucial for normal brain and nervous system functions and for the formation of healthy blood cells. It also plays a central role in DNA synthesis and cell metabolism.

cannot be obtained by plants or sunlight. B12 is not produced by plants OR animals. I repeat, while it is true that plants do not produce vitamin B12, neither do animals. Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria that lives in the soil (and in the intestines of animals, including humans). When it comes to humans and other animals, it is generally manufactured too far down the intestinal tract (in the colon, in our case) to be absorbed and is instead excreted in feces where it is abundant. When it comes to nature, we scrub our fruits and veggies so all bacteria and dirt is removed, so either way you look at it, whether you eat meat or not, everyone needs to have B12 in their diet.

Vitamin B12 is required in smaller amounts than any other vitamin. Due to this, 100 micrograms of B12 per day (or 1000 mcg twice a week) prove to be sufficient. If you don’t like taking vitamins, you can buy nutritional yeast which is loaded with B12. Nutritional yeast can be put in smoothies, on top of your salad, in a strew, or you can use it to make a vegan mac and cheese (google, my friend). If you don’t want to take a vitamin B12, stick to nutritional yeast and try increasing your intake of mock-meats, non-dairy alternatives and breakfast cereals (as they are B12 heavy, normally).

Resources, Tips and Tricks

Build your plant-based diet on a firm foundation and on real nutritional information. Remember, no one can take better care of your health than wise, capable, strong YOU.

I will list some books and documentaries so you can gather a TON of information since this article is an introduction. I own all of the books I am recommending (and have obviously read them) and for the documentaries, know I’ve seen them all and am recommending the best of the best. For the documentaries in particular, health means they are scientifically, research founded and focus on health specifically. Environmental documentaries speak to how going vegan will help the environment, and obviously, the ethical documentaries are those that may have some squeamish scenes. The health documentaries in particular do not—so don’t be afraid to watch them and learn about ways to improve your health.

Documentaries to Watch

All can be found online for free and the majority are even on Netflix

Health: What the Health

Forks Over Knives

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Crazy, Sexy, Cancer

Get the Facts on Milk

Ethics: Earthlings

Blackfish

The Cove

Environment: Cowspiracy The Sustainability Secret

Some Books to Read:

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study on Nutrition Ever   

  Conducted by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent

  and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger M.D., FACIM with Gene Stone

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.

The Kind Diet: by Alicia Silverstone

Skinny Bitch: by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin

Recipe Books:

There’s a ton but the two most used and beneficial I’ve found to be are The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon and Thug Kitchen by Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis.

After reading this article feel free to conduct your own research and gather your own facts, after all, the internet is here to be utilized. If you take one thing away from this article its that I want you to know you can have a healthy and happy life that enables you to feel and look good. Don’t feel that you have to go vegan cold to-furkey. You can try eating one vegan meal a day or even one vegan meal a week. Do your best and know the health you desire is within your reach.