With the rise of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, our modern diets are being examined further for possible causes. Several causes, such as an increase in our consumption of processed foods, has been proposed. Also, the imbalance of different food groups in our diets — overwhelming stacked with greater meat and dairy consumption and less produce and healthy grains — could be a major factor.

If you’re considering a vegan diet, now is a good time. With a wider variety of foods available at your local grocer and well as speciality shops, most people have access to a greater selection of plant-based foods. Going vegan can be a bit of a challenge, but making the transition slowly and ensuring that you get key nutrients with plant-only sources will help you as you retool your eating habits. You’re in for a fun, healthy and gloriously tasty adventure.

Switch Out Animal Foods Slowly Over Time

It’s quite hard for most people to make incredibly sweeping changes straightaway, and it’s no different for lifestyle or dietary modifications. Unless you’re the sort who’s successful at jumping into an endeavour with both feet, it’s best that you set small goals for replacing animal foods in your meals at first. You might opt to change one meal at a time — for example, eating meat-free breakfasts for a week or two until you work out how to swap your old choices for new ones. Or you could devote one or two days per week to vegan meals only.

Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin B12 and Iron

The two most critical nutrients for which you’ll need to find new sources are vitamin B12 and iron. Vitamin B12 is nearly exclusively found naturally in animal products, and without it, you’re in danger of anaemia, nerve damage, heart disease and other complications. The Vegan Society has published an excellent guide on how to ensure you include enough B12 in your eating plan. You need at least three micrograms total per day, and the best way to get this is either a supplement or to eat B12 fortified foods.

And while most people source their iron from animal foods, it is entirely possible to get your optimal intake from produce and grain sources only. Green leafy vegetables are iron powerhouses, and the added benefit is that many varieties also contain high amounts of vitamin C, which is needed for improved iron absorption. For example, Health.com includes kale in its list of foods with more vitamin C than oranges — and for good reason, because it contains 80.4 milligrams of C for every one cup serving.

Plant-Based Sources for Protein, Calcium and Fat

Many individuals believe that meat and dairy are the best sources of protein, calcium and fat. This is simply not true, given that many plant foods are great sources of these three nutrients. For protein, turns to beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and certain kinds of grains. Calcium is supplied by green leafy vegetables, oranges, kidney beans and black-eyed beans and some fortified foods.

And if you’re looking for heart-healthy fats, there are no better sources than plant foods. Stellar performers include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil and coconut oil, all of which are good sources of monounsaturated fat. The reason this is so important is that monounsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels. Switching out your old animal-based cooking oils for them is a great way to get your fat intake. And if you want to replace your old mayonnaise and other dressings, try plant-based versions such as the Just Mayo line by Hampton Creek, a non-dairy egg-free alternative which contains non-GMO canola oil and pea protein.

Eating Out Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Of course, you’re going to want to go get takeaway or go out to dinner with friends. But with so many kinds of cuisines that contain vegetarian and vegan dishes, you’re in luck. Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Ethiopian are top choices. And although you should inquire about meat-free and dairy-free options with your server, some creamy dishes use coconut milk instead of milk products, which is a plus.

With all the food choices available to you today, going vegan is easier than ever before. Making revolutionary dietary changes straightaway is hard, but gradual modifications will ease you into your new lifestyle. Eating a vast array of foods and being cognisant of your nutritional needs are crucial steps to making successful changes. Increased wellness, as well as new culinary ventures, await you.

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