Following a vegan diet involves eating only plant-based foods and excluding animal foods and products. This includes fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products and honey. A person following a vegan diet can get all necessary nutrients from their food if they fully understand and plan their diet.
Some important nutrients for vegans to be mindful of include:
Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium is essential in the body for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D is best friends with calcium and helps to keep our teeth, bones and muscles healthy while also regulating the levels of calcium and of phosphate in the body. Sources of calcium for vegans include:
- Spinach, kale and broccoli
- Fortified soya, oat and rice drinks (aim to choose the unsweetened variety)
- Pulses like chickpeas, lentils and dried beans
- Dried fruit
- Sesame seeds
Sources of Vitamin D for vegans include:
- Sunshine – get outdoors for a walk, run or just to chill out
- Choose products fortified with vitamin D like breakfast cereals
Iron: We need iron to make red blood cells in the body which are responsible for transporting oxygen. Plant sources of iron are less easily absorbed by the body compared to animal sources of iron. Combine your plant source of iron with a source Vitamin C to help boost absorption. Tannins in tea and coffee can also hinder iron absorption so it’s best to avoid these around the time you are consuming your iron.
Sources of iron for a vegan diet include:
- Wholemeal flour
- Dark green vegetables
- Dried fruit
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal foods. Vegans should look for products which have been fortified with Vitamin B12 such as breakfast cereals and soya drinks (choose the unsweetened variety). Vitamin B12 is necessary in the body for protein metabolism, healthy red blood cells and nervous system.
Omega 3 fatty acids: These are needed to keep our hearts and brain healthy. Vegans can combine their sources of omega 3 fatty acids with plenty of fruits and vegetables and reducing saturated fat intake to reduce risk of heart problems.
Sources of omega 3 fatty acids for vegans include:
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
- Rapeseed oil
- Soya oil/tofu
Once you have researched this diet and know the nutrients to be more aware of the vegan diet can work very well for some people. Check out Good4U’s range of vegan-friendly snacks and sprouts!