The Vegan Diet – introductory healthy eating and nutritional tips for following the Vegan Diet

Hi again, this is later than promised. I’m catching up after a busy weekend.

The vegan diet contains only plant based foods and is completely free of meat, poultry, fish and any animal products i.e. eggs and dairy. People are on a vegan diet for numerous reasons i.e. weight management, environmental concerns, family influences.

Proper planning is essential when on a vegan diet. Food preparation and food choice are important as all protein, vitamins and minerals come from non animal sources. Food can be prepared at home. There are some ready made vegan meals available in large supermarkets and specialist stores. Vegan options are also available in restaurants.

Things to consider when following a vegan diet include considering alternative sources for the below nutrients:

Vitamin B12 – vegans should include fortified vitamin B12 foods such as soya milk, desserts and yoghurts, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast (always remember to check the food label before buying).

Iron – red meat is the most easily absorbed iron source. Plant foods contain only nonheme iron. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. Alternative plant sources include beans/lentils, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals.

Calcium – to maintain high calcium levels, include plenty of the following tofu, calcium fortified foods i.e. yoghurts, soya milk, fruit juice, nuts, brown/white bread.

Vitamin D – Spending time in the sun boosts Vitamin D levels. Foods that contain fortified Vitamin D include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified yoghurts and soya milks.

Omega-3 fatty acids – good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include canola oil, tofu, flaxseeds/flaxseed oil, walnuts/walnut oil, soybeans/soybean oil.

Zinc – good sources of zinc include soybeans and other beans, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, some fortified cereals.

Healthy Benefits of the Vegan Diet –

A well planned and nutritional vegan diet can have a very positive impact on health. These include:

Zero animal fats: Animal fats have been linked to conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and various cancers. Plant based oils and fats such as olive oil provide the necessary fatty acids without raising low density lipoprotein cholesterol.

Reduced cancer risk: Meat eaters are at an increased risk of prostrate and colorectal cancers. The Vegan diet contains higher volumes of fruits, vegetables, fibre and legumes which are believed to protect against various cancers.

Heart health: People on a vegan diet take in fewer calories than those on a standard Western diet. This can result in a lower Body Mass Index and a decreased obesity risk. Reduced levels of harmful cholesterol can have a decreased risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease than meat eaters.

Lower mortality rate: Eating red and processed meats are linked to increased risk of premature deaths. This suggests that not eating meat redcues the overall risk of premature deaths.

Protection against chronic disease: Plant based diets can counteract an individual’s genetic likelihood of developing chronic diseases i.e. type 2 diabetes.  Researchers maintain that antioxidants in plant foods can fight free radical cells that cause inflammation and cell damage. Other plant compounds assist in controlling different genes linked to tumour growth, cardiovascular disease and arterial plaque.

Please see below link from Brenda Davis, registered dietician and nutritionist about  The Vegan Plate.

Tomorrow I will blog about nutrition and genetics and the relationship between Nutrition, Genes and Health!

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