A staggering 400 000 people took part in Veganuary’s 2020 movement which was the biggest yet.
When I talk about the term ‘vegan ‘I am referring to the dietary aspect which excludes all animal produce, meat, fish, dairy and eggs and focuses on plant-based eating. I will not be addressing veganism as a lifestyle as this is not something that is in my area of expertise.
The reason for taking part in Veganuary can be for ethical or environmental reasons, for the perceived health benefits or simply to try and include more plants into your diet. Whatever the reasons are for taking part in Veganuary or adopting a vegan diet, it is crucial to be prepared and educated to ensure a balance intake of essential nutrients.
We know that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and fibre and low in saturated fats, has numerous health benefits, and evidence suggests that those who adopt a vegan diet are more likely to be health conscious and live overall healthier lifestyles. However, eating a vegan diet does not automatically mean healthy, and can be high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.
I think it is important to remember that including more plants into your diet is always going to be a good thing, but you do not need to label yourself or follow a specific dietary plan in order to be 'healthy'
What are the common nutrients to be aware of when following a vegan diet?
The myth that you cannot get adequate protein from a plant-based diet is simply not true. There is plenty of protein found in plant-based foods and most people who follow a vegan diet will not be deficient in protein. However, adequate intake of complete proteins (that contain all 9 essential amino acids) is slightly more difficult through plants alone. Complete protein sources are usually found in animal products but also included in plant sources such as soya, chia seeds, quinoa and hemp seeds. Most other plants contain some but not all the essential amino acids, but as long as you’re eating a mixture of different plant sources, you will get all the essential amino acids your body needs.
High protein recipes
Overnight oats - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/overnight-oats-three-ways
Flax & coconut porridge - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/flax-and-coconut-porridge
Five seed Crackers - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/five-seeded-crackers
Chocolate Truffles - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/adaptogenic-chocolate-truffles
Vegan Vanilla Fudge - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/vegan-vanilla-and-chocolate-fudge
Tofu & black bean Noodles - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/maple-tofu-black-bean-noodles
Sweet Potato & Lentil Dhal - https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/blog/sweet-potato-lentil-dahl
Iron is needed to make haemoglobin which is a protein that transports oxygen around the body. There are two forms of dietary iron: Heme Iron, found in animal foods, and non-heme iron found in plant foods such as grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body but non-heme iron needs to be chemical converted to be absorbed. This makes the iron found in plant foods slightly more difficult to absorb.
The absorption of non- heme iron can be affected by other foods in the diet such as tea and coffee and plant chemicals called oxalates and phytates found in nuts, legumes and grains that can block the absorption of certain nutrients such as Iron, Zinc and Calcium.
We can increase the absorption of Iron from foods when consuming vitamin C during the same meal as Vitamin C converts iron to a more bioavailable chemical form.
Calcium is probably best known for its role in bone and teeth formation, but also plays an important role in nervous system health. Despite common myths, you CAN get adequate calcium from plant-based foods such as dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, and sprouts), nuts and seeds.
The ' Green' soup -
This is probably the most important one to be aware of, as we can only get this vitamin through animal products, and therefore if you follow a vegan diet you will need to supplement. However, Vitamin B12 is stored from 2-4 years so if you are taking part in Veganuary you will not need to supplement.
Omega 3The omega 3 EFA include DHA, EPA and ALA. DHA and EPA are the active forms and are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring. ALA, the inactive form is found in plant foods such as flaxseeds and chia seeds and will need to be converted in the body to make EPA and DHA. The conversion process can be less efficient so it is important to be aware and consider supplementing. I recommend Bare Biology as good quality omega 3 supplement
6 TOP TIPS FOR GOING VEGAN
1. Combine your protein sources
2. Eat the Rainbow
3. Be aware of nutrient deficiencies in B12, Iron & EFA
4. Get outside daily
5. Plan your meals
6. Soak your lentils, legumes and beans to reduce the phytic acid content that can interfere with absorption of Iron & Zinc.