Is a Vegan lifestyle Healthy for Diving?

There are a lot of different vegan lifestyles out there. Some are better than others, and some are specific for different sports/ activities. SCUBA and freediving take a lot of energy. The vegan lifestyle may just be what you need. 

Yes, the vegan lifestyle is healthy for diving and you can get all you need for recovery and energy. There are enough nutrients when eating a properly-balanced vegan meal. It can also help to prevent illness on dive trips since eating meat/dairy that is not cleaned/cooked properly is often an issue.

While a vegan lifestyle is normally healthy enough to give you what you need it is not always the case. Below I will go over different paths vegans take and things you may have not thought about. I do want to preface this article by saying that I am not a doctor, and you should consult one before changing your lifestyle and make the change in a healthy way. 

Different Types of Vegans

There are different varieties of vegans and what they eat. I for one don’t subscribe to any one specific way to consume food and feel that a little bit of each is best. So I will lay out the different types and how hard it will be to follow these if you are in remote locations and on dive trips. 

  • Whole food vegan– This is based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The idea is to emphasize whole, minimally processed foods. This in most places will be the easiest to follow as you will have access to local produce and a heat source. 
  • Raw food/ thrive vegan– This is based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or plant foods cooked at temperatures below 118°F /48°C if at all. I am not sure why they choose that temperature but this way to eat is pretty easy to follow in most places. The issue arises in the cleaning and storing of these foods as the water sources are not always the cleanest and refrigeration in tropical countries is not always reliable. 
  • 80/10/10– This is an odd one to me and I have never dabbled in it, but the 80/10/10 (also known as low-fat raw vegan)  is a raw food vegan consumption that limits fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados. It relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens in place of them. It is possible to do this but again getting all the energy you need for days of diving may be hard with the access to fresh leafy greens and a variety of nuts are not always possible. So if this is you check with the operator and plan ahead. 
  • Fruitarian– Some people only eat fruit for all meals. This in theory should be able to give you all the energy that you need if you eat a wide variety of them. The issue with dive towns is that fruit is very seasonal and often there are not a lot of imports so check the area you will be going to and reach out to make sure you can get all that you need for your daily diving needs.
  • Starch solution– This is based on a low fat, high carb consumption and is similar to the 80/10/10. The caveat is that it foc
  • uses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruit. Lots of energy and easy to access staples will be easy to access almost anywhere in the world.
  • Raw till 4– This is a very simple way to eat by which you eat raw foods until 4 p.m. and can eat a cooked plant-based meal for dinner. There are many varieties of this out there and again not sure of the science behind it but it is an accessible way to eat when diving.
  • High fat/ gourmet raw vegan–  This is a newer one that I have seen in recent months, you consume a lot of nuts. In theory, the only fats you will consume are different types of nuts and coconut oil. The rest of the diet is compromised offoods such as organically-grown fruits and vegetables, and whole-wheat bread. This should be ok to access if you bring your own nuts and bread. The variety of nuts is not that large in certain parts of the world. Also getting fresh bread is quite hard in Asia among other places.
  • Junk food vegan- This is my favorite of all the ways to eat vegan (I am a sucker for french fries) and is the most accessible around the world in small diving towns. Though it is usually delicious it will not be the most healthy or eco-friendly, as the food comes in a lot of packaging. Also, it can zap your energy if you are diving a lot. But if you choose to live off french fries and Oreos that is your prerogative and is totally possible.  

Which Vegan Lifestyle is the Best for Me and My Diving?

Although several variations of vegans exist, most people and research rarely differentiate between different types of vegans. As a result of this, you will get conflicting points of view. You need to find what works for you and what you are able to sustain. 

I for one eat mostly whole foods and dabble in each of the other lifestyles ( I need my fried potatoes once in a while). Remember unless you are a dive professional and you live in the town, you are on holiday, do what feels right and enjoy yourself whilst protecting the environment and its animals. 

What Foods Can I Eat? 

If you are newer to the vegan lifestyle (or traveling to a new place) and are health-conscious here are some vegan foods that you may not be familiar with. 

  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan. These are a protein-rich alternative.
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are amazing sources of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. 
  • Nuts and nut butter are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E to name a few, it also will vary on the type of nut. But the Brazilian nut reigns supreme overall. 
  • Seeds like chia  (my personal favorite) hemp (illegal in some countries be wary), and flaxseeds contain protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Plant milk and yogurts can help you to get your calcium and are quite common in a lot of places as they need less refrigeration and stay good longer.  
  • Algae, seaweed, spirulina, and chlorella are sources of protein and a whole lot of other nutrients such as iodine, fiber, and B12. Not all are the same and contain different things depending on the areas they are harvested from. 
  • Nutritional yeast is a very western thing, and if you are traveling I’d recommend that you bring it with you for all your B-12 needs. 
  • Whole grains and cereals are my go-to as these are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B vitamins, and several minerals.
  •  Fermented plant foods like kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha often contain probiotics.
  • Fruits and vegetables will vary widely by season and region, so read up on what is available during that time of year. 

Post by Teagan Kane