There’s a lot of hype about going Vegan right now. But is being a Vegan healthy?
Well, that depends on what type of vegan you are, after all eating dry crisp sandwiches is also a vegan diet, but not a very nutritious one!
In terms of health benefits there are numerous studies to support the idea that if carefully planned, a vegan diet can be extremely healthy for the body if carefully planned. Numerous studies show that Vegans tend to consume less cholesterol, and less saturated fat than non vegans, and there are many studies which suggest a vegan diet (the fruit and veggie filled version), can be helpful in reducing cancer risk.
But how can I get enough protein, calcium, iron B12 and other essential nutrients?
Some bloggers might try to convince you that you can live on nothing more than bananas, lemons and oranges. But that is a surefire way to end up in hospital with rotting teeth from high volumes of acidic fruit, underweight from lack of calories and malnourished due to lack of amino acids and essential proteins and vitamins. Remember Ashton Kutcher, hospitalised for taking his film role as Steve Jobs rather too literally, eating nothing but fruit.
How to avoid being hospitalised like Ashton:
Take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Omitting all animal produce from your diet you won’t get enough B12. Being vegan you definitely need to supplement your diet with this.
Get some sunshine.
Take a walk, and get out in the sun to allow your body to absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D is otherwise present in dairy produce such as yoghurt. By cutting dairy out of your diet you must ensure that you get some sunlight and if necessary take a vitamin D supplement.
Learn about combining food to create complete protein sources.
Protein is made up of different amino acids. Animal sources of protein provide a complete protein, i.e. all of the essential amino acids. However, vegans need to be careful to eat a range of proteins, as most plant food contain some of the amino acids rather than all of them.
In simple terms, by combining grains and legumes you are incorporating a wider range of amino acids into your body. You don’t need to incorporate them in the same meal, but by doing so at least once a day, its easier to boost your amino acid intake.
If you’re overly concerned you can use vegan protein powders in shakes (made with almond milk) to boost your protein levels. Even Aldi is introducing its own brand of protein powder in its new vegan range!
Protein rich, vegan meal ideas:
My blog post here has more recipes and ideas for nutritious, protein rich meals.
Seeds and nuts are your friends.
Full of essential minerals and healthy fats, seeds and nuts should now become an essential part of your daily diet.
Flaxseeds and walnuts provide omega three oils essential for skin, hair and brain power.
Pumpkin seeds, almonds and brazil nuts boost levels of magnesium which assists the central nervous system.
A breakfast of fruit and nut muesli served with soya or almond milk and topped with extra fruit will give you a great start to the day.
Eat your greens.
Its time to get your calcium from plants, yes that right from plants! Kale and broccoli are superb sources of calcium. Although spinach has calcium it also has high rates of oxalates which block calcium absorption, so don’t rely on spinach for your calcium needs.
Monitor your iron levels.
Iron can be found in many plant sources: tomatoes, lentils, beans and sunflower seeds to name a few. However, keep in mind that iron from plant sources is not as easily absorbed as iron from meat.
A simple tip is to eat iron rich foods with high levels of vitamin C at the same time as vitamin C aids the absorption of iron. For example, a simple glass of orange juice with your fruit and nut museli, is a great way to start the day.
On the other hand, tea and coffee contains tannins which impede the absorption of iron. Therefore don’t drink tea or coffee with or straight after a meal.
Use an app such as cronometer to monitor what you’re eating.
Each day for a week put in everything you consume to check that you’re meeting your daily requirements. You will probably find that because you’ve cut out high calorie foods from your diet you will need to consume a higher quantity of food to make up your calorie and nutrient requirements.
Check the ingredient lists.
Don’t assume that vegan equates to healthy. Check the ingredient list of any foods, particularly processed foods such as dairy free milk and dairy alternatives. Some of them are packed with chemicals. Try and stay natural and organic if possible.
Go to the Doctors for regular blood tests and check ups.
Ensure you have the right levels of essential vitamins by getting check ups with your local practitioner.
How do you feel?
Only you know if something is working for you. Keep a diary of how you are feeling, your energy levels, your emotions. Some diets suit some people more than others.
Does going vegan mean I can’t eat any chocolate or sweets?
One factor that puts people off going vegan is that they are worried the diet is too restrictive, No more chocolate or sweets or ice-cream?! This is a sure fire way to send people straight back to a dairy filled diet.
In actual fact there are lots of sweets and chocolate that are ‘accidentally vegan’…
Just be sure to check the labels, but here are some sweets and chocolate that are vegan: Skittles, Starburst, Love hearts, Polo mints, Fry’s chocolate cream, Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate and Lindt Excellence plain chocolate bars 70, 80 and 90%.
If you’re in the States then check out this link for a list of vegan chocolate and sweets.
And there are more and more companies providing vegan version of our favourite treats, such as Ben & Jerry’s who have released non dairy versions of some of their most popular flavours such as chocolate brownie and chunky monkey, yay! Not to mention supermarkets such as Aldi who have introduced a vegan range this month!
What should I cook on a Vegan diet?
There are literally hundreds of blogs focusing on Vegan recipes.
One concern many people have is the potentially high cost of a vegan diet. However, a vegan diet can actually be one of the cheapest ways to eat. UK blogger Jack Monroe utilizes basic ingredients such as rice, chopped tomatoes, herbs and pasta to create filling comfort food dishes such as veggie daal, curries and stews. She costs her recipes, and most come in at less than 30p per portion. I’m very intrigued by her brown bread ice cream at a mere 24p per portion and peanut milk rice pudding at 16p. Yum!
Oh she glows is one of the original, long running vegan recipe websites which started as a blog. The recipes are incredibly nutritious, with lots of ideas for healthy, vegan treats. Recipes such as vegan cinnamon rolls, carrot cake baked oatmeal and vegan cheese sauce all feature. Its all a bit fancy and time consuming for me but if your focus is on improving your health, and you enjoy spending time in the kitchen and buying organic fruit and veggies then check it out.
So as you can see, trying a vegan diet isn’t so difficult after all..
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Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.