Vegan Diet? Substitute the important nutrients found in animal products with these vegan alternatives

Veganism – not just a trend, but a serious dietary and lifestyle choice.

Vegans choose to remove all animal products from their diet, which means no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, butter, milk, honey or gelatin. So what’s left? Plant based products such as fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts.

Is it healthy for you? Certainly making the move from an unrestricted diet to veganism can be tough, but by being more conscious of what you eat and cutting out non-vegan junk food like milkshakes (cows milk), burgers (beef), pizza (cheese), chocolate (cows milk) fatty meats and butters, can positively impact your long term health. However, this is only provided you take care to ensure you find a way to replace all the vitamins and minerals you would usually get from dairy and meat, such as protein, calcium and iron.

Getting everything you need while on a vegan diet…

Protein

Ensure you get enough protein in your vegan diet by consuming these protein-rich foods…nuts, soy milk, chia seeds, quinoa, green beans, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, broccoli and edamame.

Calcium

Keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong by replacing dairy with green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage, okra, fortified soya, rice and oat drinks, pulses, sesame seeds and dried fruit.

Iron

It’s important to get enough iron in your diet, and the most common source of iron for many is meat. Ensure your body gets enough iron in the absence of meat in your diet by including some of these in your daily diet: lentils, soy beans, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin, squash, pistachio, sunflower seeds, cashews, Swiss chard and collard greens.

Vitamin B12

A nutrient that helps keep our nerve and blood cells healthy, prevent anemia and support bone health, its extremely important you don’t develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of switching to a vegan diet. As a result, its highly advised vegans take vitamin B12 supplements. Food-wise, the only reliable sources are fortified beverages, like soy or rice drinks and nutritional yeast.

Zinc

Zinc is most easily ingested through eating meat and shellfish, which means vegans need to make another plan to get their fix of this healing mineral which helps fortify the immune system and recovery against disease. Ensure you get sufficient zinc in your vegan diet by eating legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, seeds, nuts and whole grains.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Good for brain health, eye health, minimizing risk of heart disease and fighting anxiety and depression, Omega 3 fatty acids are usually found in oily fish like salmon and tuna, but vegans can benefit from other sources such as flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, canola oil and brussel sprouts.

But why veganism?

People switch to veganism for a variety of reasons, the main two being…

Health benefits

A plant-based diet is devoid of animal fats, which are harmful and known to increase chances of developing cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Vegetables and fruit help to combat cancer.

Bone health – vegans tend to absorb calcium better than meat-eaters.

Lower BMI on average than meat eaters due to a fairly low-calorie diet.

Ethical reasons

Many people turn to veganism out of the desire to life a lifestyle that avoids any cruelty or suffering to animals. Ethical vegans will also generally shy away from leather goods etc.

Luckily, because so many people have adopted a vegan diet over the last few years, it’s become much easier to be vegan – restaurants, shops and friends and family are better equipped than ever to cater for a plant-based diet and there are plenty of sources of delicious vegan recipes out there!

When cooking at home, don’t forget to plan properly so that you eat enough of the good stuff and are not tempted to fill up on quick unhealthy fixes like white bread and crisps. Salads and vegetables alone will not suffice, be sure to incorporate lots of beans, seeds, nuts and wholegrains into your diet too to ensure its well rounded with all the vitamins and minerals your body requires to stay healthy.