Everything you wanted to know about Challenge 22
Considering joining the Challenge? Not sure if it's right for you? Here's a list of frequently asked questions to help you make up your mind. If you have any other questions, just ask!
After you fill out the registration form, a tab for a secret Facebook group will automatically open. This group will accompany you throughout the Challenge. Request to join, and once we approve you (please be patient, it can take up to a week), you can view and participate in the group. The group members are people who want to try a vegan lifestyle just like you, alongside a team of mentors which includes experienced vegans and clinical dietitians who'll be happy to answer any question you might have. You can also ask to be assigned a personal mentor who can help you with any specific difficulty you may encounter. Each day we'll post a daily challenge or a little tip in the group, to teach you something new about being vegan. This way, you can experience various aspects of the vegan lifestyle throughout the Challenge. You will also receive an email every few days with the daily challenges and additional information and tips.
The dietitians answer your questions in the Facebook group and provide information and advice regarding a balanced vegan diet. In the group's album tab, you'll find an album called "The Dietitian's Desk", which contains answers to common questions – for instance, where vegans get their protein, how to avoid anemia and how to incorporate a vegan diet with an active lifestyle.
If you have a specific health condition or you need a personalized diet, the Challenge cannot replace one-on-one nutrition counseling. We recommend you see a local dietitian while you participate in the Challenge.
While you can participate in the Challenge through email only (just make sure the Challenge messages don't end up in your spam folder) – in our experience, there is no substitute for the advice and support we provide in the Facebook group. It's enough to spend even 15 minutes a day on Facebook: you can see what the other participants are writing about, ask your own questions, get recipe ideas, share your experience and "like" the posts and replies you relate to. Our experience shows that active participation in the Facebook group makes the transition to veganism much easier. If you're not on Facebook, you can always open an account for the Challenge only. You don't have to reveal any personal information or use your profile at all.
During the Challenge, we'll post a daily challenge each day. These little assignments are usually quite easy and even tasty: for instance, trying a vegan dessert, making a vegan sandwich or cooking a tofu dish. Sometimes you'll have to shop for a new ingredient, and other times you'll have to work up the courage to experiment in the kitchen or go out to a restaurant. Take this opportunity to get to know new flavors, try new dishes and play with your food! It's fun and rewarding in and of itself.
If they are over 16, it's best that they join the Challenge themselves. Just send them a link to the registration form . They don't have to commit to being vegan for life, just agree to give it a try for 22 days. You can join the same Challenge group to accompany and assist them.
We email you Challenge updates once every couple of days. If you prefer not to receive these emails, you can enter a non-active email address. However, we recommend receiving the emails. They're a good reminder for the daily challenges, and they're also a good way to save all the information in case you need it in the future. In any case, you can remove your address from the mailing list at any time.
Is it for me?
Our prep program is just for you! Before the Challenge begins, your Facebook group will be in the preparation phase, where you can take a little taste before you commit. Being vegan for 22 days is easier than it may sound, but if you feel that you need more time, you can always sign up for the next Challenge cycle.
Being vegan during your pregnancy is no problem at all – it can even be beneficial in preventing gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. However, if your usual diet is based mainly on meat, eggs and dairy, it may be better for you to make a more gradual transition. Drastic changes in your diet can harm the development of your fetus or cause a miscarriage – not because of the vegan diet itself, but because of the drastic change. This doesn't mean you should give up on being vegan. It does mean you should make the transition gradually during this special time in your life. We recommend that when you join your first Challenge cycle, you try to cut down on animal product consumption. Then, you can join another cycle and try a full vegan diet.
Absolutely! Being a vegan athlete is no problem at all, and in some cases, it may even improve your performance. Some of our Challenge mentors are experienced vegan athletes themselves, and they'll be happy to answer any question you may have.
We're sorry to hear about your less-than-positive experience. The Challenge can definitely help you make the transition the right way. We put special emphasis on a varied, balanced diet that will provide your body with everything it needs. Sometimes drastic changes in your diet can leave you feeling weak at first, but this feeling usually passes within a few weeks, when your body grows accustomed to your new lifestyle.
First of all, if your kid is over 14, we recommend they join the Challenge themselves. If you're interested in trying vegan yourself, even if only for 22 days, you are more than welcome to join the Challenge and experience it with them. We also recommend taking them for one-on-one nutrition counseling with a clinical dietitian.
Absolutely. In our experience, new vegans have a lot to gain from the Challenge, especially if they participate in the daily challenges and share their experiences in the Facebook group. We're sure there's at least a thing or two we can help you with as a new vegan.
Yes, absolutely. We even have a special gluten-free sample menu for you.
Yes, you can. However, as the transition to a vegan diet may affect your medication dosages, it's important to notify your doctor of the change in your diet. Additionally, we recommend you consult with a clinical dietitian during the Challenge.
A vegan diet can definitely be suitable for inflammatory bowel disease patients, and it may even help maintain remission. However, since the transition to a vegan diet will naturally increase your fiber intake, it's important to make a supervised transition, preferably with a dietitian who specializes in inflammatory bowel diseases and veganism. Before you can join the Challenge, you must commit to receiving one-on-one counseling from a registered dietitian.
Unfortunately, no. The Challenge is not suitable for eating disorder patients. If you are interested in making the transition to veganism, it's important to get one-on-one counseling from a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, so you can learn to do it the right way, without worsening your condition.
Let's talk Nutrition
Studies show that plant-based diets are associated with lower risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. A plant-based diet that emphasizes whole plant foods is rich in nutrients — vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and phytochemicals which promotes overall health. A balanced plant-based diet should include all of the vegan food groups:
- Protein-packed foods:
- Legumes: beans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils
- Soy and soy products: tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy yogurt, soy milk, TVP, soy yogurt, etc.
- Grains (especially whole grains): wheat and wheat products (bread, pasta, semolina, bulgur), oats, buckwheat, corn
- Fats and oils: Nuts, seeds and their spreads
- A vitamin B12 supplement
Eating a varied diet ensures you get all of the nutrients your body needs to function and to maintain health. In case of doubt, and if in need of assistance, it is always recommended that you consult a vegan-friendly dietitian.
A vegan diet can meet recommendations for protein intake regardless of age, sex, or level of physical activity. The key is adequate calorie intake and a varied diet. Protein-packed vegan foods include legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, and lentils), soy and soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh, TVP, soy milk and yogurt, etc.), seitan, and quinoa. Nuts and seeds, grains, and vegetables also provide protein in varying amounts.
Healthy adults require approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day regardless of sex. This means that a man weighing 70 kg needs to eat approximately 60 grams of protein per day (70 x 0.8 = 60). Meanwhile, a woman weighing 60 kg requires 48 grams. Athletes require more protein, but with proper planning they can also easily obtain all the protein they need from a vegan diet.
Example of average amounts of protein in vegan foods:
- Legumes: 15-20 g/cooked cup
- Tofu: 10-15 gr/100 g
- TVP: 50 g/100 gr dry
- Seitan: 22-25 g/100 gr
- Nuts and seeds: 15-20 g/100 gr
- Grains: 5 g/cup
- Bread: 5 g/2 slices
For example, one cup of cooked lentils contains the same amount of protein as three eggs (18 grams) and provides 30% and 37% of the daily protein requirement for men and women, respectively.
If you are an athlete you have higher protein requirements, but these too can be met by putting more emphasis on the protein group.
In addition to providing proper amounts of protein, vegan protein-packed foods come with added benefits such as being low fat, low in sodium, and high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals. A plant-based diet will not only satisfy your daily protein needs, but it will also lower your intake of unhealthy elements found in animal protein, and may also increase your intake of healthy elements found only in plant foods, such as fiber and phytochemicals.
Iron — legumes, tofu, tempeh, edamame, green leafy vegetables, unhulled tahini, whole grains. Iron-fortified foods. In order to improve iron bioavailability, it is recommended to add a vitamin C source to your meal from fresh vegetables and/or fruits and to avoid drinking coffee, tea, or herbal teas close to eating an iron-rich meal. In addition, various food preparation techniques, such as soaking and sprouting legumes and leavening bread, can improve iron bioavailability.
Calcium — soy products (especially fortified products like tofu and soymilk), fortified plant milks and yogurts, green vegetables, unhulled tahini, almonds, and white beans.
Iodine — seaweeds and iodized salt.
Omega 3 — flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
Vitamin D — Vitamin D is scarcely found in food items. Some products have vitamin D added to them but the quantity is small. Since the lower level of vitamin D in blood tests has been raised many now fall outside of the range. In case you have a deficiency, consult your physician or dietitian regarding supplementation. Most vitamin D3 supplements are not vegan, but vegan ones can be found.
A plant-based diet provides all the vitamins and minerals you need except one – vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 originates from bacteria that are found in soil, dirt, feces, and non-purified water. Apparently, in the distant past, the source for B12 was not the steaks that our ancestors used to eat, but rather unclean food and non-purified water. Nowadays, we’ve gotten rid of dysentery and cholera and other infectious diseases, a welcome advancement on our part, but we have also lost a reliable source of B12.
Why is vitamin B12 important? It prevents anemia and keeps our nervous system healthy. A lack of vitamin B12 may lead to nerve and brain damage.
So, how can we get vitamin B12? The only reliable source of B12 in a vegan diet is a supplement, produced from these lovely bacteria (don't worry; B12 supplements are not animal by-products). It is best to use a sublingual supplement of B12 and not to count on multivitamins that contain b12 because their dosage is small. Contradictory to the rumors that are being spread on Facebook and all over the web, it is impossible to acquire B12 via spirulina, fermented foods, nutritional yeast, or any other such plant-based food.
It's pretty simple: Studies show time and time again that vegans lack B12 if they do not take a supplement, and have sufficient B12 levels if they do supplement. So the solution is simple — just take B12. It should be noted that vitamin B12 deficiency also prevails in humans who eat meat, especially in people over 50 years old, due to its complex absorption mechanism. It's also important to know that vitamin B12 typically has no side effects. It is water-soluble and has no upper limit of intake, so don't worry about taking B12 supplements if you don't have a deficiency — it doesn't build up or pose a health risk.
Which type of supplement is best? All of the supplements out on the market are adequate and they all typically contain high doses of this vitamin (500-5000 mcg) because of its complex absorption mechanism.
How much of the vitamin B12 supplement should you take? For people with no deficiency – 2-3 times a week of 1000 mcg sublingual supplement should be enough. For pregnant and lactating women, a daily intake is recommended in order to maintain a steady supply for the fetus/baby. Deficient individuals are usually advised to supplement on a daily basis, but should consult with a doctor or a dietitian.
Soy is a special, healthy legume that's packed with high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals. There are plenty of products made of soy, such as edamame, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, TVP, and more. Fortified soy products are also a great source for calcium and one serving of fortified tofu/soy milk or yogurt may provide 20-50% of the daily calcium requirements.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding soy-based foods. Let's examine them one by one:
- Soy and cancer — soy contains isoflavones. Isoflavones are selective estrogen receptor modulators. That means they are similar in chemical structure to estrogen but they have a very weak hormonal effect. There is actually significant evidence, from many scientific studies, that moderate intake of traditional soy foods (such as edamame, tofu, and tempeh) is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer development and recurrence in women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) 2012 dietary guidelines for cancer prevention also support eating soy as part of a healthy diet. Regarding more processed soy products such as TVP and mock meats – their effect appears to be neutral.
- Soy and thyroid — soy does not have an adverse effect on thyroid gland function and does not increase the risk of hypothyroidism. Existing hypothyroidism should be medically treated and does not require elimination of soy from the diet. It should be noted that soy products should not be consumed at the same time as thyroid medications because they may affect their absorption.
- Soy and sexual development — according to human studies soy does not appear to have adverse effects on sexual maturity and development, male reproduction, or breast size.
- Soy and mineral absorption — soy, like many other whole plant foods, contain phytate. Phytate limits the biological availability of minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. There are plenty of ways to reduce its amount such as soaking, sprouting, leavening and fermenting.
- Soy and GMOs — most soy that is grown for human consumption is GMO-free. If you are concerned about GMOs just check for GMO-free on the food label or buy organic. It should be noted that there is no scientific evidence that GMOs have negative effects on our health.
Soy is considered safe throughout the cycle of life – from childhood to old age – as part of a balanced diet.
So, where does all the scare come from, you may ask? Mainly from studies on animals, where high-dosage isoflavones were used (not soy-based foods and not a typical dosage). The results of these studies cannot and should not be interpreted to reflect the effects soy consumption has on humans. It should be noted that when it comes to cancer, soy is considered safe but the data regarding isoflavone supplements is inconclusive, and therefore, they should not be used in the case of breast cancer history.
Can you be vegan without eating soy due to soy-allergy or personal choice?
Though it’s a shame to forgo such a nutritious and easy-to-use ingredient, you can be vegan without soy. Just make sure to eat plenty of other legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas.
The only supplement every vegan needs is vitamin B12. If you eat a balanced vegan diet consisting of legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in proper amounts you should get all of the nutrients you need.
Iron, calcium and zinc — you can get all these minerals from legumes (especially after soaking or sprouting), whole grains, green vegetable, fortified foods, nuts, and seeds. It is best to add a good source of vitamin C to your meals, such as fresh salad or a slice of bell pepper. Vitamin C improves iron absorption.
Iodine: you can get iodine from iodized salt and seaweeds.
Omega 3 — you can get omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) from flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp, canola oil, and walnuts.
Vitamin D — diet has little to do with vitamin D levels as its main source is endogenic production after sun exposure. In case of a deficiency, a supplement is the best option. Most supplements contain cholecalciferol — vitamin D3 that is from an animal source — but you can get vegan supplements based on D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 from lichen.
It should be noted that cases of existing deficiency, pregnancy, lactation, infants under 1-year-old, and specific medical conditions would require supplementation (regardless of being vegan) and you should consult a physician or a dietitian regarding these.
According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, well planned vegan diets are suitable for all life stages including infancy and childhood, and may also have various health benefits. If you feel uncertain, confused, or just not sure how to do it right, I strongly recommend consulting a vegan friendly dietitian.
The basic principle is eating a varied diet with enough calories to ensure requirements are met. It is recommended to base the diet on all of the vegan food groups — protein-rich foods (legumes, soy products, seitan) grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds (or their pastes for infants and children under 5 years of age), and B12 supplement. Other supplements may be required during pregnancy and lactation according to the recommendation of the ministry of health in your country.
An important thing to remember regarding infants is that until the age of 1 year the best form of feeding is breastfeeding. If, for any reason, you don't breastfeed, you can use a soy-protein-based baby formula (it is safe for all full-term, healthy babies). Soy milk, almond milk, and other types of vegan milks are no substitute for breastfeeding. At 6 months of age, during the introduction of Supplementary foods, it is also recommended to add a reliable source of B12 — a B12 supplement.
You can be a healthy vegan athlete and get all the nutrients you need to succeed. In order to reap the health benefits of a vegan diet you should eat all of the vegan food groups including:
- Protein-packed plant foods — legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils), soy and soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh, TVP, soy milk, etc.), seitan, quinoa — 1 cup of these provides about 15-26g of protein!
- Grains (especially whole grains) — wheat and wheat products (bread, crackers, pasta, semolina, bulgur), corn, oats, buckwheat — Whole grains are great sources of carbs, which are super important for athletes.
- A variety of vegetables and fruits.
- Nuts, seeds, and their spreads (such as peanut butter and tahini).
Also, don't forget to take your vitamin B12.
Your vegan diet can meet recommendations for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate and diet is varied. Athletes do require more protein per kg body weight yet with proper planning they can get all the protein they need, and, if you are not a heavyweight athlete, it can even be simple. For example, if you need around 2 g per kg and you weigh 70 kg than you need around 140 g per day.
Regarding iron sources — these include legumes, soy products, certain leafy green vegetables, broccoli, whole grains, unhulled tahini, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruits. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C (fresh vegetables and fruits) along with foods containing iron, soaking and sprouting legumes, and avoiding drinking coffee, tea, and herbal teas at the same time as eating foods containing iron.
If you are a competitive athlete it is recommended to consult a dietitian that supports plant-based diets to get a personalized plan and make sure you are eating right.
Be it a low-carb diet, paleo, keto or anything else — you can adjust any type of diet to a vegan diet. Note that the more restrictive the diet plan, the more important it is to consult a dietitian in order to make sure this is the best way to promote your goals and to build a personalized, balanced meal plan.
There are several types of detox/cleansing diets. From eating only rice to drinking only fruit and vegetable juices, and even fasting. Popular as it may be, there is no scientific proof to back up cleansing diets. They are not useful and in some cases may even cause health damages. A few points to consider:
- Your body knows how to keep itself in check. Your intestines, kidneys and liver know how to get rid of toxins and harmful substances that may occur in the food you eat.
- The best way to keep yourself healthy is to consume a healthy, balanced diet. A few days or weeks of extreme dietary change during a cleanse does not give your body any benefits.
The blood type diet was scientifically debunked. A review of studies regarding blood type diets concluded: "There is currently no evidence that an adherence to blood type diets will provide health benefits, despite the substantial presence and perseverance of blood type diets within the health industry"
In other words — it's just another fad diet with no science to back it up. Saying blood type is associated with diet is pretty much like saying you should eat according to your eye color.
Honey is just sugar syrup with great PR. If you eat a balanced diet based on whole plant-foods you get plenty of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that support a healthy immune system. No need to add honey or honey substitutes to keep yourself healthy.