Veganism is a trend that has become hugely popular in the past decade with celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Joaquin Phoenix adopting the diet. Unlike vegetarian diets which simply imply strictly animal-free grub, veganism takes it a step further by eliminating all animal products from the plate, including eggs, honey and dairy.
Following such a strict diet could prove challenging. Firstly, meat and fish are jam-packed full of vitamin B-12, a key nutrient which Reed Mangels says is required by the body for metabolizing energy, amino acids and maintaining proper brain and nervous system function.
Vegetarians could still get their share from milk, cheese and yogurt but if you’re planning on breaking vegan full-time, you’ll have to stock up on B-12 supplements and fortified foods, in addition to calcium and vitamin D.
Dinner time with non-vegan friends and family could also make it seem a bit of an uphill battle and dining out at restaurants could be a hassle if they don’t specifically cater to vegan diets. Fortunately though, there are several funky vegan friendly cafés here in Calgary such as The Coup, Hearts Choices Thai Vegan Café and Tamarind Vietnamese Grill & Noodle House.
There are also advantages to following such a diet. If we look at what athletes like Brendan Brazier have achieved, we can see that it is possible, if you know what you’re doing, to live solely on veggies and build a strong and healthy body. Some maintain that veganism has benefits for the brain, with Canadian poker champion Daniel Negreanu saying that skipping meat and dairy helped him to become “a better poker player”.
Naturally, a veggie intensive diet is not only a great source of antioxidants and brain food but, can also lower the risk of high blood pressure and the development of Type 2 Diabetes. But it’s not necessary to become a fully-fledged vegan to reap the benefits associated with this diet.
Going “flexitarian” and just enjoying the occasional vegan meal and reducing the amount of animal products in the diet in general could go a long way to improving your health. And if you’re wondering where to start, below are some quick and yummy recipes.
Simple Vegan Stir Fry
Heat up some vegetable or peanut oil in a wok or skillet and bring some soba or whole wheat noodles to the boil. Cube some tofu, brown it in the wok then set aside. Add some sliced pak choi to the wok along with some green beans, chopped bell peppers and white cauliflower.
Add a splash of soy sauce and fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes before adding a minced clove of garlic and some grated ginger. Squeeze in a dash of juice from a lime and add some freshly chopped coriander. At this stage the noodles will be ready to throw in with the mix and keep tossing (or stirring) the mix for about another two minutes.
Serve in a bowl and sprinkle some more coriander on top.
Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous
This one’s a no brainer. Simply slice whatever Mediterranean vegetables you like and add them to a baking tray with foil. I recommend using red bell peppers, eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes and red or green bell peppers.
Slice the peppers into one inch, slice the eggplant and zucchinis to about one centimeter, quarter the tomatoes and add the lot to a bowl. Drizzle with some vegetable oil then add to the baking tray. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 25 minutes or until they look slightly wrinkly and juicy.
About five minutes before the veg is done, add about 120 grams of cous cous to a bowl and about 200 milliliters of boiling water. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes and then stir through with a fork and add the veg.
This light, nutritious salad is great for lunch and will give you a slow releasing boost of energy. Mix up some grated or powdered ginger in a bowl with some chili sauce, soybean miso paste, some white wine vinegar, sesame oil and freshly squeezed orange juice to make a zingy dressing, about half a cup of dressing should be enough. P
ut some tempeh in the grill for about 3 minutes each side until brown and in the last 2 minutes, add some chopped pineapple and give a minute to each side. Throw the chopped pineapple into a salad bowl with some lettuce and peas. Pour over the dressing and toss.
Slice up the tempeh and throw on top with some thinly sliced white onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
These recipes are quick and easy to get used to. You can play around with the ingredients and change it up a bit. They can also start as a good base for a lot of more complex vegan meals as well. They are a great meat free and cholesterol lowering alternative.