A vegan diet is a plant-based diet where food that comes from animals, including dairy products and eggs is replaced with plant based versions (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits).
Have you considered a vegan diet?
You may have seen lots of references in social media and online referring to Veganuary. If you have not heard this term before then Veganuary is a global campaign that encourages people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet where food that comes from animals, including dairy products and eggs is replaced with plant based versions(such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits).
For almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is now a vegan alternative. This means that eating a vegan meal may look and taste the same as your non-vegan meals; the difference is that your meal does not involve any animal suffering or come with the same environmental impact.
Is eating a vegan diet good for your health?
You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet but you will need to plan your diet properly so that you do not miss out on essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
The NHS recommends that a healthy vegan diet should include:
- at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
- some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
- some beans, pulses and other proteins
- unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
- drink plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)
What types of foods does a vegan need to eat?
By cutting out dairy products, such as milk cheese and yoghurt, it is important to continue to get enough calcium and vitamin D as these nutrients help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Broccoli, Cabbage & okra.
- Soya rice and oat drinks (fortified and unsweetened)
- Calcium-set tofu
- Sesame seeds and tahini
- Brown and white bread
- Raisins, prunes, figs, dried apricots and other dried fruit
To regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate, your body also needs vitamin D which can b e gained from exposure to sunlight, fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetened soya drinks with added vitamin D.
The iron required to produce red blood cells in our body, in a non-vegan diet is typically from meat. For a vegan diet, iron is found in pulses, wholemeal bread and flour, breakfast cereals fortified with iron, dark green leafy vegetables (like watercress, broccoli and spring greens), nuts and dried fruits.
Vegan sources for vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system are generally from food that has been fortified with the vitamin such as breakfast cereals, unsweetened soya milk and yeast extract such as marmite. In a non-vegan diet vitamin B12 is found naturally in meat, fish and dairy products.
Recipe ideas and more information about a vegan diet can be found here.