The latest diet trend has been moving towards organic, whole, and super-healthy foods. This shift in recent years has been overall a positive one, but there continues to be a certain mysticism around one current diet trend: veganism. There has been a lot of controversy over veganism, a non-dairy, non-meat, non-animal byproducts plan; health professionals have debated time and time again whether or not being vegan is necessarily an ideal, healthy and balanced diet.


You might be thinking from a practical standpoint, how could one possibly cut out meat and dairy? Not only do vegans not eat meat, they avoid animal byproducts, including dairy such as milk, yogurt, eggs, or any tasty dessert that has eggs as an ingredient (which eliminates most cakes, cookies, and pies). Animal byproducts are ubiquitous in our diets; even certain foods that you would never suspect have eggs or dairy somewhere on the long list of ingredients.


So what is there left to eat? Being vegan is certainly a challenge for more reasons than one; not only do you have to cut out delicious foods, you also have to work actively to find adequate replacements for all the nutrients found in the foods that you are not allowing yourself to eat. If you resort to eating simple carbohydrates like pasta and bread every night or eat only an apple for lunch, this might not be a healthy or sustainable diet to adopt. However, there are ways to be a healthy vegan even without the protein and calcium from meat and dairy if the proper steps are taken. Here are a five simple tips that will keep you from withering away on a strict vegan diet.


1. Substitute dairy for soy. Soy is derived from the soybean, and contains plenty of essential proteins. Soy foods include a wide variety of items such as edamame, soy flour, soy milk, and tofu.


2. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, especially dark greens that are rich in protein like kale and spinach (think Popeye). This is important to make sure you are getting enough iron, an essential nutrient that most people get from red meat.


3. Eat plenty of beans, nuts, and seeds, another great source of protein. It is a common misconception that if you do not eat meat, then you are automatically not receiving enough protein. Meat is not the only source of protein, and vegans can load up on protein through these nuts, seeds, legumes, and soy products.


4. Take probiotics. This is a great tip for anyone, whether vegan or omnivore. Probiotics are found most commonly in yogurt, and provide the good kind of bacteria that kill germs and keep your insides working in tip top shape.


5. Supplement with B12. B12 is an important B vitamin essential for optimal functioning of the nervous system and metabolism that does not exist in the plant kingdom. B12 helps prevent anemia, which is important for vegans in particular because of the increased risk of iron deficiency.


If you decide to commit to a vegan diet, make sure you stay mindful of your health with these easy steps and do not miss out on the nutrients your body needs to function.


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