Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Week one down. I must say I don’t feel particularly badly, but I’ve felt better. The peculiar sensation I mentioned in my last entry hasn’t dissipated, and yes, the rumours of the gastrointestinal welcoming committee to veganism are true. I’ll be ladylike and keep the details to myself, but I have lost six pounds in the past week. I would venture to guess most of it was flushed down the toilet and leave it at that.

On the upside (and despite the cantankerous groaning of my nether region), I have noticed a positive and discernible difference in my complexion. I’ve always contended with the type of skin that required a fair amount of attention to look healthy. But the other day my mother commented on the discernible glow and clarity of my skin. I took a look a little later and she was right; I’m looking good.

Today’s edition of Gone Vegan marks first installment of my Vegan Defense Primer. Though the topic of my veganism is new one, I always seem to cross paths with someone who feels it his or her right, privilege and pleasure to attempt to give me a barbed cross examination as to Just How Wrong I Am to Adopt Veganism. Most haven’t the slightest as to what they speak of and fewer still say anything that is rooted in any sound or current dietetic information, but I thought it worthy to learn to deflect and respond to the queries of the carnivorous peanut gallery.

(Note: Sure, many people have friendly questions about the nuts and bolts of vegan nutrition, but I haven’t seemed to come across too many of these of late. Maybe it’s the weather. Or the economy?)

Getting Some (Protein, That Is…)

Many believe vegetarian diets lack sufficient protein. This notion likely stems from the (inaccurate) mythology surrounding animal flesh as the gold standard of protein value. This isn’t the case. Poor diet planning, whether you eat meat and dairy or not, can offer insufficient protein. Both the Canadian and American national dietitian associations have stated that plant based proteins are equal in nutritive value to those derived from animals. Proteins are comprised of a combination of 22 amino acids, nine of which need to be received from food sources; all of these required amino acids are found in plant sources.

Like any diet, veganism works best if you’re obtaining your nutrient base from a variety of sources, especially protein. Tofu, soy products and legumes offer the highest amount of protein, with nuts, seeds, sprouts and dark green veggies following closely behind. The Canadian Dietetic Association offers a handy set of suggestions as to how vegetarian and vegan protein sources should work in your diet, as well as the Vegan Food Guide (as found the essential book, Becoming Vegan).

To figure out how much protein you require, take your weight in kilograms, multiply it by 0.9, and that will give you how much protein you should be aiming for. Most health organizations suggest that between 10-35% of your diet should consist of protein; those who are more physically active or are seeking weight loss should aim toward the higher end. Anyone interested in checking out the protein value in many foods, take a look at Health Canada’s table of nutrient values.

In sum, protein is of little worry to vegans if we’re eating smart with a focus on fresh foods and variety. Additionally, plant based proteins are free of cholesterol and most saturated fats. For a moderately active adult, a typical day’s protein-packed, meal plan could look something like this:

-Granola and frut with vanilla soymilk for breakfast;

-Spinach salad with sprouts and sunflower seeds and chickpeas for lunch;

-A bowl of vegetarian chili (try it with Yves Meatless Ground Round instead of beef) with tortilla chips for supper.

Next on Gone Vegan: Two catchily titled, stellar vegan recipes Lindsay regularly prepares for her carnivorous friends and families, with rave reviews!