As I have reached 30 days into trying a fully plant-based diet, I feel like I have learned quite a bit on this journey. Not only have I learned more about nutrition, I have gradually learning more on what the lifestyle change means outside of nutrition.
In the last 10 days, I have learned more amino acids and the use of nutritional yeast to top up on any nutrients.
I recently had a conversation with my friend about a vegan diet and her reservations about it is the level of amino acid that would be lacking on being fully plant-based. I don’t recall having ever heard much about amino acids so I went on to do some research on foods which contain amino acids and why we need them. Funnily enough, when I did google translate, it’s the thing that my Mom keeps talking about in healthy food.
Amino acids carry out many bodily functions, including but not limited the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They help us heal our wounds and repair tissue as well as remove of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism. When eaten, they are turned into proteins to help our bodies function.
The good news is that amino acids are in food such as quinoa, beans, soy, lentils and houmous and they are all vegan-friendly.
Although I have been feeling really good on a plant-based diet, I have been conscious of having a balanced diet with nutritional intake of protein, vitamins, iron, calcium and so on. As Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin which is not easily accessible on a plant-based diet, I have been using an oral spray for this vitamin. Whilst talking to a vegan yoga teacher, she told me about using nutritional yeast to replenish any nutrients and minerals which are more difficult to obtain naturally on a plant-based diet.
There are different nutritional yeasts in the market and you can sprinkle them on porridge, soup, curry, pasta sauce, etc. Different nutritional yeast contain different nutritional minerals. I bought one which I have sprinkled onto my vegetable stew, curry, pasta sauce, etc and they have all tasted fine. Frankly, it does add a bit of flavouring without the nastiness of MSG (mono-sodium glutamate).
One mistake I made is to put some savoury nutritional yeast into my porridge in the morning. That didn’t taste particularly pleasant but you can buy sweet nutritional yeast too.
Am I really giving up on something important?
All of the food lessons have been interesting and good… but what is life without being able enjoy it with family and friends? One of the biggest struggles I have had is socialising.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend invited me to a birthday party which was catered for. Miraculously, her caterer was able to make me some delicious chestnut pasta with mushrooms and truffle oil which was delicious. Yum.
However I know that the lifestyle change has restricted me somewhat. It will be Chinese New Year next week and I have been pondering on whether to spend it with my family in Hong Kong. Forget about vegan, I wouldn’t even be able to be vegetarian over there. Traditional Chinese ways of eating involve people sharing food and one of the rudest things I could do is to turn up at my families’ homes and refuse to eat anything but plain rice.
I have also recently met a friend who asked me when this diet will finish and that I don’t have to be too extreme about it. She asked me to let her know when it would finish and then we can meet up and do something together. I can sort of understand where she is coming from. When we go out, we tend to order and share delicious plates of food. We used to be omnivores. I am now a vegan. Somehow my veganism means that she feels restricted to meet up with me. Due to the publicity of Veganuary, more restaurants and cafes now cater for people like me. I believe that we can all co-exist and still socialise and eat out together… but perhaps some feel different otherwise.
What’s more important?
It’s the first winter in which I have not had a cold or flu in many, many years. In fact, I don’t remember not getting ill in winter. Touch wood – it doesn’t come and bite me now. I think my immune system has improved due to my new diet, yoga and now badminton too. Is it now really a choice down to health or a social life with family and friends? I would like to think that there is a compromise. Yet, I am about to tell another friend that I won’t be joining them for birthday dinner because the venue does not cater for vegetarians, let alone vegans.
I have no idea if and when my fully plant-based diet will end. I guess I will know if I need to make a choice, if and when the time comes.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on handling peer pressure on a new diet. Please feel free to comment below: