Is being vegan healthy?
Growing up, you may have been told of the importance of having protein in your diet, including a variety of meat and fish. But in today’s world, the debate of cutting out certain foods due to beliefs or intolerances has become much more common, with the amount of Brits referring to themselves as vegetarians and vegans continuing to grow year on year.
Although there are plenty of health benefits to having a vegan diet, this World Vegan Day we thought we’d look into the best ways to practising veganism for people of all ages.
A common myth that comes with veganism is that cutting out meat is enough to get all the health benefits of the plant-based diet. But it’s still important for vegetarians and vegans to, according to the NHS, eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, continue to eat base meals made from potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starch-based carbohydrates and drink plenty of water. Making sure to reduce sugar intact and avoid foods that are high in fat and salt is also key to staying healthy.
Something that is often misconstrued when it comes to vegetarian and veganism is the idea that you will need to take vitamin supplements to replace the one’s missing in your diet. In fact, with good planning and understanding of the diet, you can quite easily get all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy without having to go down the vitamins route. A great way to make sure you do receive all the nutrients you do need is planning and prepping meals in advance, as this means you can ensure you are having a balanced diet with all the foods you need. Vegetarians need to make sure they receive enough iron and Vitamin B12 in their diets, whilst vegans also need to ensure they have enough calcium too, with the lack of dairy products in their meals.
Vegans and vegetarians can get good sources of iron from pulses, nuts, dried fruit, dark-green vegetables, which includes broccoli and spring greens, wholegrains such as brown rice and brown bread and cereals containing fortified iron. Women between the ages of 19 to 50 years old should have 14.8mg a day of iron, whereas over that age you should have just 8.7mg, the equivalent for a male.
Calcium on the other hand can be much harder for vegans, as they can’t eat dairy products. Vegans can find calcium in a range of products including leafy green vegetables (excluding spinach), almonds and sesame seeds, dried fruit, pulses and wholemeal and white bread.
Alongside iron and calcium, vitamin B12 can be found naturally in foods from animal sources, so vegans can once again be prone to deficiencies in this area. Vegan sources of vitamin B12 can come from yeast extract, so lovers of Marmite will be very pleased, breakfast cereals with fortified vitamin B12 and soya products fortified in vitamin B12.
Exercise is also a factor where many possible vegans and vegetarians worry about having the energy needed for big workouts. The NHS suggests that you don’t need a special plan for exercising if you are a vegan or vegetarian, but recommends making sure that if you do exercise regularly, you should make sure to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates including rice and pasta for energy, alongside a lot of fluids when partaking in vigorous exercise.
We’d love to hear all the positives from our customers who are vegan or vegetarian, and whether you see a change in yourself when you remove meat or dairy products from you diet!