I’m not trying to push my views on you. We all see things differently from where we sit. I myself used to have a different point of view and didn’t understand this one at all. I only ask that you keep an open mind reading this as it will challenge many things you learned growing up.
This is not another fad diet. In fact, let’s not call it a diet because it’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle. Continuing with this lifestyle will give you lasting benefits.
A plant-based diet is a way of eating focused on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, some nuts and seeds. It excludes animals and animal products, such as eggs and dairy. It also excludes highly processed products such as oils (yes, even olive oil is bad for you), refined flours and sugars.
Before I get to the questions that are surely coming up in your mind right now, let me tell you some of my reasons for adopting the lifestyle.
The advantages of this lifestyle are beyond what you’d imagine. I’ll do my best to cover the most important ones backed up by major studies, including the National Cancer Institute and the China Study. These are some of the most comprehensive studies of nutrition and health.
The bottom line is that a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. As people worldwide adopt a Western diet heavy on meat, dairy, and eggs, these problems are becoming more common.
One way to think of a plant-based diet is that it is more effectual and cost-effective (and delicious) than treatments like medicine and surgery.
Ask any vegan the number one question they get and they’ll tell you right away: “but where do you get your protein from?”
Somewhere along the way, people began believing they need extra protein to lose weight and build muscle. But excess protein is stored as fat, just like any other macronutrient.
Our bodies need a very low amount of protein. If you’re eating whole foods, it’s almost impossible to be deficient in protein. According to the World Health Organization, 5% of your total calories should go to protein, (about 38 grams for men and 29 grams for women). Whole foods have protein, even fruits! Lentils are 20% protein, beans 27%, oatmeal 15%, watermelon 8%, and spinach 50%. You get the idea.
Here’s something to consider: human milk is made up of 5% protein. That was the amount of protein we needed when we were growing the fastest, during infancy.
Animal protein and fat have been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, and weight gain. Even when the number of calories of meat were restricted per meal, people still gained weight compared to others who ate the same amount of calories on a meat-free diet. This wasn’t a bogus study. It followed hundreds of thousands of men and women across 10 countries with weight gain measured over a five year period and took into account their activity level, smoking habits, health, and dietary habits.
I grew up in Saudi repeating a song that translates to “Kids, drink milk, for health and strength, ask the doctor”. It rhymes in Arabic, but sounds terrible in English. Anyways, I grew up thinking that you can’t have strong bones without dairy. Right?
The calcium found in dairy products is not absorbed properly in the human body.
“Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine”
Cow’s milk is made for cows. It’s a no-brainer. It’s made to grow a baby calf 250 pounds in a year! It’s filled with naturally occurring hormones. That’s why many people struggle with weight-gain, indigestion, and acne when they consume dairy.
You don’t need to count calories in order to lose weight. It’s hard to gain fat eating plants, as they contain a lot of fiber that will fill you up. Another factor is that plants are lower in calories than animal products, so you need to eat more of them in order to get the same amount of calories.
Plants are also very nutritionally dense. Therefore, you get a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without eating too many calories.
I have more energy now than I ever did. I know that most people who go on a “fad” diet say the same, but after going vegan, I was able to give up coffee! Also, I no longer experience heartburn and bloating.
Others who went vegan report having more energy, glowing skin, less acne, feeling lighter, and easier trips to the bathroom.
How to Get Started
Eat enough, as plant-based foods are lower in calories. Don’t be afraid of eating a couple of potatoes, bananas, dates, etc. If you find it hard to eat enough because your stomach is not used to eating a larger volume of food, you can opt for foods higher in calories such as nuts and seeds.
Consider suitable substitutes. Instead of meat, you can eat beans, lentils, or starchy vegetables. There are many alternatives to dairy too. These include almond milk, coconut milk, etc. You can find “vegan cheese” at the supermarket, but I like to make my own. You can replace eggs in baking with applesauce, mashed banana, or 1 tbsp. flaxseeds with 2.5 tbsp. of water.
The key to succeeding in this lifestyle is to be educated. Below are some helpful tools.
Documentaries: The Best Speech Ever, Forks Over Knives, and Cowspiracy.
Books: How Not to Die, The Starch Solution, and The Happy Vegan.
YouTube: Bite Size Vegan, NutritionFacts.org, Vegan Gains, and The Vegan Corner.
Athletes: Jon Venus, BananaBlondie108, Vegan Fitness Model, and Torre Washington.
Arabic: @VeganOnlyNajla, @Veganksa, and KuwaitVegan.