A vegan diet excludes all meat, fish, dairy and eggs, and it is becoming increasingly popular. People that choose a vegan diet often have health or ethical motives. If you are considering transitioning to a vegan diet there are many factors you should consider.
1. Meal Planning is Crucial on a Vegan Diet
Macro- and micronutrients are necessary for all individuals to sustain health and growth, but a poorly formed vegan diet can predispose you to certain deficiencies due to lack of animal product consumption. Your body requires different quantity of macronutrients and micronutrients, and when transitioning to a vegan diet it can be challenging to ensure ideal health and the nutrients’ function in your body. Although there are plenty of vegan products that contain particular macronutrients and micronutrients, they often have to be consumed in higher amounts than non-vegan products.
2. The Challenge of Consuming Complete Proteins on a Vegan Diet
Protein is often required in large quantities as it contains higher amount of calories to provide your body with energy, in particular to your organs such as kidneys, heart and brain to make them operate at their full potential. Deficiencies in protein can lead to fatigue. Importantly, meat, poultry and fish are a great source of protein as they contain all 9 amino acids and helps repairing body tissue, blood clotting, and normal function of cells. However, when eating a complete plant based diet, you should aim to mix and match certain plant sources of protein as some plant contain protein, in addition to include tofu in your meals as it is considered a complete protein.
3. Essential omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients and the best sources for it is from fish and eggs. They have plenty benefits for your brain and body. For instance, several studies have shown that omega 3 has a positive effect on mental health, eye health, and pregnancy. They are also involved in reducing the risks of heart diseases, symptoms of metabolic syndrome, mental decline with age and Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, they are vital for optimal health. Nevertheless, there are some great vegan options as well, such as flaxseeds and vegan supplements.
Calcium is crucial for muscle contraction, release of hormones, and transmitting messages through the nerves throughout your body. Although dairy products contain the highest levels of calcium, there are many plant alternatives that are great sources of calcium such as seeds, beans and lentils, almonds, plant milks, tofu, and figs.
5. Do Not Forget About Iron
Iron is an important mineral as it brings oxygen throughout your body and producing red blood cells. Importantly, a deficiency of iron can lead to anemia and you can suffer from fatigue. Fortunately, there are plenty of great vegan options that are good sources of iron such as spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, broccoli, and tofu. Nevertheless, make sure that you include some food with high vitamin C content such as tomatoes and greens as vitamin C boosts iron absorption.
6. Vitamin D is Crucial to Prevent Several Health Issues
Some benefits of vitamin D are healthy bones, reduced risk of fly, and reduced risk of diabetes, cancer prevention, depression and anxiety prevention. Normally fish oil, swordfish, salmon, sardines, fortified skim milk, tuna, chicken and eggs have high amount of vitamin D, but vegan food sources such as maitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, plant based milk with fortified vitamin D, and orange juice fortified with vitamin D are great sources of vitamin D. Also, when it is sunny, make sure to expose your body to some it!
7. Don’t Forget About Zinc and Vitamin B12
There are several benefits of Zinc; it is important to the immune system, hair, nails and skin. The non-vegan food sources are normally very efficient such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Nevertheless, there are some efficient vegan sources like beans, seeds, nuts, nutritional yeast and oats.
B12 is important for blood cell formation and anemia prevention, boosts energy, improves heart health, and reduces depression. In addition to keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy. Meat, clams, sardines, tuna, dairy, eggs and fish are extremely efficient food sources for B12. Unfortunately, B12 is very hard to obtain from vegan sources such as fortified plant based milk, and fortified cereal. The fortified vegan products are just not sufficient, and therefore supplementation is crucial!
8. Lack of Calories in Your Vegan Diet
Some studies have compared vegan diet to omnviores in particular studies have compared the two groups’ BMI and calorie consumption. The results showed that vegans have lower BMI and consume fewer calories than omnivores. Although some might think that low calorie consumption is healthy, it is not. You have to make sure that you are consuming enough calories to keep you energetic, healthy, and avoid the negative side effects of low calorie consumption like fatigue, slower metabolism, nutrient deficiencies and mental health issues around food.
9. There is No Overall Benefits of a Vegan Diet on Cancer Mortality
A few studies show that omnivores had greater risk of developing different types of cancers including bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer in comparison to vegetarians/vegans. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that this effect might be a result of higher consumption of fruits, vegetables or nuts, and not due to lack of non plant-based source consumption.
10. The Vegan Diet Might Not Be For You, And This in Not Because You’re Doing It “Wrong”!
We all have to realise that humans are different, and that also means how people’s bodies work. A vegan diet might work for some people, but it might not be for you, and it is ok to stop. If the diet takes a toll on your health, mental health and everyday life; you have the power to stop even when this means going against your values, and others that have adapted to the diet tell you that you are not doing it right.
How Can Our Services Help You?
If you are still unsure on how to transition to a vegan diet, our experienced Nutrition and Dietician team can help you incorporate a vegan meal plan into your lifestyle by making sure that you are still following a balanced diet high in protein, vitamins and essential micronutrients.