Planning is key with vegan diets* as nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, and omega-3 fats may be at risk of being low.
The good news however, is that plant-based diets are considered to be some of the healthiest in the world with vegans typically having lower BMI’s, a reduced risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol and possibly even high blood pressure.
Whilst there has been a recent surge in the number of people becoming vegan in Australia, vegan diets are still considered as ‘alternative’ or outside of the mainstream. Therefore most people choosing to become vegan will need some advice on planning their diet.
Here are 6 simple tips to help plan your vegan diet:
1. Include at least 3 serves of legumes each day. These could include scrambled tofu, bean burrito bowls, hummus dips or wraps, vegetarian burgers and soy milk.
2. Eat good sources of Vitamin C with meals and snacks to boost iron absorption. These could include citrus fruit, tomatoes, capsicum, strawberries and green leafy vegetables. Example meals could look like lentil soup with spinach and tomatoes or porridge with strawberries.
3. Include sources of calcium in meals. Calcium-rich foods can be found in all vegan food groups such as fortified rice, almond or soy milks and yoghurts; tofu and tempeh; green leafy vegetables such as kale and bok choy; and other plant foods such as Lebanese cucumbers, broccoli, oranges and dried figs.
4. Include a daily serve of healthy fats such as 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil or olive oil, 30g or ¼ cup of nuts &/or seeds or ¼ avocado.
5. Choose foods that enhance iron and zinc absorption. Phytates (antioxidants) in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can slow the absorption of minerals in foods. Choosing wholegrain breads made with yeast or sourdough, toasted nuts and seeds and sprouted grains and legumes can help ensure good absorption of iron and zinc.
6. Take supplements where needed. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products but can be obtained through some fortified plant based foods. Supplements are often prescribed by doctors to helps vegans meet the needs of this vitamin as it is important for many functions in the body. Other nutrients that may require supplementation if dietary planning is inadequate include iodine, vitamin D, Omega-3, iron and zinc.
For more information on healthy eating, contact us for expert nutritional advice tailored to your individual requirements.
* Vegan diets contain only plant matter. Vegans refrain from eating any animal products and often abstain from using any animal derived products.