12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

For most of us veganism is not something we were born with, but rather something we ‘learned’.

It was a process of learning where the commonly used foods such as meat and dairy come from, what it involves, and then going through an awakening phase about animal suffering and emotion. It then involves a learning process about nutrition, shopping, animal activism, the vegan philosophy as a lifestyle, and most importantly – as a moral stance. Usually, it all starts with our food choices and expands into all areas of our life, including our thought patterns, behaviors, and set of beliefs.

Just like any learning process, we may get impatient or skip things simply because there is so much information to process and put into action. I find that every once in a while, one needs to go back to the basics, and they always find themselves amazed with the useful things they learn or re-learn – I experience this over and over again in all areas of my life! Therefore, I have decided to bring you back to the basics and show you

12 Essential Vegan Nuggets You’ll Be Amazed To Learn Or Re-Learn

1. Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, coined the word “vegan” in 1944 as a statement against vegetarians who ate dairy products.

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

2. There is ‘vegan’ and there is ‘pure vegetarian’ or ‘plant-based eater’

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

Some people distinguish between vegan and pure vegetarian (or plant-based eaters), considering the pure vegetarian one who eats no animal flesh, no dairy products, no eggs, and follows a strict plant-based diet for dietary reasons only.

While vegans follow a diet consisting of plant-based foods only, they are further committed to a philosophy that respects animal life and the ecology of the planet.

3. The vegan diet centers on traditional, staple foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds – foods that have always sustained world cultures throughout history.

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

Contrary to common opinion, a plant-based diet can be extremely diverse. It is in fact all about making a mind switch – instead of planning your meal around meat, chicken, or fish as the centerpiece of your plate, think of whole grains or legumes as the main ingredient. Enhance the grains or legumes with your favorite seasonings, vegetables, nuts, or seeds.

4. There is a greater variety of grains you ever imagined!

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

You can enjoy a different grain every day of the week and still look forward to those yet untried. Following is a list of whole grains to incorporate into your vegan diet:

  • brown rice
  • wild rice
  • corn and cornmeal
  • whole wheat, cracked wheat, bulghur wheat
  • pearl barley, barley flakes
  • whole rye berries, rye flakes
  • oat groats, oatmeal
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • spelt
  • triticale
  • amaranth
  • teff
  • kamut.

There are also a number of varieties within each type of grain.

5. Legumes consist of all kinds of beans and include lentils and split yellow and green peas.

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

The world of legumes, sometimes called pulses, encompasses all varieties of beans, including lentils and green and yellow split peas. Each type of bean has its own unique texture and flavor, creating welcome variety to the vegan diet. Legumes contain soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol naturally.

Since the digestive system may require a little time to adjust to the added fiber contained in legumes, begin with small amounts and increase slowly. Your own body will be your guide on how much and how quickly to increase quantities.

6. Nuts are not just a snack and each kind of nut possesses a different proportion of nutrients

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

If you are one who has always thought of nuts as simply a snack, and one to be avoided because “they’re too high in fat,” reconsider them as an excellent source of protein. A handful or two of raw or dry roasted nuts is a good amount to include in your daily regimen. Though nuts are high in fats, they offer valuable essential fatty acids so necessary to the body’s many processes.

Each kind of nut possesses a different proportion of nutrients, so include a variety of nuts to gain the maximum nutritional benefits. You may have learned that one Brazil nut a day contains your daily requirement of selenium.

7. Fruits contain protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as do all plant-based foods

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

Fruits are an excellent source of whole food simple carbohydrates that digest easily, provide excellent fuel to energize the mind and body, and help to keep the blood sugar stable.

Fruits are packed with not only vitamins and minerals, but also a diversity of phytochemicals that work to prevent oxidation in the cells and help to protect us from diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Include many different fruits rather than concentrating on only one favorite. While all fruits are healthful, each variety contains differing proportions of vitamins and minerals, making them all valuable additions to the diet.

Think variety by including fruits of all colors. Each color contains different carotenes and phytonutrients.

8. Each different color of vegetables contains different carotenes and nutrients in differing quantities

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

We all have favorite foods, but rather than eating just broccoli or asparagus all the time, try expanding your variety little by little to include some vegetables of different colors. Explore the red vegetables, such as beets, radishes, radicchio, and tomatoes.

Include yellow vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and winter or summer squashes, and yellow bell peppers.

White vegetables include onions, turnips, cauliflower, parsnips, and potatoes. Orange vegetables include carrots and rutabagas.

Green veggies are the largest group and include green beans, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, Swiss chard, kale, collards, mustard greens, beet and turnip greens, cabbage, lettuces, and green bell peppers.

9. Except for iceberg lettuce, there’s also romaine, red leaf, green leaf, escarole, oak leaf, and batavia

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

These are higher in fiber and contain much more beta carotene than iceberg lettuce. Far richer in flavor, the darker varieties of lettuces contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce.

10. Consider sprouting grains to reap the benefits of higher levels of vitamins and minerals

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

The sprouting process activates the germ to reproduce and increase its storehouse of nutrients. To sprout grains, purchase whole, organic grains and place them in a large bowl. When judging how much grain to sprout, note that the grains will absorb water and double in size. Cover generously with water and soak them overnight.

The next day, drain off the water and transfer the grains to a 1-quart jar. Cover the jar with a double or triple layer of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. Rinse and drain the grains about three times during the day without removing the cheesecloth and lay the jar on its side after each rinse. Tiny white sprouts should be visible the next day. The sprouted grains should be ready to eat within a day or two and can be added to salads, soups, or sprinkled over almost any of your favorite foods. Sprouted grains can be eaten raw, dehydrated, or cooked.

11. The soybean contains the highest level of protein of the entire bean family and a hearty level of fiber as well

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

Cooked fresh soybeans, called edamame, can be added to salads, whole-grain dishes, soups, and casseroles. Edamame can even be turned into a delicious spread in the food processor with the addition of seasonings.

12. Since seeds are subject to rancidity, purchase them from a store that sells them in large quantities and turns them over quickly and store them in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage.

12 Essential Vegan Basics You’ll Be Amazed You Didn’t Know! (Or Put Much Thought Into)

Seeds of all varieties are easy to incorporate into the diet. Sesame seeds are especially delicious sprinkled on salads, over cereals, and desserts.

Sesame seed paste, also called tahini, makes a delicious tahini sauce when mixed with lemon juice, garlic, water, salt, and a dash of cumin. This sauce enhances grain dishes, bean dishes, baked potatoes, and even pita sandwiches. Tahini can also be made into a delicious salad dressing.

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