Are you giving Veganuary a go in 2021?
A healthy vegan diet means lots of vegetables, so it can really help kick start your health goals for the new year, plus both the environment and the animals will be thanking you.
Starting any new way of eating requires a bit of planning and if you’ve never followed a plant based diet before it can be bit daunting or even confusing.
So, we asked Vegan Nutritional Therapist, Emily Lamont, to share her top tips on prepping for plant based living.
Vegan protein includes: tofu, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, pulses, and manufactured protein alternatives such as pea protein, seitan and Quorn.
Be careful with ready-made meals though. As veganism’s popularity rises, so do the number of vegan junk foods. Often these foods are full of additives and have been overly processed (which can destroy nutrients) so that they have the textures we are used to. Read the ingredients – can you pronounce it? Could you make it at home with standard ingredients and equipment? If the answer is no, it’s probably not that healthy!
Vitamin B12 is not naturally available in vegan foods, but if often fortified in cereal products, plant milks and nutritional yeast flakes. However, these are often in low dose and not in the most usable form for the body. I would always recommend you supplement B12.
Vitamin D has gained a lot of press for its essential role in immune health lately, but it is also needed for many other functions within the body including brain health, bone health, and muscle recovery. Again, some vegan foods can be fortified in low doses and not the most usable form of vitamin D. Our best natural source is sunshine, but we don’t get enough of that this time of year in the UK, so a supplement is important.
Iron is required for the health of our red blood cells and DNA, to carry oxygen around the body and for energy. Vegan sources of Iron include beans, peas, some dried fruits such as apricots and cruciferous vegetables. It is best absorbed with vitamin C, so ensure you are eating lots of fruit and vegetables. Tannins, such as those found in tea and red wine, and cereals can block the absorption of iron so avoid these at mealtimes.
Calcium is essential for more than just bone health – it is also vital for a healthy heart and blood clotting, nervous system and muscle function. The best plant sources of Calcium are green leafy vegetables, nuts, edamame and tofu products and fortified foods.
Omega 3 fatty acids, also known as fish oils, are another food often low even in non-vegans. You can obtain vegan sources of omega 3 fatty acids by eating certain nuts and seeds, such as flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp, and chia. BUT the body must convert them first and this requires certain nutrients and enzymes for it to happen. Omega 3s are vital for heart and eye health, the structure and functioning of every single cell in the body, and for keeping excess inflammation at bay, so I prefer to supplement using algae oil. This is what the fish themselves feed on to give them this crucial oil, so there is no need to eat the fish!
Everybody’s requirement for supplements differs – it is not just about diet – so if you are considering supplementing long term, then it is essential you seek the advice of a Registered Nutritional Therapist. Excess supplements can be just as damaging to health as low nutrients.
You can contact Emily on Facebook (EMpoweredhealth) or Instagram (Em.Powered.Health) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily is a BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist and ILM accredited Wellbeing Coach. Her special interests are vegan nutrition and helping her clients with realistic weight loss which is both sustainable and enjoyable.
Find out more about NUTRITIONAL THERAPY at Seed.