Mastering the Art of Being Vegan

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Being vegan is an art. I was born a true Dominicana who absolutely loved all things fried: mofongo, mangu with butter, chivo guisao, salchichón anyone? In my early twenties, I chased my dreams from Santo Domingo to London to New York City. Never, though, did I dream that I would become a vegan. But after an emergency, exploratory surgery resulted in the loss of my left ovary at the age of 23, I began a journey that brought my body back to a stabile place by way of raw foods and a vegan diet. When my doctors recommended heavy pills and medications for my recovery – something I didn’t feel comfortable with -- I decided to research the connection between food and the body. It was then that I chose to become a vegan.

Moving past labeling myself as a vegan or raw vegan, changing my diet offered a heightened awareness about what I ate, an education about how to eat seasonally, and discovery about which foods are better digested than others. Naturally, I had questions about how to become a vegan – ‘What do vegans eat?’ was a big one – but once these questions were answered (and quite easily, I might add), my newly acquired vegan diet drastically changed the way I thought and felt. No, giving up butter, milk, and oil is not as scary as you think - and if i can do it, anyone can!

Going vegan is about incorporating ingredients you’ve never used or heard of into your diet to enhance your health. Who knew that lemons are not citric but rather alkalizing and help stabilize your pH? I sure didn't. My health scare made me rethink how I was living and accept the signs my body was sending. It showed me how clean eating and raw foods can be glorious just as they are found in nature.

Initially, my vegan diet was fairly limited; I ate only fruits, vegetables, and nuts. But when I moved back to New York in 2013, I discovered a whole different world filled with incredible creations that can help you keep a beautiful, simple, and clean diet. If you've ever wondering about pursuing a vegan diet, I'm here to help.

What do vegans eat?

Vegans eat a plant-based diet primarily composed of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and legumes. They stay away from animal products, dairy, and in most cases, refined sugar, white flour, rice, and bread because they are thought to cause inflammation in the body.

Why should you eat a vegan diet?

You should try to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible – it's earth’s purest form of giving us food. You can get all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants your body requires through fruits and vegetables. Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown in some studies to raise people’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. Nonetheless, follow your body’s intuition as to what is right for you. It always knows best.

Why should you consider raw foods?

By eating raw foods, you intake as many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as possible. When you heat food to cook it, its properties die and the product loses vitality. It is also used as a way of healing – plant-based diets can minimize or completely reverse chronic diseases. Think about it and eatraw foods when you can.

Where do vegans get their protein from?

Vegans get all their protein from a plant-based diet. The key here is to eat a varied diet – play and explore with foods from the Earth. Protein sources include: broccoli, kale, almonds, spinach, lentils, beans, chickpeas, non-GMO tofu, peas, oats, and nut butters (tahini, cashew, almond).

Vegan substitutions for healthier options:

  • Almond milk or cashew milk (you can learn how to make it yourself!)
  • Nut cheeses
  • Apple sauce instead of eggs for baking
  • Dates, figs, and bananas to sweeten desserts
  • Harina de coco for gluten-free baking
  • Irish moss or cashews to make puddings and give it consistency
  • Crumbled (GMO-free) tofu in lasagna and similar dishes
  • Raw cacao instead of chocolate
  • Quinoa and farro instead of rice