Discovering the health benefits of a vegan diet

Sunday 27th Dec 2020 |

A vegan diet excludes all animal produce, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy (milk, cheese etc), honey and eggs. A vegan lifestyle will also exclude animal products such as leather.

There are many reasons why people may opt for a vegan diet and lifestyle, the most common include environmental reasons, animal welfare concerns, and health.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET? 

There are many positive health benefits which are associated with a good, balanced vegan diet.  Vegans generally tend to be slimmer, possibly because of the increased fibre intake in their diets.  Vegan diets have also been shown to be heart healthy, and to potentially reduce inflammation and support healthy blood sugar levels.

However, as with all dietary regimes, to gain these benefits it is important that the diet is fully understood, well planned and balanced.  Sadly, you cannot simply cut out all animal products and hope for the best.  You need to ensure that vital nutrients which would be found in these foods are replaced. 

WHAT NUTRIENTS MAY BE LOW IN A VEGAN DIET? 

Studies have shown that those following a vegan regime, have a higher risk of having inadequate vitamin D, Vitamin B12, The omega 3 fat DHA, Iron, Calcium and Zinc. 

That is not to say that these nutrients cannot be sourced from a healthy, well balanced and properly planned vegan diet.  It is, however, true that these nutrients may be harder to absorb or source, if you do not fully research and plan your regime. 

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR A VEGAN DIET

Many vegan recipes will include B12 enriched nutritional yeast as an ingredient to replace cheese.  This would also help to replace this vital nutrient, which in general is only found in animal sourced foods.

Iron is found in green leafy vegetables.  However, plant sourced iron is harder for the body to absorb, so it is important to make sure that the diet is loaded up with these vital greens.  Also, for people who menstruate, especially if they are engaging in physical exercise as well, it could be a good idea to consider adding in an iron supplement to make sure your daily needs are being met.

Algae is also a good addition to the diet.  It provides a good source of protein, iodine and can also be a vegan source of the omega 3 DHA, which supports healthy brain function and healthy vision.

FOODS TO INCLUDE IN A VEGAN DIET. 

Beans, lentils, and peas – all a great source of amino acids and fibre, these should be included daily.

Tofu and Tempeh – a soya based alternative to meat and fish in many recipes and a vital source of protein

Seeds and Nuts – provide amino acids not found in beans and lentils, as well as being rich in essential fatty acids. These should also be included daily.

Calcium fortified plant milks – to replace the calcium found in traditional dairy foods.

Nutritional yeast – do look for a B12 enriched version. 

Greens – cabbage, kales, Pak choi, watercress, spinach – and lots of it. 

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