What is a Vegan Diet?
Vegan diet comprises of only plants and food made from plants such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits.
Vegans do not eat any food item that comes from animals ( including dairy products and eggs).
Tips for a healthy vegan diet :
- Consume at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Base meals on potato, bread, rice and pasta.
- Consume wholesome grains.
- Eat beans and pulses.
- Consume unsaturated oils but in limited quantity.
- Drink plenty of fluids (6 to 8 glasses a day or depending on your activity level)
If you choose to include foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts.
How to get proper nutrients from a Vegan diet?
If you have sufficient knowledge about vegetarian diet and which fruits, beans and vegetables contains which nutrient then you are good to go. But without proper knowledge and planning you may miss out some essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and Vitamin B12.
So before blindly following a vegan diet it is advised to do some research and educating oneself before starting.
Vegan sources of Calcium and Vitamin D :
As we all know Calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones and teeth. So we need to consume foods rich in Calcium. Non-Vegans get most of their Calcium from dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. But calcium is present in other foods also.
Good sources of Calcium in Vegan diet :
- Green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach.
- Fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks .
- Calcium-set tofu.
- Sesame seeds and tahini.
- Brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law).
- Dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots.
The body needs Vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Good sources of vitamin D for vegans include:
- Exposure to sunlight, particularly from late March/early April to the end of September – remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn.
- Fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetened soya drinks (with vitamin D added)
- Vitamin D Supplements.
Vegan sources of iron
Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells.
A vegan diet can be high in iron, although iron from plant-based food is absorbed by the body less well than iron from meat.
Good sources of iron for vegans are:
- Beans and lentils.
- Wholemeal bread and flour.
- Breakfast cereals fortified with iron.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens.
- Dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs.
Vegan sources of vitamin B12
The body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system.
It’s only found naturally in foods from animal sources. Sources for vegans are therefore limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.
Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:
- Breakfast cereals fortified with B12
- Unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
- Yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12
Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily those found in oily fish, can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegans include:
- Flaxseed (linseed) oil.
- Rapeseed oil.
- Soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu.
Evidence suggests that plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease as those in oily fish.
But if you follow a vegan diet, you can still look after your heart by eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, cutting down on foods that is high in saturated fats and keeping track of salt consumption.
A vegan diet not only helps you in being disease-free and enhancing longevity but also helps the environment indirectly. If you want to see the benefits of being Plant-based diet you can watch this show on Netflix called The Game Changers. It contains amazing myth-busters and ill-marketing techniques used by the food industry that is making our society unhealthy.