I have gone passed 20 days into my plant-based diet trial and I have to admit that I feel pretty good. After my body adjusted to the diet in the first few days (it was Christmas week and I ate a lot more nuts and seeds than I used to), I have felt a lot lighter in my stomach. This is despite eating similar portion sizes to before this diet started. No, I haven’t lost any weight but that was never the point. One of the reasons why I wanted to try a plant-based diet is to see if my back feels any different or better (as I have previous injuries). There is a saying that it takes your body 40 days to feel and see changes in your body. I am really looking forward to seeing how it will feel by the end of a 40 days’ period!
As I have reached 20 days into such a drastic change in my diet, I have learned quite a bit more about a plant-based diet. Here are some new discoveries that I want to share with you:
Vegan junk food
Perhaps it is psychology talking… when I started the plant-based diet, it was in Christmas week. I was determined not to be deprived of Christmas food naughtiness. To my delight, my local ‘health food’ store stocked a healthy selection of vegan cookies, crisps and chocolates. I was open minded about the tastes and textures of the crisps, cookies and chocolate I bought. Of course, some were nicer than others but after a few days, I realised that I was eating them not because I normally eat crisps, cookies and chocolate. In fact, I hardly ever buy cookies and didn’t buy chocolate and crisps often. I was buying and eating them to ‘compensate’ for what I feared I was missing out on in my life, when I actually I was not missing out at all.
There are plenty of vegan junk food choices on the market and I can only imagine the choices growing in the next year. They aren’t cheap and actually not very good for us, even if they say they are organic, gluten-free, egg-free, vegan, preservative-free, additives-free, nut-free and refined sugar free. I have now replaced them with more fresh fruit and nuts.
Before trying a fully plant-based diet, I was one of those people that would ask ‘where would you get all the protein?’. Before I started this diet on Christmas Eve, I did some research and made a point to eat enough protein in my daily life to keep everything in balance.
I realised after 20 days that I was in fact eating too much protein and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables. I had chickpeas, beans, quinoa, freekeh (more on that in this blog!), etc. with every meal. I was snacking on almonds and cashew nuts and I was having almond milk too. There is actually a lot of protein some vegetables we eat, such as spinach, kale and broccoli. Therefore we don’t need to keep eating those staples to maintain our protein in-take if we don’t want to.
With so many colds and flu’s around in this cold and grey month of January, it is so important for all of us to hydrate regularly and take enough vitamins in our diet. A few years ago, I wasn’t very well and went to see a nutritionist. Even though the UK national health service recommends 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per person per day, we should actually be aiming for 7 to 10, as 5 portions is a minimum.
What is interesting is that when I started eating more fruit and vegetables, the cost of my food bill reduced (compared to buying more vegan junk food) and I enjoyed my food a lot more. I am still maintaining a healthy level of protein but I make sure that I eat enough fruit and vegetables too.
Lightheadedness with low blood pressure
One of the benefits of a plant-based diet is that it can reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol if you maintain a healthy diet (not one just based on heavy junk food or vegan cheese on pizza, for example). My blood pressure has always been at the low end of the healthy range. I must admit that on the first day of my womanly menstrual cycle after starting this plant-based diet, I felt really dizzy and didn’t feel safe to go out. I really needed to lie down and rest. When I felt safe enough, I cooked a vegetable stew with some kidney beans and felt better after eating it. To make sure I was eating enough iron, I put lots of kale in my stew too.
If you have low blood pressure, you might want to keep an eye out on a plant-based diet.
One of the highlights of my veganuary discovery so far is freekeh! What a name too! Move over quinoa… yes you are the hype but I like freekeh so much more! Freekeh is a grain that is commonly used in Palestinian food. Although quinoa is a good substitute for white rice for example, freekeh has more protein and fibre than quinoa but less carbohydrates. It seems that freekeh takes less time to cook than quinoa and the texture is quite similar, which is a win-win!
Unfortunately freekeh is less accessible in our shops and seems pretty expensive to buy in health food stores. Perhaps it will reduce in price if more of us start eating it. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go and let me know what you think.
So far, this new diet has been quite fascinating for me so far. Of course, every body is different and everyone of us reacts differently to different foods. If in any doubt, always consult a doctor or nutritionist.
If you have started Veganuary, please write back and share your experience so far. I would love to hear from you. If you missed my previous blog, click on the left arrow underneath this form to read about the lessons learned in the first 10 days of my vegan diet.