What to Expect When You Start a Plant-Based DietCreated on
At Vejii, we love that we can offer thousands of products to help consumers not only start a plant-based diet, but maintain it. We aspire to offer sustainable and cruelty-free products across our non-food categories too.
Some people may experience negative symptoms when transitioning to a plant-based diet. While these aren’t necessarily common, each body may respond to changes differently. In this blog, we’ll address some negative symptoms you might experience when you start a plant-based diet, and what to do.
Cravings are normal and the way our body tells us what nutrients it needs. When we crave sweets, our body’s just asking for sugar, and the same with potato chips and sodium. If you start craving animal products, guess what—it could be a sign that you simply need more fat and protein.
Plant-based sources of protein are plentiful and you will want to get used to them so your body will eventually forget it needs animals for protein. While animal alternatives are great when you first transition to a plant-based diet, many are made of carbohydrates and may not be a substantial source of protein long-term.
Solution: Get to know as many plant-based foods and beverages as possible—just search your favorite category on Vejii! Protein sources include ancient and sprouted grains, beans, seeds, lentils, nutritional yeast, nuts, oats, peas, seitan (wheat gluten), soy (including edamame, tofu and tempeh), spirulina, vegetables, and wild rice. Miss cow’s milk? Try unsweetened soy, almond, or oat milk. Craving a greasy meal? Try avocado toast for a healthier fat option. When you crave sweets, double down on your fruit intake or indulge in a few blocks of your favourite plant-based chocolate.
Similar to cravings, you may feel other negative reactions when your body is detoxifying from certain foods it’s used to. Reactions may include irritability, pain, cramps, shivering, tremors, diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, sleepiness, and sweating. Most people transitioning to a plant-based diet feel more positive than negative reactions because of the increase in fibre and other nutrients from more vegetables vs. animal products, but if you’re experiencing these reactions for weeks on end, consult a nutritionist or doctor with experience in plant-based diets (most general physicians only have minimal education on nutrition) to see if they might be reactions related to a nutrient deficiency.
For example, feeling low energy or tiredness can be a sign of low iron or protein and you may need to boost the intake of iron and protein-rich foods or take an iron supplement.
Solution: As plant-based foods can be lower in iron and vitamins B12 and D compared to animal products, ensure you’re getting an adequate intake of these through supplements. If you notice a reaction to a new food you’ve never eaten before, stop eating it and try another plant-based food to get the same nutrients. Make sure you’re trying a broad range of plant proteins, and fruits and vegetables that are multi-coloured. When you feel better, try those new foods again.
Some find the weight loss accompanied by a plant-based diet is a bonus effect of the transition, but others may not welcome this. When you remove animal products from your diet, you’re also removing the unhealthy fats and components that cause inflammation in the body, along with the vitamins and minerals they contain. Plant-based foods are full of fibre, aren’t required to be cooked in oil, and are packed with other valuable nutrients that don’t cause you to pack on the pounds.
Solution: Ensure you’re getting a good variety of carbohydrates, fats, and protein from plant sources every day to maximize nutrition, drink lots of water, and maintain your exercise regime.
As long as you’re eating mostly whole foods, you should feel better instead of worse when you start a plant-based diet. If that’s not the case, consult a nutritionist or doctor with experience in plant-based diets to help you work toward optimal health. If you can’t find a doctor in your area, try Plant-based Docs or Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). In Canada, check out the directory at Plant-Based Canada.