Being Vegan, Being Healthy.
Being Vegan, Being Healthy.
If you’ve recently taken part in Veganuary and decided to carry on or simply want to include more vegan meals within your diet, you might be wondering if you are covering all your nutritional needs. It’s certainly one of the main concerns we hear when we meet customers who are looking to change their diet to a more plant based one. For those on or thinking of following a vegan diet, eating a wide range of the right foods will ensure you are meeting the majority of your bodies needs and not likely to become deficient of vital nutrients, that said there are a few supplements you may wish to investigate such as B12 and Vitamin D, as well as Iron for some women.
Having fewer options to cook will definitely call on your creative flair within the kitchen but having a little knowledge about the nutrients in your food and how a healthy diet can help to determine future health will help to spur you on to try or concoct new and exciting recipes.
So here are some tips to help you hit your nutritional targets.
Eat a rainbow.
Simply put, there are a wealth of vitamins and minerals in fruits, veggies, mushrooms and roots, so look to add plenty of different colours to your plate, the more varied your diet the more likely you are to cover your daily requirements of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
When you consider that Kale contains approximately 100% of your daily recommendation for Vitamin A and Vitamin C per 50g and Broccoli has 74% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C per 50g. Carrots for example, are high in Vitamin A, Beta Carotene and Lutein (an antioxidant that has been researched extensively with regard to eye health and macular degeneration). Mushrooms have fairly recently been discovered to have a source of Vitamin D, however you may wish to supplement your diet with additional Vitamin D to ensure you are getting enough particularly in the winter months. The humble Turmeric root which is classed as a functional food, contains Curcumin a potent anti-inflammatory which is well researched with regard to inflammation, add to juices or smoothies, soups, stews and curries. Dried Apricots, figs, raisins as well as legumes, seeds, green leafy veg and beetroot are good sources of iron, consume with Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, sprouts, berries and kiwis to maximise absorption but away from regular tea and coffee as this can inhibit absorption.
Think of your daily diet in terms of colour, eat purple, red, green, yellow, brown and orange fruits, vegetables and roots and you’ll be getting a good range of vitamins and minerals.
Don’t be scared of fats.
Fat is an essential part of your diet, hence some fats are called Essential Fatty Acids because the body requires them for good health, so what are these? Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest through their diet as the body cannot synthesise them. Those not essential to the diet are called non-essential fatty acids. Only two fatty acids are currently classified as essential for humans, these are alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). Some other fatty acids are sometimes classified as "conditionally essential”, however that is generally in relation to certain diseases or conditions and so would not be essential for most people.
Vegan sources of essential fatty acids can be found in: hemp, flax, chia, walnuts, almonds, safflower and olive oil as well as dark green leafy veg, whole grains, seaweeds and some blue green algaes and algae oil.
Eat good quality protein.
The average person requires around 60 gram of protein per day and it’s actually surprisingly easy to satisfy that requirement on a vegan diet. You can get a good range of protein from grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables and some of their derivatives such as plant alternatives to meat, milk and yogurt, tofu, seitan and protein isolates. An added bonus of these protein sources is that they also have good quantities of minerals such as magnesium calcium
Protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks of the body, and help to build muscles and bones. Amino acids are also utilised by the body within the immune system to help to fight infection as well as other processes within the body such as carrying oxygen, manufacturing hormones, growth and repair functions.
Take a B12 supplement or eat B12 supplemented foods.
B12 is involved in many processes within the body such as producing red blood cells, maintaining a healthy nervous system, converting food to energy, helping to regulate the immune system and mood, and homocysteine levels.
We believe it is essential that the vegan diet contains an absorbable and reliable source of vitamin B12. B12 is not manufactured by plants but micro-organisms and therefore in order to ensure falling deficient vegans can either take a supplement in the form of Cyanocobalamin or Methylcobalamin or eat a range of B12 fortified foods. B12 can be found added to breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast flakes, some plant based alternatives to dairy milk and yeast extract, just ensure you eat enough servings to cover your requirements, the Vegan Society recommends a daily intake of at least 3micrograms per day for fortified foods and 10micrograms per day for food supplements.
So what might a typical day’s diet look like?
Breakfast: Fortified Cereal with fortified plant milk, seeds and fruit.
Snack: Portion of mixed seeds/nuts with a few dried apricots/figs
Lunch: Lentil Dhal with rice and mixed salad.
Snack: Carrot sticks with hummus
Dinner: Seitan Steak/ Veggie Sausages with mushrooms, leafy green veg, roasted root veg, peppers and nutritional B12 Yeast flakes/or a gravy made with B12 fortified yeast extract.
This kind of daily menu would definitely cover the average persons protein requirements as the seitan, nuts, seed, rice and legumes all contain protein as well as some vitamins and minerals. The majority of the rest of the vitamin and mineral requirements would be covered by the fruits and vegetables and some essential fatty acids would be gained from the seeds and grains as well as any additional oils that might be used within the hummus and dhal.
As mentioned previously within this article, supplements can be used to boost the diet such as B12, Vitamin D and Iron (where appropriate for some women), so come and visit us if you have any concerns that your diet may be lacking in some of these nutrients, however if you feel that you are deficient we would always advise visiting your doctor for advice, testing and clarification.
Please note: The content of this article is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition you may have and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.