What Kind of Vegan Are You?
There are many ways to be a vegan, and the world gets slightly confusing with time. There always seems to be another way to alter your perception of food, improve, and take stock of new ideas and research.
Our journey included time spent in each of these categories, and culminated somewhere in the whole-foods plant-based category, with a mind for eating as much raw food as possible (I'd love to be fully raw one day).
Here's a quick breakdown of what I like to call the Plant-Based Continuum: a list of the many types of vegan diets out there based on my observations of the ever-growing vegan world.
Which one are you?
1) The "Vegan in Transition"
"Can you point me in the direction of the frozen meat-substitute aisle?"
Vegans in transition often turn to lots of processed soy products to remind them of the food they're trying to replace: meat. I've often read about people (read: angry vegans) bashing one another for using these substitutes as a "crutch" for reminiscing over the tastiness of meat. Do I miss meat after 3.5 years? Nope. But I can tell you that I most definitely did during the first few weeks after cutting myself off. And that's nothing to be surprised by, ashamed of, or squabbled over. For god's sake, some of the stuff made by Beyond Meat couldn't be discerned from real patties by most people. Their Beast Burger BLEEDS! As for us: as our cooking skills progressed over the months, we found that it was cheaper and tastier to cook our own veggie patties at home. We just had to take the time to learn and experiment with a few recipes along the way.
Takeaway: these are great for bringing to a family get-together with tons of meat-eaters. Try using a fermented soy product (like tempeh), opt for sprouted soy products wherever possible, and try to avoid GMO soy. Our favorite brand of tofu is Mori Nu's Silken Tofu: it's great because you don't have to drain it, press it for long, or put it in the refrigerator, and it's GMO-free!
2) The "Junk-Food" Vegan
"I just ate a whole box of Oreos."
So there is an amazing story that I recently heard about a guy named Spud Fit from Australia. He was overweight, depressed, and addicted to food... but he was already vegan!
I was shocked that someone could find a way to become overweight on a vegan diet, but he outlined his main weakness: sugar. He said that he would eat an entire chocolate cake when he felt crappy about himself. To reconcile with his addiction, he ate only potatoes for an ENTIRE YEAR. His transformation is quite an amazing story.
Bottom line: you may be helping the animals, but eating Oreos, vegan ice-creams, endless vegan pastries, and chocolate cake may shave years off of your life. Find a balance that works for you!
3) The "Whole-Foods Plant-Based" Vegan
"I make my scratch staples from scratch".
This is where we ended up after 3.5 years. My pantry looks like a representative from Ball Jars came in and vomited them all over the place. We have every type of flour, grain, nut, and seed known to man stored in the little glass containers. When we look at recipes, we try to choose preparations that include plants as the main ingredient. Instead of a tempeh chili or Light Life meal-helper, we'll just stick to using whole foods like beans, tomatoes, home-made broth, and chopped root vegetables. It's taken time, but we can taste the difference.
Takeaway: if you start making your own pizza crusts, tomato sauce, almond milk, and yogurt from scratch, you know you've probably arrived here. If you have the time, great. If not, don't sweat the pre-made dish every now and then. It won't kill you!
4) The "HCLF/ 80-10-10/Fruitarian" Vegan
"I have a romantic relationship with fruit".
If you follow this lifestyle, I commend you! It looks so beautiful in photos, and probably feels so amazing when you sit down for each meal. The 80-10-10 lifestyle is often followed by raw vegans who eat 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat (from oil/nuts/seeds)-- hence the HCLF (high-carb, low-fat) moniker. Criticized by some and praised by others, this way of living involves lots of fruity smoothies, huge salads, and the occasional date-and-nut-crusted raw desserts. One of my favorite proponents of this diet is Fully Raw Kristina of Houston, Texas. Her website has a great resource page that explains the ratios and rationale behind them pretty well.
Takeaway: go raw, but leave the fatty, nutty, sugary desserts to a minimum. Oh, and check out the Woodstock Fruit Festival!
5) The "Oil-Free" Vegan
"Take your bullet-proof coffee somewhere else".
I ran across this following fairly recently, and I can't really argue with the logic. I'm not quite ready to give up oil yet, but I agree with the philosophy. As the No Meat Athlete puts it:
Oil is not a whole food (it’s the fatty part of what was a whole food).
Oil is extremely dense in calories: while vegetables typically have around 100 calories per pound and fruits 300 calories per pound, oil has 4,000 calories per pound.
Even with all those calories, oil contains little in the way of micronutrition. Valuable omega-3 fatty acids, sometimes, but virtually nothing else.
The bottom line: He makes a pretty good case, and cites some evidence to back it up. I can't argue with the logic, and I'll probably do this eventually. But for now, I'm eating my coconut oil popcorn, dammit.
6) The "Raw" Vegan
"I poop rainbows".
Fully Raw Kristina is still one of the best examples of raw veganism for today's generation, but another woman I absolutely love is Mimi Kirk. She shows just how amazing the raw vegan diet can be, especially when you reach the later years of life. Raw vegans just look SO damn amazing. It's as if they don't even age. Seriously!
Takeaway: use a blender and food processor to avoid lots of chewing, especially in the morning (on the way to work). You may end up needing 2 hours to finish that monomeal of oranges for lunch, but you'll feel energized and vibrant throughout your life.
7) The "Raw til Four" Vegan
"Carb the f*ck up"!
Freelee the Banana Girl has an inflammatory (albeit, energetic and amusing) Youtube Channel about the benefits she's reaped from this lifestyle. She basically eats a fully-raw vegan diet until 4pm then consumes lightly-cooked, whole-foods plant-based carbohydrates like potato wedges for dinner. It seems to have worked out well for her, and she argues that the grumpy fully-raw vegans are just "under-carbed".
Takeaway: Check out Earthy Andy's page on the raw-til-four lifestyle. She advocates whole-foods, low-oil, plant-based recipes that incorporate cooked foods after 4pm. It's a beautiful diet if you have the interest!
8) The "Paleo" Vegan
So, I love the idea of cutting out processed foods, sugars, oils, and dairy, but this takes it to a whole new level. No legumes, no flours, and no grains. It can be difficult to see how this is much different than going raw vegan, or HCLF vegan, but the principles are slightly varied. You can cook your veggies! :D
Takeaway: cut down on processed ingredients, make sure you can read everything that is on a package in your food, and get back to simplicity!
9) The "Gluten-Free" Vegan
"Gluten makes me bloat".
So this one hits home for me. I was super skeptical of the gluten-free craze (for people without Celiac's Disease) until my mom called me one afternoon. She told me that she had been newly diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease-- an autoimmune process that attacks the thyroid gland and destroys it. Her doctor recommended an immediate cessation of gluten intake, and provided peer-reviewed research linking gluten to leaky-gut syndrome, and a host of autoimmune problems.
Takeaway: most processed foods include gluten, and eliminating it just makes it so much easier to incorporate whole-food, plant-based meals into your life. Try it! With all of the different flours and grains available, this transition is worth a shot!
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