Fresh vegetables on wooden background. Different colorful fresh juices.

Intro to the Vegan Diet 101

By Valentine Aseyo

Hi, I'm Valentine, Maker of Matador Meggings. The vegan diet has become increasingly widespread in the past several years and, nowadays, it is far from uncommon to hear it talked about on the TV, read about a celebrity going (or being) vegan on the internet, or meeting someone who is vegan themselves—in fact, it was even featured in Joaquin Phoenix's speech against oppression in all forms at the latest Academy Awards ceremony! 

But what exactly is veganism? Despite its popularity, many people are still skeptical about it, mostly due to misinformation or (easily disputed) misconceptions floating about. Let's get back to basics.

Veganism vs. Vegetarianism: What's the Difference?

“Aren't veganism and vegetarianism the same thing?” Well, not quite. The vegan movement (at least as we know it today) began in 1944, after a group of vegetarians separated from the Leicester Vegetarian Society in the U.K. to form their own Vegan society, with a few tweaks to the key concepts of vegetarianism.

The vegetarian diet implies you’re refraining from the consumption of meat but are still fine with animal products such as eggs or dairy, in addition to vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and fungi. The vegan diet abolishes the consumption or use of all animal-derived products—essentially anything that is either a part of or made by an animal (all kinds of meat, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese, and honey, for example)—and is completely plant-based or derived from the plant kingdom.

In addition, veganism goes beyond being solely a dietary choice, and adherents don’t wear or use any animal-derived products such as leather, furs, wool, and silk. However, adopting “only” a primarily plant-based diet or being mostly a “dietary vegan” is a completely legitimate choice as well—you'd still be doing yourself, the animals, and the environment a huge favor and every step counts, even choosing Meatless Mondays or the Vegan Before Six diet.

Vegetables and fruits on a wooden table

Some Vegan Food Lifestyle Misconceptions

There are quite a few misconceptions about the vegan food lifestyle floating around, and pretty much most of them boil down to vegans not knowing what they're talking about, that veganism will make you weak and malnourished, that it's expensive, and that all vegans aggressively want to make everybody a vegan as well.

As we've already seen, there is significant evidence showing that veganism may prove extremely beneficial both for your health as well as the environment. Many elite athletes—tennis player Venus Williams, mixed martial artist Nate Diaz, and strongman David Baboumian are only a few examples—have made the switch successfully and are still showing impressive results, as can be seen in the documentary The Game Changers.

Meat and animal products are usually on the more expensive side of groceries. You'll probably break even by buying nutrient-rich fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds and maybe a few supplements.

Finally, going vegan is and should be a personal choice—most longer-term vegans are aware of this fact and respect it, but they will gladly encourage you if you’re interested in going vegan.

Can You Get All the Needed Nutrients on a Vegan Diet?

Among all of the misconceptions about the vegan diet plan, not being able to get all your needed nutrients on a vegan diet is perhaps the most prevalent. You can absolutely have a vegan food list that satisfies any nutritional needs (otherwise, those pro athletes wouldn't have adopted the diet), but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Most plant-based foods (vegetables, fruit, grains, and nuts) are rich with carbohydrates and the majority of minerals and vitamins but are generally low on fats and protein. Both are also crucial for a balanced diet, as humans need fats to produce hormones and cell membranes, and proteins to build muscle and other cellular components.

Having some coconut oil at hand should satisfy your needs for saturated fats (use it when cooking or have a teaspoon every now and then), as will avocadoes, and nuts, as well as nut and hemp butters, are rich in both healthy fats and protein.

Other less calorie-dense high protein vegan foods include soy (including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk), lentils, the many other types of beans, quinoa, chickpeas, and seitan. If you're a bodybuilder or a professional athlete, you might want to look into vegan protein powders, and these are usually based on hemp, pea, and coconut protein—they taste great too!

It is also false that you're bound to be calcium-deficient and have weak bones on a vegan diet plan, as leafy greens like collards and kale, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds and tahini, and flaxseeds are all very rich in calcium, so be sure to stock up on those.

Fresh vegetables on wooden background. Different colorful fresh juices.

Should You Take Any Supplements on a Vegan Diet?

Having a diverse well-thought-out nutrition plan should get you covered for most nutritional needs. However, there are a few supplements that you must take when becoming vegan.

Perhaps the most important of those is the B12 vitamin. B12 is an essential vitamin with important roles in maintaining regular nerve and blood cell functions and DNA production, and it helps you feel energized as well. It is found naturally only in animal-based foods, so grabbing a supplement is of key importance. They are inexpensive and well worth it.

You may also want to get an iron supplement, as iron found in vegetables is harder to absorb (i.e., the “non-heme” type), so you'll need to ingest more of it and take it with vitamin C-rich foods. You could satisfy your iron needs by eating more legumes, sunflower seeds, dried raisins, figs, and dark leafy greens (sprinkle on some lemon juice), but you could also go for a heme iron supplement if you need to do so.

If you live in the north, be sure to get ten minutes of sunlight every day on your exposed skin, or take a algae-based vitamin D supplement each day.

Finally, having healthy gut flora is another important factor to your general well-being, and eliminating dairy could restrict the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria if you rely on animal milk yogurt. Having uncooked fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim chi, coconut or soy or nut yogurt, water kefir, or kombucha every day should do the trick, but it may be wise to keep a probiotic at hand just in case. Also eat plenty of prebiotic foods that feed the probiotics in your system: onions, garlic, bananas, asparagus, apples, greens, and cabbage are all good choices.

How to Make the Transition to a?

Becoming vegan may seem very difficult at first, but it really doesn't need to be. The most important thing is to begin slowly. This is not a race, and you'll get there eventually.

Think about all the plant-based foods you like and have them more often. Be creative with your cooking and try to find healthy plant-based meals to incorporate in your plant-based diet meal plan. With veganism being so widespread, many restaurants have delicious vegan meals. So, next time you eat out, have a vegan meal and see how you like it. In the end, the process may turn out to be much more enjoyable than you thought!

Lunch for vegan diet and balanced nutrition

DOs and DON'Ts of Veganism: A Quick Summary

By now, you should have a good grasp of how to successfully switch to a vegan diet plan with little effort. To sum things up, here is a list of dos and don'ts you should keep in mind:

  • DO make sure to have enough foods containing protein and healthy fats in your diet.
  • DO have enough leafy greens.
  • DO take care of your gut flora by eating probiotic and prebiotic foods.
  • DO take a B12 supplement and perhaps a heme iron supplement as well.
  • DON'T go over the top on vegan junk foods: sodas, fries, crisps, and many other junk foods are technically vegan, but that doesn't mean you should over-indulge.
  • DON'T eat too many soy and soy-based or seitan-based vegan “meats.” They are overly processed foods best saved for recreational purposes or when eating out. (Impossible Burger, anyone?) Rely on foods that look like they were just harvested or picked with little processing.
  • DON'T shame others for not being vegan. With a positive approach, you'll do much more to disperse prejudices about veganism, and maybe you'll encourage others to give it a try!
  • DON'T force yourself to eat things that disgust you. If spinach seems too slimy, give lightly cooked kale a try.

Adopting a vegan diet is a journey, and it easily could be an enjoyable one. You should take things at your own pace and get comfortable with the changes you're making. It is a good thing that you're doing, and eventually you'll get there. Good luck!

Bird's eye view of vegan food

Why People Go Vegan

More people are looking to “go vegan” every day and, given its description as a healthy, cruelty-free and eco-friendly diet and lifestyle, it may even seem like a logical next step in the evolution of humanity. Let's take a look at some of the main reasons for making the switch to the vegan lifestyle.

1. It's Healthy

There are many potential health benefits to adopting the vegan lifestyle. For instance, there are studies indicating that adopting a plant-based diet plan lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as all-cause mortality, effectively prolonging your lifespan.

Others have shown that they may prove especially beneficial for managing Type-2 diabetes. Becoming vegan also implies that you'll avoid ingesting potentially harmful hormones and antibiotics found in commercially available animal products such as meat and milk.

Finally, it helps keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) down, as other studies have shown as well.

2. It's Eco-Friendly

Animal farming is more resource- and water-intensive. It also makes up 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, 35–40% of methane emissions, and 9% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—the three main gases responsible for the greenhouse effect and subsequently global warming. With that in mind, you'll be doing your planet a favor by opting for plant-based foods and cutting down on the demand for animal-based ones as a result.

3. It's Cruelty-Free

Vegans believe that no living thing should be exploited or killed for food or materials, especially when alternatives are available. In addition, the conditions in which commercial animals are kept is far from humane.

For instance, chickens have their beaks clipped or removed without anesthesia to prevent pecking each other, tiny male chicks are ground alive or smothered en masse because they don’t produce eggs, cows are killed for meat at an early age (four to six years old, while they could have a life span of 15-20 years) when their milk production slows, male calves are separated from their mothers and sold for veal, pigs are kept inside on cement in cramped quarters instead of frolicking on grass and rolling in the mud, and the list goes on.

As a result, these animals spend their whole lives in physical and psychological trauma, living in tiny constricted spaces. Going vegan is a clear sign of protest against this form of factory-farming animal agri-business.

Even if you are not entirely interested in becoming vegan, cutting down on meat and dairy products can be a great way to lose weight and reduce certain health risks. Adding more vegan protein sources and vegan calcium sources can provide the nutrition you need.

Now that you know more about the vegan diet, we hope you will give it a try if only for one day a week or try it for a month and see how you feel. You will also want to show off your healthier body in our men’s meggings. Shop for the latest designs and styles of meggings in our online store today! You may also email us at hello@matadormeggings.com or reach us via Facebook Messenger for further assistance.