Choosing to cut out animal products is more than just a diet choice, it is a whole lifestyle. And with well over half a million vegans currently in the UK, you are not alone.
But ensuring you get sufficient nutrients from your plant-based diet is essential for your good health. Here are five ways to look after yourself as a vegan.
- Take it slowly
If switching over to a totally plant-based life seems daunting, then take your time so you can create new diet and lifestyle habits that stick. You may also need to allow a little time for your digestion to adjust to a new way of eating as well as potentially new flavours, dishes, and cooking styles.
If the idea of going vegan all at once is a little overwhelming, start by making smaller changes, such as increasing the number of plant-based foods you eat, while steadily removing meat and dairy-based products and experimenting with ingredient swaps.
- Know your food sources
Whether you follow a meat or plant-based diet, you should be able to get all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need for normal health and vitality. However, with a vegan diet it's important to know your food sources so you eat a balanced diet and can prevent any specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Plant-based foods are an excellent source of fibre for digestion, carbohydrates for energy and good fats for many bodily functions, including brain, eye, and heart health. You should also eat appropriate amounts of vitamin and mineral rich ingredients and understand the best food combinations for maximum nutrition. Iron for example is needed for transporting oxygenated blood around your body and sustaining your energy levels. However, the type of iron found in plant-based foods needs to be eaten with ingredients rich in vitamin C to ensure maximum absorption.
Developing a good understanding of vegan food sources means you can eat an appropriately balanced diet that reduces the risk of any nutrient deficiencies.
- Don't forget your protein
Contrary to popular belief, it is easy for vegans to get their daily amount of required protein through plant-based ingredients. Vegan sources of protein include tofu, soybeans, lentils, beans, oatmeal, and chickpeas “ all staple ingredients of really delicious food.
You should aim to eat 55g of protein per day if you are a man, or 45g for women. And the beauty of plant-based protein is that it is generally healthier than animal protein as it is lower in saturated fat.
- Make sure you eat enough
As many plant-based foods have less calories than a meat-based diet, it is important that as a vegan you eat enough food for your physical health and wellbeing. And this may mean eating more than you would on a diet based on animal products.
Sufficient calories are also needed to sustain energy levels and prevent unwanted weight loss so make sure that when planning your meals, you are meeting your recommended daily calorie intake for your age, lifestyle, and activity levels.
- Consider a multivitamin supplement
Particularly if you are a new vegan and are still adjusting to a new diet, it may be beneficial to also add in daily multivitamin tablets which contain iron. This way you can ensure you are safeguarding your health by making up for any potential nutrient shortfalls as you adjust to and embrace the vegan diet and lifestyle.