Once a year, I do like to test myself by going on a vegan diet. Please take note that I said “test myself” because that’s the only reason why I do it. It’s not because I dislike eating meat nor do I do it because to cleanse myself of toxins or anything like that. I just like the challenge of actually being able to sustain myself by eating solely plant-based products and eat nothing that comes from a living, breathing animal. I wasn’t able to do it last year because, well, it was 2020 and there were oh so many other challenges then. It was kind of hard to really prepare for a week of veganism when most of the stores are closed, you know?
But this year, I had more time to prepare. I knew the Philippines was going to go on lockdown during Holy Week so, before then, I bought most of the necessary supplies I needed to last me an entire week of eating. I said “most” because, even with all the advanced warning, life tends to get in the way. I still managed to get most of the essential stuff, such as Bob’s Red Mill TVP and some Whole Grains and Beans Soup Mix as well as some vegan bouillon. I also got some wholemeal spaghetti noodles to mix things up and a pumpkin seed protein powder just to supplement my protein needs. There was some leftover tofu in the refrigerator I dug up. I even found a soy based chocolate ice cream from a place called Soy & Bean that I could eat for dessert! Even if I didn’t exactly get everything I wanted, this was going to be sufficient.
Just as the week began, disaster struck. My right foot began to swell up a little bit and it was painful to move it, let alone put weight on it. It wasn’t a debilitating kind of pain so I could actually walk around with a limp but this was a totally new sensation for me. Yet I couldn’t figure out how I hurt myself like this since I know I didn’t do anything that would cause me to injure myself. I eventually figured out it was a bout of gout arthritis.
I’ve generally known my uric acid levels have been high for a good number of years now but I’ve never experienced gout until now. Suffice to say, this was a totally new sensation and it actually made me second guess if I should even go through my “vegan week” this year as well. But I was feeling rather adventurous and I wanted to see if actually changing my diet drastically would even help with my bout of gout. So I pushed through with the vegan diet, not only to test myself, but to see how it would affect my gout attack.
The reason why I was hesitant at first to push through with my vegan diet week was because of all the food I bought have been alleged to actually cause gout. I had TVP and soy-based ice cream, which are made of soybeans, which have been purported to increase uric acid and cause gout. There’s also the bean soup mix and beans are also said to increase uric acid in the blood. My thinking was to see if this was all true. If my gout attack got worse, then I would prove them correct. If not, then I know it’s not true, at least for me at the moment. Worse case scenario: my foot would swell up and I wouldn’t be able to walk and I would simply discontinue being a vegan to alleviate the pain.
So anyway, I did go to work and prepare my food for the week. Yes, I basically prepped most of my food in advance. That way, I can cook in bulk and, if I ever did get hungry, I could just quickly take something out of the fridge and eat. There were, sadly, some foods that were definitely more successful than other. Probably the worst thing I did make was the Vegan Bean Soup, which was also the easiest to prepare. Basically, I used a cup of the Whole Grains and Beans Soup Mix from Bob’s Red Mill and added that to around three to four cups of water. I also added a couple of vegan bouillon cubes so it would actually taste like a soup. Pressure cook everything in a multi-cooker for around and hour and I was done! While the outcome wasn’t disgusting, it wasn’t all that tasty. It also didn’t all that appetizing. I know I could’ve made it better if I added spices to it but I just wanted something easy to make since I had other stuff to prepare.
The wholemeal spaghetti noodles weren’t a big hit for me as well. I cooked up all the noodles and did a couple of things with them. I tried to make a spaghetti aglio e olio with it, which is very simple. All you need to do is fry the cooked noodles in olive oil and garlic for a moment and then add chili flakes at the end. The second dish I made I paired with the TVP dishes I made so I’ll talk more about that later. These were okay; not bad but not something I’ll be craving for after a while. The flavor of the actual noodles is definitely more… robust than regular spaghetti noodles. My problem is the texture as they come off as really grainy and stiff. There’s more bite to them, which just feels weird to me when it comes to a pasta dish.
The best thing I had during my vegan week was, hands down, the TVP Chili. The thing with TVP is that you have to rehydrate the flakes with a liquid to make them edible. This simply meant you can use a liquid with flavor and it’ll absorb it directly into the TVP! I used some of the knowledge I had from watching Food Wars! and used it to make the most of out it. For the liquids, I used soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, rice wine, a little vinegar and water, mixed them all together and heated it to a simmer. For the spices, I used cumin and marjoram (two of my favorite herbs and spices) as well as oregano, basil, salt and pepper. And since I had gout, I had the bright idea to also put in turmeric, which is supposed to help with inflammation. I waited for the TVP to rehydrate then proceeded to fry it with garlic, onions, tomato sauce and a few red kidney beans we had in the freezer. I also added some green peas because I wanted some color to the dish and, voila! Vegan Chili using TVP!
This was definitely something I could eat all the time! It didn’t taste like actual beef but it still tasted really good! The best thing about this is how versatile it is! I could combine it with the Wholemeal Pasta to create a Vegan Chili Pasta dish. I could just eat it with plain white rice and it would still satisfy, which is how I ate it most of the week. I didn’t get tired of it. It’s something I could actually eat even on my non-vegan days.
Another thing I whipped up was a Teriyaki Tofu Rice Bowl. Now, I’ve become really familiar with how to prepare gyudon, which is basically simmering thinly sliced beef in soy sauce, mirin, sake and water along with sliced onions. All I did was replace the beef with tofu and I was done. This also tasted really good but the only problem is how the tofu absorbs a lot of the simmering liquid, leaving hardly any left over for the rice to soak. It’s wasn’t bad but, next time, I guess I’ll need to increase the amount of liquid I simmer the tofu in.
But I bet you’re more concerned with the outcome of my diet change on my gout, which became the crux of this entire experiment. Well, it cleared up after only three days! The first day was painful but I managed to eke out all the food on that one day. The pain let up in the evening so I decided to actually get a work out in of some pull ups, dumbbell rows, dumbbell presses and shoulder presses. All upper body workouts, mind you. I guess this was a big mistake and I really should have taken it easy because, the next morning, the pain was excruciating! It took me a while to get used to the pain and I couldn’t stand for long! I still persisted on the vegan diet because it could’ve been the workout that caused the flare up. On the third day, the pain was much less than even the first day of my gout attack and I could even walk normally that night. The next morning, I didn’t feel any more pain from the gout and my foot stopped swelling. The gout attack was done.
Now, mind you, I also did a few extra things to relieve the gout. I massaged my right foot on the spot where there was swelling in the hopes of getting more circulation in the area. I also drank loads more water in an attempt to “flush” out the uric acid build up. Those could have contributed to my gout clearing up in three days but I’m also not saying the vegan diet didn’t help.
Either way, both my experiment into veganism this year was a success as well as testing how the diet might help me in the future if I do have another gout attack. That’s a pretty good week, if I do say so myself.
Have you tried changing your diet when something wrong happened to you? What was it like? Let me know in the comments section below!