If you’re thinking about eliminating animal products from your diet (including dairy products and eggs), the vegan diet may be just what you’re looking for. A vegan diet contains only plants and foods made from plants. Despite what many believe, there are many nutritional components of a vegan diet and, if you follow the guidelines, you can get most of the nutrients that your body needs according to an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This dietary choice also offers a plethora of health benefits! In April 2019, a study was published in the Journal of Nutrition that found a plant-based diet may allow for lowering markers for diseases (including some types of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes).
Take a look at some details below that form part of the vegan diet as outlined by Dietitians Australia.
Vegan diets include:
Fruits and vegetables
Legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, and dried beans)
Breads, grains, and cereals
Soy foods (such as tempeh and tofu)
Seeds and nuts
Vegan diets don’t include:
Poultry, meat, seafood, and fish
Animal-derived ingredients (such as honey)
Food additives derived from animals
Nutrients to keep in mind:
Iron: You can get enough iron through foods like tofu, seeds and nuts, legumes, wholegrains, dried fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables. Because the iron in plant foods is not absorbed as easily as that in animal foods, in order to boost absorption thereof you might need to include food with your meals that is rich in Vitamin C (such as citrus fruit, berries, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers). It is also recommended that you don’t drink tea with meals because some antioxidants from teas can affect your absorption of iron.
Vitamin B12: Because vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal products, it is essential to ear foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12 (such as vegetarian sausages/burgers and some soy milks). Another option is to take a vitamin B12 supplement however it’s best to speak to your GP or a dietitian so that they can advise you about which one to take.
Calcium: Due to the lack of dairy products in a vegan diet, other calcium-rich foods need to be incorporated. Some good sources of calcium from plant foods include hard tofu, calcium-fortified soy, unhulled tahini, almonds, and green leafy vegetables such as Asian greens (bok choy and Chinese broccoli) and kale.
Omega-3 fats: Unfortunately, the body can’t produce omega-3 fats on its own, so we need to get them through our food. Marine sources provide the most health benefits, but plant sources have a different kind of omega-3 fats that also provide some health benefits. The latter include walnuts, linseeds, canola oil, chia seeds, and soybean oil.
Should you be considering a plant-based diet, you can expect to reap the health benefits if you plan thoroughly and consume all of the necessary nutrients. Like any other big change in life, it might seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s possible if you keep yourself motivated and stick to your goals.
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