Happy New Year!
Another year has gone in the blink of an eye as well as a lovely Christmas break full of extra yoga (utilising that time off work well!) or full of extra food and drink! January for many is a time where people look to make fresh starts and try new things – we have all seen the new years resolution posts haven’t we?!
One of the most popular ‘new things’ to try over the last couple of years has been Veganuary. Veganuary is a charity run campaign to encourage people to try a vegan diet for the month of January hence Vegan-uary. Last year saw an increased number of retailers and restaurants jumping on board the vegan hype, having dedicated menu sections and shopping aisles purely for vegan products.
Many people have opinions on this campaign both positive and negative, but there is no doubt veganism is rapidly growing as a lifestyle choice, with the Vegan society stating there were 542,000 vegans in the UK in 2016, a whopping 360% growth over the last ten years! So, whether you are new to the vegan scene or you just want some extra nutrition advice, here are some top tips to consider if you are opting for the plant baed diet this January.
How to get enough protein:
Protein plays several important roles in this functioning of our body such as growth and repair and the maintenance of good health. There are a variety of plant-based sources of protein on the market such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu and soya. In the UK it is advised to aim for approximately 70g of protein each day. When following a vegan diet variety is key as some sources of protein do not contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body. Foods such as soya, quinoa and hemp are thought to be the only ‘complete’ plant-based sources of protein that do not come in supplement form.
People following a vegan diet can sometimes be more likely to be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. Some of the vitamins to try and include in your diet are listed below.
Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin to be aware of it you are eliminate all animal products from your diet. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, anaemia, and potential nerve damage. The British Dietetic Association recommend eating two portions of fortified foods per day to help with your B12 intake such as breakfast cereals, yeast extract, soya yogurts and non-dairy milks. If this isn’t possible, consider taking a daily supplement with approximately 10mg of Vitamin B12. (If you have any concerns about this please see your GP or a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist)
Iron is usually found in meat and eggs with absorption being helped through Vitamin C. Plant based sources of iron are not as easily absorbed however, you can find iron in foods such as dried fruits, wholegrains, leafy green vegetables, seeds and pulses. To help absorption consume with foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables for example; porridge with seeds and raisins serve with a 150ml glass of fresh orange juice.
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which means the body cannot make it itself therefore we must obtain this from food. Omegas are important for contributing to growth and development, brain function and inflammation. Omega 3 is commonly found in oily fish, so this can be hard to get from a vegan diet. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) advise those who cannot get their Omega 3 from fish sources to maximise conversion by avoiding high in saturated fat foods and to focus on adding plant foods that contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as well as considering a supplement from algae derived DHA. Good sources of Omega 3 in plant-based foods include walnuts, flaxseeds, soya beans and chia seeds.
Calcium is mainly found in dairy products so when following a vegan diet then you are best to try and include foods such as; green leafy vegetables, dried figs, nuts, kidney beans and tofu to help towards your recommended intake of 700mg per day – the Vegan Society state that 100g of calcium-set tofu can provide a half of an adult’s recommended intake. Calcium is important for the maintenance of bone health.
Selenium content in plant-based foods can vary depending on the selenium content of the soil the plant is grown in. This is sometimes hard for those following a vegan diet to ensure they are getting enough however, the BDA say that by consuming just two brazil nuts a day can help you reach your recommended intake of 60mcg for females and 75mcg for males.
If you are taking part in Veganuary this year, enjoy it, get creative with new foods, exotic recipes, and embrace those indulgent vegan dishes in restaurants, just try not to deprive yourself of any foods your body may need. Do not feel the pressure to eliminate animal products from your diet if you don’t want to, this should not be a new year’s diet. Maybe having one day each week being vegan is enough for you… don’t feel pressured into changing your eating habits if it doesn’t suit you.
If you are unsure on anything then always speak to a medical/nutrition professional. Your body unique, nourish it well.