A vegan diet is a diet that excludes animal-based products such as meat, eggs, or dairy products.
A plant-based diet is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, and with few or no animal products.
The vegan diet is popular!
In 2018 in the U.K 600,000 people followed a vegan diet according to the Vegan Society’ latest research. And there is definitely a good reason for that.
Eating a good plant-based diet has many health benefits, and once you get the hang of following the guidelines of this plan, you can do it very easily.
Here are nutrients you should take extra attention when following a plant-based diet:
A vegan diet has lots of benefits, but in order to achieve these benefits, you will need to eat healthily (learn to read the labels) and plan carefully so you will not skip any essential vitamin or mineral that is very important for the body to function.
Sometimes supplementation may be necessary.
It is quite easy to fall into the trap of eating unhealthy, processed food as part of a vegan diet, but this will lead to health concerns in the future.
General recommendations for who want to follow a vegan (plant-based) diet that includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that include beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains and avoiding or limiting added fats, oils, and refined, processed carbohydrates
There are many reasons to choose a vegan diet or to increase the vegan ingredients of your diet.
- According to research, a vegan diet is especially beneficial for those with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, or cardiovascular disease.
- The major benefits for those who suffer from a variety of chronic conditions are the possibility of reducing the number of medications they take to treat their condition.
- Help to lose weight (when done correctly).
- May help to lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function.
- Environmental and ethical benefits.
Every person is different and from that reason, different people have different dietary needs.
You cannot find one diet that is suitable for everyone.
Because of the benefits of a vegan diet, many people decide to combine more plant-based foods in their diet even if they are not vegans.
Key nutrients that are important to keep an eye on under a vegan diet:
The presence of vitamin B12 is essential for cell growth, and crucial for a healthy nervous system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to
- elevated plasma homocysteine concentrations
- a risk factor for neurological disorders
- cardiovascular problems, including pernicious anaemia and haematological disease
Many products, including cereals and yeast extracts, have been fortified with B12 produced through industrial fermentation of bacteria.
The human body only absorbs a tiny amount of B12 every time the vitamin is consumed.
Include foods fortified with B12 in your diet, such as plant milk, soy products or by taking a B12 supplement or B-complex supplement which includes B12.
B12 supplements that are chewed or dissolved in the mouth have an enhance absorption.
Proteins are broken down during the digestion process, they are broken down into amino acids which are then used to form your hormones, enzymes, muscles etc.
Proteins are essential for:
- muscle growth
- healthy skin and hair
- energy production
- hormone and enzyme production
Why does vegan need to watch for this nutrient?
In general, animal proteins have a higher Biological Value than vegetable protein, due to the resemblance of humans and animals.
Biological value is a measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from a food which becomes incorporated into the proteins of the organism’s body.
Plant-based foods (pulses, grains, nuts, and seeds) are great sources for proteins but often lack one or more essential amino acid.
We can reach very good quality proteins from a plant-based diet by eating different types of food combinations for example- pulses with whole grains, for example, brown rice with lentils, hummus with whole grain pita bread, stir-fried vegetables with tofu over rice.
However, these food combinations do not have to be in the same meal and the most important it includes a wide range of plants rich in protein you will ensure all the essential amino acids are consumed.
The recommended amount of proteins for adults is 0.8 g/kg per day (about 46 g per day for women and 56 g per day for men).
Iron is an essential element for blood production.
If your body doesn’t have enough iron, it cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Iron deficiency can cause anaemia.
About 70 % of the body iron is found in the red blood cells called haemoglobin and in muscle cells called myoglobin.
Haemoglobin is essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues.
Why does vegan need to watch for this nutrient?
There is a difference between Iron from animal source and plants.
- Heme iron, derived from haemoglobin and myoglobin of animal food sources (meat, seafood, poultry), is the most easily absorbable form.
- Non-heme iron is derived from plants and iron-fortified foods and is less absorbed.
The recommendation is eating iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods for better absorption!
Among plant-based foods, legumes and leafy green vegetables are consistently among the best sources.
Other good sources are nuts and seeds and dried fruits.
Examples- the iron content in 100 gr of dried chickpeas is 6.2 mg, and in 100 gr of dried lentils, there is 7.5 mg iron.
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Iron
The amount of iron you need is:
- 7mg a day for men over 18
- 8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50
- 7mg a day for women over 50
Essential Fatty acids –
Vital for good brain health, the nervous system, skin health and heart health.
The omega 3 fats, which are found predominantly in oily fish, can be deficient in vegan diets.
Signs of deficiency:
- dry skin
- hormone imbalances
- high blood pressure
- poor memory
Vegan sources: Omega 3 – flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, algae oils (DHA).
Iodine is required for the health of the thyroid gland and therefore for metabolism.
An underactive thyroid can lead to
- low energy
- dry skin
- weight gain
Vegan sources: Seaweeds such as kelp (Kombu), iodized salt.
For conclusion, these guidelines aim to help you to receive enough of all essential nutrients in your diet.
In my clinic, I meet many clients that struggle to manage a healthy diet, feel tired and low in energy.
One of the best solutions is to eat a varied balanced diet.
I hope you find this guide helpful.
If you want to learn more and adjust a diet that is suitable perfectly for you with a personal nutrition plan, do not hesitate to contact me.
In Paz By Nature clinic, I can offer you a personal Naturopathic treatment plan suitable to your health concern and a follow-up specifically to you.
I will be happy to support you during the healing process! See you at the clinic!
Pazit Azoulay registered Naturopath MNNA
Paz By Nature.