Thinking about going vegan? Or simply eating less meat? When trying to follow a healthy diet, people often wonder whether cutting out animal-based products is a good idea.
While most foods in moderation aren't likely to ruin your health, taking steps to replace some animal-based foods with healthier options can reduce your risk of developing serious health issues. For instance, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, and the fats found in meats such as beef and pork raise your risk of developing coronary artery disease.
Moreover, a plant-based lifestyle has many health benefits, including:
Reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
Lower cholesterol levels
Less likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes
Veganism has come a long way over the years, and now there are great options for replacing animal-based products with plant-based foods.
Read on for eight vegan swaps that help keep you healthy and satisfied.
Milk for soy milk
While milk is an excellent source of calcium and protein, it's also high in saturated fat, which raises your cholesterol level and clogs your arteries. This increases your risk of developing heart disease.
As a result, Health Canada has encouraged people to reduce their daily dairy intake.
Dairy alternatives such as soy milk are a healthier choice. This is because it combines low calories and high protein, with only 80 calories and seven grams of protein per serving.
Eggs for tofu
Though eggs are not entirely unhealthy, research has shown that adults who eat one and a half eggs per day have a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who don't. This is because eggs — specifically the yolks — are rich in cholesterol.
However, tofu has emerged as a healthy vegan swap for eggs. Not only are they packed with nutrients, but with 17 grams of protein and only 144 calories per serving, they're a perfect way to replace scrambled eggs.
Pulled pork for jackfruit
It's hard to believe that anything could replace pulled pork, but many health-conscious restaurants are swapping out pork for jackfruit.
Pork products are considered red meat and have lots of saturated fat, contributing to high cholesterol levels and elevating your risk of heart disease. In fact, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently stopped marketing pork as a healthy food.
On the other hand, jackfruit is dense and fibrous, which gives it a similar texture to pulled pork when prepared properly. Jackfruit is also highly nutritious, a great protein source and free of saturated fat and cholesterol.
So, if you're looking for a plant-based solution to your pulled pork cravings, find a jackfruit pulled pork recipe you like and enjoy.
Meat for lentils and beans
If you're worried about getting enough protein without meat in your diet, beans and lentils could be your answer.
Lentils are a heart-healthy food because they're high in fibre. Additionally, in one serving, they contain less than a gram of fat while delivering nine grams of plant-based protein. Beans are also good for your heart.
Mayo for hummus
Speaking of healthy beans, chickpeas — also known as garbanzo beans — offer a healthy vegan swap for a favourite spreadable condiment: mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise uses eggs so it can't be considered vegan, though vegan alternatives do exist. However, a better option is hummus, which is made from ground chickpeas.
You can find hummus in most stores. You can also spice up your hummus any way you like to give it extra flavour.
Pasta for brown rice
Many dried pastas are vegan-friendly, as they're made mostly of flour and water. However, most fresh pastas are made with eggs. Going a step further and replacing your pasta dishes with brown rice offers added health benefits.
Brown rice is very nutritious and aids in weight loss. This is because it provides you with more fibre, which helps keep you full for a longer period of time.
To keep your brown rice dish vegan and tasty, you can top it with a delicious vegetable and lentil curry.
Butter for nut butter or olive oil
More than half the fat in butter is saturated fat, making it an unhealthy choice as a spread or for use in cooking.
Instead, consider using olive oil. In addition to being entirely plant-based, olive oil is an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, is rich in antioxidants and offers many other health benefits that butter doesn't.
If you're used to buttered toast with your morning breakfast, you can consider trying nut butter. Nut butters like peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, making them a great vegan swap for the saturated fat in butter.
Milk chocolate for dark chocolate
Just because you're making healthier diet choices doesn't mean you can't enjoy a sweet treat from time to time. The cacao in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. However, the milk and added sugar in milk chocolate aren't doing you any favours.
When it comes to enjoying chocolate on a plant-based diet, dark chocolate is the way to go. Chocolate is considered "dark" when it contains 50 per cent or more cacao. Chocolate is linked to myriad health benefits, so indulging in the occasional sweet snack without the added milk is a great way to keep your vegan diet on track.
Improve your diet with vegan replacements
In the past, sticking to a vegan diet presented some tough challenges. But with the rising popularity of plant-based diets, delicious vegan swaps are constantly popping up, making it easier for you to make a lasting change to your health.