Veganism has exploded. Plant-based diets are being heralded all over mainstream media for health benefits ranging from reduced cholesterol and blood pressure to healthy digestion and increased energy.
With the accessibility of supermarkets and vegan-friendly restaurants shooting up all over the world it is getting much easier to enjoy a wide palate of traditional world dishes and cruelty-free alternatives to western favorites like hamburgers, steaks, pizza, and ice cream—which are becoming so delicious even staunch meat eaters are digging in to these plant-based comfort foods.
The days of veganism being viewed as a hippie diet comprised solely of cucumbers and brown rice are slowly but surely fading away. Not that there is anything wrong with cucumbers or rice, but a plant-based diet is incredibly versatile and can be adapted to all dietary needs and personal tastes.
Let’s take a look at just a few ways you can make an entirely plant-based diet work for you.
The Standard Vegan
Being vegan in the most basic of terms simply means abiding by a diet void of animal products such as dairy, eggs, and meat. This leaves a host of foods to thrive on and enjoy—leafy greens, fresh fruit, potatoes, beans, nuts, bread, pasta, oats, cereal, plant-based milks, natural chocolate, soy products such as tofu and tempeh, mock meats made with seitan, and plant-based sports supplements such as brown rice, hemp, and pea protein powders.
A “standard vegan” can enjoy a variety of fresh produce and cooked dishes, and easily adjust his or her caloric intake and macronutrient ratios to meet any physical need or athletic pursuit.
The Raw Vegan
Raw veganism is a subsect of the vegan diet comprised entirely of uncooked vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts. Raw vegans believe that a diet comprised solely of food in their natural, unaltered state allows for optimal absorption of nutrients that can otherwise be lost in the cooking process.
While it may initially sound like this does not leave many options on the table, raw vegans have become incredibly crafty over the years and enjoy a plethora of dishes prepared at or under room temperature including raw pastas, desserts, tacos, and even pizza.
Just like a standard vegan diet, a raw vegan diet can provide adequate calories for a demanding lifestyle and is commonly utilized by many endurance runners and triathletes who feel the diet gives them a competitive edge in recovery and performance.
The 80-10-10 Vegan
A variation of the raw vegan diet is the 80-10-10 diet. 80-10-10 was named as such by its founder, Dr. Douglas Graham, because it promotes a daily macronutrient intake of 80% carbohydrates with just 10% of the diet being protein and dietary fat, respectively. Proponents of the 80-10-10 believe that carbohydrates are the most easily utilized fuel source for human beings and that dietary fat or protein consumed above small levels is detrimental to overall health.
80-10-10 vegans generally promote eating large quantities of fruits and vegetables, often in smoothies and “mono meals,” and limit their intake of fat rich foods like avocados and nuts; some followers of 80-10-10 also incorporate cooked foods such as quiona, brown rice, oats, and sweet potatoes, but still abide by the 80-10-10 macronutrient guidelines laid out in the original raw diet plan.
Like general raw veganism, 80-10-10 is viewed as a great diet for high performance athletes and has even been adopted by some bodybuilders and strength-central athletes competing in sports like MMA and power-lifting.
The Low-Carb Vegan
Low-carb diets are very popular in mainstream culture, and although I personally find a carbohydrate-rich diet to be ideal for my physically demanding lifestyle—whether or not my goal is to increase muscle mass or shed body fat— there are plenty of athletes who successfully incorporate low-carb dietary cycles to attain their desired physiques or bodyweight—including some vegan bodybuilders.
While creating a caloric deficit for physique competitions some bodybuilders feel cutting down on carbohydrates provides the best means to keep amino acid intake high through high protein consumption, and to preserve muscle mass while reducing overall food intake, and thus shedding body fat.
While it may seem impossible to be a low-carb vegan given the carb-density of staple foods like legumes, whole grains, and fruit, it is actually fairly easy for vegans to utilize protein sources such as tofu, seitan, and tempeh along with leafy greens, nuts, and avocados to practice a low-carb, plant-based diet.
With the accessibility of food and the growing awareness of the environmental, ethical, and health benefits of a plant-based diet, there is no better time to give it a go—whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose fat, maintain your current level of health, or simply enjoy excellent cruelty-free food, you can easily accomplish any one of these goals on a 100% vegan diet.
Margherita Pizza by Somer McCowan
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Stir Fry by Sunwarrior