A vegan diet is when a person does not consume any animal products which are produced by animals or the animal itself. This means that vegans do not eat eggs, fish, meat, honey or dairy products. With many people taking part in Veganuary I thought it was important to do a blog post on all things vegan. Many people, particularly those that take part in Veganuary, do not sufficiently research how to have a healthy vegan diet, before consuming a vegan diet. This lack of research can cause malnutrition or deficiencies, so hopefully I can educate you in this blog on what you need to know about a vegan diet.
As a vegan it is likely that you would become deficient in B12 as this vitamin comes from meat, fish and dairy products. To avoid a deficiency in B12 it is important to consume supplements of B12 (10 micrograms of B12 daily), or alternatively you can consume B12 fortified products. Foods containing B12 should be consumed twice daily and consumption should equate to 3 micrograms per day (The Vegan Society).
Examples of vegan-friendly foods containing B12:
- Nutritional yeast.
- Marmite + yeast spreads.
- Milk alternatives fortified with B12.
- Plant-based meats.
- Fortified cereals.
- Nori seaweed.
Calcium largely comes from dairy products and so as with B12, vegans must find ways to get calcium in their diet. The most simplest way is to ensure foods are fortified with calcium, for example choosing a calcium-set tofu over a normal tofu.
Vegan foods which contain calcium:
- green, leafy vegetables.
- Unsweetened milk alternatives fortified with calcium.
- calcium-set tofu.
- sesame seeds and tahini.
- brown and white bread.
- dried fruit.
Iodine is present in, you guessed it, many non-vegan foods so we need to make sure we are getting enough iodine when following a vegan diet. Seaweed is one of the main sources of iodine but this can be hard for vegans to consume frequently, so instead vegans can up their consumption iodized salt (for example use this to salt the water when cooking pasta). Another way vegans can up their intake of iodine is look for iodine fortified products.
The simplest way to get enough vitamin D is sit in the sunshine as I have covered in a previous post (“Vitamin D is the key”). However, in the UK sun light can be scarce so must consume foods high in vitamin D. Foods typically containing vitamin D are non-vegan (oily fish, red meat and eggs), so vegans must opt for vitamin D fortified products. For example, you can get vitamin D fortified bread or soya/almond milk etc with vitamin D content. As with the wider population, people in the UK should consumed supplements of vitamin D of 10 micrograms a day.
Although there are plenty of foods that a vegan can eat to get iron, these plant based sources are not as well-absorbed as haem iron sources such as red meat. Therefore, vegans must have an increased consumption of the foods that contain iron and also use the tips outlined in my previous post “Why you might not be absorbing iron”.
Vegan foods containing iron:
- Wholemeal bread and flour.
- Fortified breakfast cereals.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables.
- Dried fruits.
The obvious complication of a vegan diet is where do you get protein from if you aren’t consuming animal products. Well there is still plenty of protein sources a vegan can consume. Its also worth mentioning that in order to get sufficient amount of amino acids a protein product such as lentils should be paired with rice or beans with whole grain bread. This means amino acids are sufficient in the body as plant based foods have less amino acid content than meat sources.
Vegan protein sources:
- Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame.
- Chickpeas and other beans such as kidney beans.
- Nutritional Yeast.
- Green Peas.
Help for vegans
Veganism has increased in popularity in recent years, and now more than ever there is a wealth of resources for recipe ideas and help to thrive on a vegan diet which I will link below. Sources of help for vegans or those wanting to go vegan. These have all been suggested to me when I reached out to my twitter and instagram followers!
Lucy Watson- Awakenings
This first link is to a book written by Lucy Watson called The Awakening. In this book Lucy discusses veganism and her journey with it. She has also produced vegan cook books which are excellent and were popular when asking for vegan resources on my social media.
Thrive is a magazine which gives readers vegan recipes, interviews with vegans and information on benefits. The ‘homepage’ link below will take you the Thrive homepage as there was no preview link available.
Dirty vegan is a recipe book which accompanies BBC’s first vegan TV programme. This makes veganism seem easy!
This link goes to Bosh, which is a well-known brand of recipe books! These are quick and easy recipes, so this dispels the myths that vegan cooking is time consuming.
The Happy Cow
This link takes you to a site where you can enter your location and it will suggest nearby vegan restaurants! This site also has other resources, such as a blog! Sorry no previews available again but if you click the link below it will take you to The Happy Cow website.
To summarise this post, it is more than achievable but you have to be more vigilant on types of foods you are consuming. In other words it is not just a case of cutting out animal products but introducing more plant-based products. As long as these deficiencies and short falls are accounted for then an individual should be able to thrive on a vegan diet. If you experience any negative side effects be sure to seek doctors advise as it may be that you are not doing enough to get a balanced diet.
That’s all from me,
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!