A summary of 8 things learned during the African vegan challenge plus 10 African vegan recipes to get you started
Last month, I embarked on a 30-day African vegan challenge. A solid stretch of 30 days as an African vegan allowed me to a sneak peek into life based entirely on African vegan lifestyle. Here are a few things I learned on that journey and 10 African vegan recipes to get you started on your journey.
The Good About An African Vegan Lifestyle
It will be easier than you anticipate
Truth be told, it wasn’t that hard… But only after I got over the disappointment that honey is not vegan, and the discovery that date syrup was there for the rescue. Figuring out what I couldn’t eat was pretty easy. Anything made from or by an animal (and that included dairy, eggs, and even fish sauce) was off the menu.
Eating at home was a breeze. Salads were a simple staple and if you stock your pantry with some whole grains, tofu, lentils and chickpeas, along with fresh fruits and seasonal vegetables, you’ll be all set for lunches and dinners. I really got into my rice dishes – Jollof rice and veggie wali wa nazi, usually topped with pomegranates and/or avocado slices.
Eating out was a bit more challenging. The restaurant Hiltl was a saving grace. The range and quality of the vegan menu at Hiltl is second to none. A must-visit when in Zurich, even for non-vegans, and highly recommended.
You will plan more, and cook more
You will plan more. (yes, not even food bloggers or seasoned pros are exempt from this!) Especially at the beginning, if the concept of celebrating the vegetable rather than the meat is new to you. You will also cook more, and get better at reading labels. You will become a well-informed consumer and (amongst other things) you will become familiar (too familiar) with e-numbers, so much so that you will be able to tell, at a glance, which e-numbers are vegan-friendly.
You will not miss meat so much, You miss the convenience of cooking with meat.
You know that age old recipe that does not include meat, but needs an egg for a binder? Finding substitutes for animal products is tricky (yes! Bisto is vegan :), but even trickier is modifying your cooking technique to get the best out of your vegan substitute.
You may not lose weight, but you will feel lighter and better
I lost a couple of pounds during this challenge but nothing drastic. Part of the weight loss was probably due to losing some muscle mass as I struggled to adjust my macronutrients to suit my athletic lifestyle. However, a vegan lifestyle encourages more mindful eating which probably contributes to the feeling of wellness, and weight loss. So it is all good for losing weight and feeling good.
The Bad about an African Vegan lifestyle?
You might overdose on bread
Bread is something of an addiction for me, and during the African vegan challenge, it became more of an un-healthy addition. I sneaked bread into almost every meal, its hard to believe I did not actually OD on it.
I have a shameful weakness for fresh sourdough bread and this sourdough bread (always freshly made and sometimes still hot from the oven) from John Baker is seriously the best bread there is! I cant think of anything better than a slice of this bread, hot and fresh, with some smashed avocado, fresh lemon juice and a dash of olive oil.
You will need supplements
Cutting out animal-based products might seem like a big challenge, but the real challenge is in cutting those things out AND maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet. Plant-based sources of food do not contain vitamin B12, which help with the formation of healthy red blood cells. (1) In addition, non-heme iron, which is the form of iron found in plant-based foods, is poorly absorbed by the body, in comparison to heme iron, found in animals. Pairing Vitamin C with iron has been shown to improve the absorption of iron (2), but this should be complemented with supplements.
Being Vegan and maintaining a high protein, low carb diet is challenging
Challenging, but not impossible. I was actively aware of my macro-nutrient intake since I do a lot of strength training, and was always looking for ways to sneak in protein at every meal.
You might end up eating more junk food than real and whole foods.
How do you create cheese, milk and meat without dairy and meat? By processing plant-based raw materials, often times with additives and preservatives. Take dairy cheese and vegan cheese, as a case-in-point.
However, I must admit that I did find very good quality vegan cheese, made from cashew nuts and utterly delicious to boot. If you are vegan and in Switzerland, you must try this vegan goat’s cheese. it is unbelievably good! Still, I was surprised at the amount of processed vegan products out there. It doesn’t matter if it is vegan. Processed food is just that. Processed!
Is an African Vegan Lifestyle Good For You?
The most common question I got during the challenge was , “Are you going to continue the African vegan lifestyle at the end of the challenge?” And to a certain extent, I am. I practice the African traditional diet which prescribes plant-based eating, and that will continue.
But I love dairy cheese to the extent that vegan cheese, no matter how good, just does not cut it. And I need dairy milk in my coffee, although, now, I am more open and receptive to soy milk in my coffee. I’m also planning to re-introduce fish to my diet. But I have no burning desire to eat beef or pork any time soon.
A lifelong vegan diet isn’t for everyone, but I recommend trying to incorporate elements of the African traditional diet into ones lifestyle; eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods (primarily fruits and vegetables) and minimising the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products.
P.S. Catch up on why I took the 30 day African vegan challenge here and check out how I got on with week one and week two and week three of the challenge here.
10 African Vegan Recipes to Get You Started
Did you make any of these recipes?
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Afro-fusion Food Lover.
Sustainable Food Advocate.
Completely nuts about Avocado.