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The Healthful Vegan Diet

‘Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.’ ~Hippocrates

By Leo Babauta

Eat plants. Those two words are the best things I’ve learned about diet, and if you stick to that, you’re likely be pretty healthy.

That said, eating a vegan diet (no animal products) doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy diet, despite what many believe.

Yes, vegans on average are healthier and leaner than the average person. But that’s an average — there are unhealthy vegans.

How is that possible? You can eat lots of sweets, fried foods, processed foods, foods with white flour (breads, cakes, cookies, pasta), and beer, and still be a vegan. And not super healthy.

Since going vegan, I’ve slowly transitioned my diet from the convenient vegan foods (prepared plant “meats”, pizzas, beer, delicious vegan sweets), to something much healthier.

I’d like to share that with you today.

Amazing Plant Foods

Here’s what I suggest eating:

Special notes for full vegans: If you’re on an all-vegan diet for long, you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting Vitamin B12, either from a vegan supplement or through fortified foods like soymilk or fortified nutritional yeast. Iron, calcium and Vitamin D are other things to look out for, but it’s not hard to figure out. I highly recommend Vegan For Life for more on these nutritional requirements, and the blogs by the two authors of that book: nutritionists Ginny Messina and Jack Norris.

Stuff to Eat Less Of

I don’t like to “villainize” any foods, because we shouldn’t be afraid of foods or develop some kind of complex. So all foods are fine in small bits, but unfortunately most people eat them all the time.

Here’s what you should keep to a minimum:

What a Healthy Vegan Diet Looks Like

So how do you put this all together into an everyday eating plan? Well, there are countless variations, but I’ll share some things I like to eat:

That’s how my diet normally looks, though I will make conscious exceptions on occasion. Lately I’ve been making fewer exceptions and feeling healthier than ever!

The Incredible Benefits

Since turning vegetarian then vegan, I’ve been unbelievably healthy — I feel strong and alive, and I almost never get sick. Neither do my wife and kids, and in fact my daughter’s strong asthma-related attacks are now gone. If you do it right, a plant diet can do wonders for your health.

The benefits of a healthful vegan diet are too many to name in one post, but they are many and they’re powerful. I’ll point you to a few resources here — please do check them out:

I highly recommend the book Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Fuhrman — it spells out the science behind the micronutrients in plant food, and how they can help prevent important diseases from flu to heart disease to cancers of all kinds. It’s amazing.

I also recommend two videos: Forks Over Knives and More Than an Apple a Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases, which you can watch here:

How to Do It

What if your diet includes a lot of the “Stuff to Eat Less Of” right now, and you think you just can’t give it up? Try going a week without one of these. It’s not as hard as you think. Do one at a time, and if the first week isn’t bad, try two or three weeks, or a month. After a month or so, you’ll find you won’t miss it at all. Then try another.

You’d be amazed at how your taste buds can change for the better pretty quickly. The voice that says, “I could never give up …” isn’t really true.

If you’d like to try a healthful vegan diet for a week, check out my collaborative site, the 7-Day Vegan Challenge.



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