When you follow a vegan diet you are likely to encounter a large amount of contradictory advice as to how to meet your nutritional needs.
Your omnivore friends and family will more than likely tell you that you are never going to get enough protein or essential vitamins and minerals on a vegan diet. Your vegan friends will be able to tell you this is a complete myth. But perhaps they also don’t know the best way to ensure you’re getting enough of the good stuff.
Vegan Diet and Health Risks
Following a vegan diet is widely accepted as one of the best ways to lower your risk of heart disease as well as helping to keep your blood pressure down. Vegans are also incredibly unlikely to have high cholesterol. It’s also believed that eating a diet free from animal products can help to prevent certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes.
If you want to ensure you’re eating a healthy vegan diet, the following advice is for you!
Plant-Based for Health & Wellbeing
As a vegan, you’re possibly already eating a largely plant-based diet. This can equate to great things for your health and well-being. Fruits and vegetables are rich in folate, fibre and vitamin C.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the health benefits of a vegan diet.
The absence of naturally occurring Vitamin B12 is one of the biggest nutritional concerns when it comes to plant-based foods.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells and the optimum function of our nerves. This vitamin is mostly found in dairy products, so vegans should seek out products that are fortified with B12.
Several breakfast cereals and soy products are fortified with B12 so this shouldn’t be too difficult. You always have the option to take supplements if you aren’t getting enough through dietary sources.
How much Vitamin B12 should I get every day?
You should aim to get 10 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day.
As with B12, you should aim to get 10 – 20 micrograms of Vitamin D every day. Much of this can be obtained from sunlight. During the winter months, you should make an extra effort to get enough vitamin D.
If you want to take vitamin D supplements, look for pills labelled as vitamin D2 instead of D3. The latter is generally not suitable for vegans.
How much Vitamin D should I get every day?
You should aim to get 10-20 mcg of Vitamin D each day.
Omega-3 is great for the health of your heart but is mostly found in fish and other seafood. It’s possible to get an adequate amount if you consume nuts and seeds.
A great tip to increase your intake of this healthy fat is to use rapeseed oil. Green leafy vegetables also contain beneficial levels of omega-3, as do sea-vegetables like kelp.
How much Omega-3 should I get every day?
You should aim for at least 250mg of Omega-3 each day.
There are so many plant-based foods that are high in protein. Quinoa is one such food. It contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a great choice as your staple grain.
Lentils, chickpeas and tofu are also high in protein and can easily be included in your diet regularly.
How much protein should I get every day?
This depends on your weight and activity level. However, aiming for between 40 and 50g a day is a good average.
There are many great plant-based sources of iron. It’s best to consume them alongside foods high in vitamin C, as this largely increases absorption. Legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are fantastic sources of iron, and eaten alongside vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables you will feel the full benefit of eating them.
Click for more information if you’re wondering if you should take iron supplements!
How much iron should I get every day?
Between 8 and 15mg of iron every day is a good goal.
Calcium is an essential dietary component for the maintenance of healthy bones. Good plant-based sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, oranges, kidney beans, nuts, seeds and chickpeas.
The presence of certain other foods can hinder how much calcium your body absorbs. Salt, sugar and caffeine are the main offenders and it is important to limit your consumption of these things.
How much calcium should I get every day?
The average adult needs around 1000mg of calcium every day.
Vegan Diet for Health Benefits
A vegan diet, which excludes all animal products, can offer several potential health benefits when done in a balanced and well-planned manner.
Health Benefits of a Well-Planned Vegan Diet:
Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases: A well-balanced vegan diet can be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Weight Management: Vegan diets are often lower in calories and can support weight management and weight loss when portion sizes are controlled.
Improved Heart Health: Vegan diets can improve heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels due to the absence of animal fats.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A well-planned vegan diet may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to its emphasis on whole grains, legumes, and other foods that are high in fibre.
Better Digestive Health: Vegan diets are typically high in fibre, which can promote healthy digestion and reduce the risk of constipation and diverticular disease.
Environmental Sustainability: Eating vegan isn’t just great for your body and health, it’s good for the plant, too. Vegan diets have a smaller environmental footprint, as they require fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to diets heavy in animal products.
Should You Follow a Vegetarian Diet for Healthy Skin?
Vegan and vegetarian diets can be helpful for those looking for solutions to skincare issues.
A vegetarian diet can contribute to healthy skin, but the key to maintaining good skin health involves several factors, including a balanced diet, proper skincare, hydration, and overall lifestyle choices.
Here’s how a vegetarian diet can influence skin health and what you should keep in mind:
Nutrient-Rich Foods: A well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can provide essential nutrients that promote healthy skin. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support skin health.
Antioxidants: Vegetarian and vegan diets typically include a variety of antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to aging and skin problems.
Hydration: Consuming water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help keep you well-hydrated, which is essential for skin moisture and overall health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds, can help maintain healthy skin by reducing inflammation and supporting its natural barrier.
Fibre: A vegetarian or vegan diet high in fibre promotes regular digestion, which can contribute to clearer skin by helping your body eliminate waste and toxins more efficiently.
Reduced Saturated Fats: A vegetarian or vegan diet typically contains lower amounts of saturated fats, which can benefit skin health by reducing the risk of clogged pores and acne.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Good for Gut Health?
A plant-based diet, when well-planned and balanced, can be beneficial for gut health, leading to better digestion. Here are several reasons why a plant-based diet can promote a healthy gut:
High Fibre Content: Plant-based diets are typically rich in dietary fibre, which is essential for a healthy gut. Fibre helps regulate bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts are excellent sources of fibre.
Diverse Nutrients: Plant-based diets often contain a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, providing a diverse range of nutrients and antioxidants that can nourish the gut microbiota.
Prebiotics: Many plant-based foods, such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas, contain prebiotics, which are non-digestible compounds that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotics are crucial for a healthy gut microbiome.
Lower in Saturated Fats: Plant-based diets are typically lower in saturated fats, which can contribute to better gut health by reducing inflammation and supporting a balanced gut microbiota.
Antioxidants: Plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the gut from oxidative stress and inflammation, contributing to a healthier gut environment.
Reduced Processed Foods: A well-structured plant-based diet encourages the consumption of whole, minimally processed foods. Highly processed foods often contain additives that may negatively impact gut health.
Reduced Red Meat: Many plant-based diets exclude or limit red meat consumption, which has been associated with an increased risk of certain gut-related diseases. A lower intake of red meat can support gut health.
Healthy Fats: Plant-based diets often include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, which can benefit gut health by reducing inflammation.
However, it’s essential to ensure that your plant-based diet is well-balanced and meets all your nutritional needs. Here are some considerations:
Protein: Make sure you get adequate protein from plant sources such as legumes, tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
Vitamin B12: A plant-based diet may lack vitamin B12, so consider B12-fortified foods or supplements.
Iron and Calcium: Plant-based sources of iron and calcium are less readily absorbed by the body, so you may need to consume a variety of these foods and consider supplementation if necessary.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Include sources of ALA (a type of omega-3) in your diet, such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Consider algae-based supplements for EPA and DHA omega-3s.