Are you following a Vegan Diet? Implement these Top 5 steps to do so healthily
Are you following a Vegan Diet? Read my Top Five Tips to be a Healthy Vegan.
Veganism has become a popular health trend. But most people do not consider the health implications of these options or why and if choosing veganism is the healthiest option.
Approximately 1% of the UK population is now vega. 4% of the population are planning to give Veganuary a go this January 2022.
If you are currently trying a vegan diet and intend to continue long term, read on for my top five steps to help you be as healthy as you can.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Many people mix up vegetarian and vegan diets. A true vegan diet excludes all animal products – including eggs and dairy. 100% of the diet comes from plant foods.
This sounds very healthy. But it depends on the type and make-up of those plant foods. It’s important to take the time to consider the nutrients that you may now be lacking. When I review a vegan client’s diet, there are some common mistakes that are not well understood.
Let’s look at my Top 5 tips…
My Top Five Tips to be a Healthy Vegan
1. Are you achieving your daily protein requirements?
It takes careful planning to achieve adequate protein intake on a vegan diet.
A minimum protein intake is approx. 60g per day, but this depends on your weight and your activity levels. A typical fish/meat portion delivers 20g protein, compared to a portion of lentils or pulses of just 8g.
We need protein for growth and repair of our cells and tissues, and for a healthy immune system. Protein is used to make enzymes, neurotransmitters (like serotonin), hormones and for energy. Protein is a key component of collagen required for healthy skin, bones, hair, tendons and ligaments.
Proteins are made up of different amino acids, of which 9 are called essential, as the body cannot make them. Animal proteins are considered “complete” as they contain all 9 essential amino acids, whereas plant protein foods lack one or more.
Vegans should take extra care to look at how much protein is being consumed daily and to vary protein sources to obtain all the essential amino acids. Good protein sources are soya, quinoa, all pulses, lentils, edamame beans, oats, buckwheat, nuts and seeds. To make up any shortfall consider using a plant based protein powder which can be added to smoothies, porridge, coconut yoghurt or soup. This link is a helpful guide to protein food:
2. Are you supplementing missing nutrients?
A vegan diet does not supply all the nutrients required. I can be criticised by vegans for stating this, but my aim is to help you ensure your diet is not nutritionally deficient.
The nutrients that are commonly deficient are B12, iodine and zinc. Even iron and calcium may be lacking. This is because animal sources provide much higher levels of these nutrients.
Yes, these nutrients are found in some vegetable products but only in minute quantities.
B12 is probably one of the most common deficient nutrients, as it is primarily bound to animal proteins. It is required for good energy, red blood cell production, nervous system function, good mental health, immunity, digestive function. A supplement should be at the top of your list and I prefer the oral sprays as this bi-passes the tricky gut absorption issue and gets straight into the bloodstream.
Iodine is essential for thyroid health and the immune system. Using a seaweed shaker to add flavour to food is a great idea (I like a teaspoon for a balanced intake).
Zinc is essential for a fully functioning immune system, healthy skin, for growth and development. Pulses, seeds and nuts provide the best plant sources.
Plant-based iron (called non-haem) is harder to be absorbed from the gut. It requires good levels of stomach acid and vitamin C. Dark green leafy vegetables are one of my favourite sources of plant-based iron as these vegetables also contain good levels of vitamin C. Other sources are nuts, seeds and pulses.
Calcium can be lacking, but it is rich in certain foods like fermented soya natto, miso and tempeh. The grain amaranth is a good plant-based source. Other sources are nuts, seeds and pulses.
3. Don’t forget Essential fats EPA and DHA
We tend to think only in terms of Omega 3, yet it is the fats EPA and DHA which are essential for brain health and function, good mood, have an anti-inflammatory action, are required for every cell membrane and nerve ending. They are also essential and must be obtained from the diet. Oily fish provide excellent levels of these fats, but the good news for vegans is that today there are algae-based supplements providing both EPA and DHA.
Whilst walnuts and flaxseeds are good sources of Omega 3, they have a very poor conversion to EPA and DHA.
4. Watch out for anti-nutrients!
Those healthy pulses, soya, nuts and seeds contain high levels of phytic acid. Phytates bind to minerals (iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium) and can inhibit their absorption from the gut into the bloodstream. This can add to deficiency levels.
Fermented soya (tempeh, miso, natto) helps lower levels of phytates. Soaking and rinsing pulses, nuts and seeds also helps. As does sprouting seeds, grains and pulses.
It’s another reason to really watch your food intake and vary your food sources as much as possible.
5. Look at labels on shop bought vegan products
Be careful with shop-bought vegan foods. They may be time-saving, but they are not as healthy as they are made out to be. There are now 58,000 products registered globally with the Vegan Society. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing and labelling, as the manufacturer wants to promote the “healthy” vegan trend. Read the labels carefully as you may find the product is high in chemicals, additives, thickeners and preservatives. These are bad for health and bad for your gut.
A truly plant-based diet has many health benefits, but it’s important to take a wider review of your diet to ensure it is nutritionally balanced.
I hope you’ve found my blog informative and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment in my healthy lifestyle group, send me a DM or if you would like to discuss your diet more in-depth then why not book a free discovery session here → www.peytonprinciples.com
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