Nutrition Rocks and the 30-Day Vegan Challenge!
Nutrition Rocks are supporting Veganuary so why not get inspired with the 30 day vegan challenge, Here on the Vegan’ section of our site you have everything you need to get healthier with a plant based diet ! This section aims to offer our readers delicious and simple vegan recipes alongside practical, factual tips on how to be a healthy vegan and maximise health, beauty and vitality from the inside out. If you are not already a vegan we hope to inspire you to take on the 30 day challenge yourselves with our variety of original recipes – from starters and mains to smoothies, juices and dips, we have got it covered! Deciding to become a vegan is a big lifestyle change, so whether you are ready to take this step or simply just want some new and exciting meat-free recipe ideas, Nutrition Rocks are here for you!
Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular. There are many reasons that people may decide to become a vegan, but whatever the reason it is essential that vegans are aware of the importance of ensuring the food they eat is adequate in nutrients and will provide your body with everything it needs. In doing this being a vegan can provide health benefits and other advantages.
There are, however, areas relating to the nutritional status of those enjoying a vegan lifestyle that you need to be aware of to ensure continued health when making the switch. As with any eating pattern, the likelihood of being deficient in certain nutrients is higher in people who restrict the variety of foods they eat. We will discuss the nutrients of concern below – stick with us and you can eat vegan the way it should be done!
WHY GO VEGAN?
By Elena Orde, The Vegan Society
Interest in veganism is at an all-time high, with more people than ever going plant-based. Chances are you’ve heard of various celebrities going vegan, and almost everyone knows someone who has taken animal products out of their lives. So what has caused this upsurge in what was once a fringe movement?
Since The Vegan Society formed in 1944, animal rights has been the primary factor in their members going vegan – a fact which remains true to this day. However, their most recent member survey showed that other considerations, such as health and the environment, are becoming increasingly important. For World Vegan Day, 1 November, I took the opportunity to speak to three people about their personal journeys to veganism, and why they could never go back.
Vegan for health
The misconception that vegans lack nutrition is fading fast, accelerated by the swathes of plant-based athletes excelling in every field from long distance running to bodybuilding in recent years. Many cite veganism as the driver behind their success, speaking of reduced recovery times and improved endurance.
Qualified Nutritionist, Dr Terri Holloway, said: “Going vegan often means enjoying numerous health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more.” She explains how vegans generally have a lower BMI than vegetarians and meat eaters, and can expect to live longer than other dietary groups.
Going vegan can also help to manage many existing health problems. Jess, for example, went vegan after a diagnosis of lupus, a condition which attacks the immune system. “I decided I had to pay more attention to my diet. Alongside joint pain and general achiness, chronic fatigue was something that really affected me before I went vegan. Although I still have the occasional flare-up, my symptoms have reduced dramatically, and I now have so much more energy,” she said.
Vegan for the planet
We are all encouraged to make environmentally-conscious choices, like turning off unnecessary lights and taking reusable bags to the shops. While these steps help, it is increasingly becoming clear that the impact of animal farming on the environment is a far more pressing concern – animal agriculture has a greater carbon footprint than all transport combined. It is in our diets, therefore, where we can make the biggest difference.
Amanda discovered veganism through a desire to protect the planet. “It was the huge environmental impact of animal farming that finally pushed me to fully commit to vegan living. Despite always recycling, and not owning a car, I found I was still using far more than my global share of natural resources because I was still consuming animal products.”
It takes enormous quantities of land, water and energy to grow crops to feed to the farmed animals we then eat. At a time of rapidly growing population and resource scarcity, it’s far more efficient to grow crops to eat ourselves.
Vegan for the animals
Animal rights remains a key reason to go vegan. Documentaries like Earthlings have informed and educated hundreds of thousands of people about the reality of animal farming, while social media continues to provide an ever popular platform for raising awareness around the treatment of animals.
Many choose to avoid eating meat because they want to avoid harming animals, but more people than ever are now realising that other animal products, like milk, cheese and eggs, also contribute to immense suffering.
Ian said: “I went vegan after discovering the cruelty behind the dairy industry. I couldn’t believe it. I used to think that cows naturally produced milk for humans, but this isn’t the case. Like humans, cows only produce milk after getting pregnant, which they become typically through artificial insemination. Their calves are taken away from them moments after birth, and the males are killed. Although I liked the taste of dairy products, once I became aware I couldn’t justify contributing to an industry that causes so much pain and suffering.”
While there are many reasons to cut out animal products, there is one reoccurring phrase which crops up time and again: “My only regret is not going vegan sooner.” If you want to learn more about a vegan lifestyle, why not sign up to The Vegan Society’s 30 Day Vegan Pledge (www.vegansociety.com/pledge), a free service which sends daily emails with info, tips and advice with delicious recipes. It could be the best decision you ever make.
Protein: the human requirement for protein is about 10% of total energy intake or less, which is very achievable on a vegan diet by eating plant-based foods that are rich in protein. There may be concern that vegans don’t get enough protein, and it’s true that you have to eat the right kind of protein rich plant-based foods to get the right combination of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), although as long as you eat a variety of protein rich foods throughout the day your body will be getting all the essential amino acids, and therefore protein, that it needs.
The three foods to remember that will supply your body with all the essential amino acids are hemp, quinoa and soya. Why not try quinoa porridge in the morning, delicious creamy puddings made with soya milk (look out for the ones fortified with calcium) or toasted hemp seeds sprinkled on your salads. Other protein-rich vegan foods to look out for and include in your diet are lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu and nuts, including nut butters which are also a great source of essential fats, bringing us nicely onto our next nutrient…
Fat: fat gets a bad rep when it comes to nutrition; however in the right balance fats form a very important part of our diet, promoting cell function, protecting our internal organs and helping to keep our hair and skin healthy. Vegetarians and vegans often have lower intakes of fats than meat eaters so it is important to know which kinds of foods contain healthy fats in order to provide our bodies with energy and essential vitamins that can be provided by eating fats, such as vitamins A and E and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and need to be consumed from the food we eat – there are many health benefits commonly associated with omega-3 fatty acids, including their role in heart health. The oils from fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon are the most commonly referred to source of omega-3 fatty acids, although there are lots of way for vegans to stock up on these healthy fats! The major vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, rapeseed oil and our beauty nutrition favourite, walnuts. Some vegans may wish to consider a supplement made from algae that will provide the long chain type of omega 3 that is harder to get from food if you are a vegan, as it is the type found in oily fish (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA in case you’re interested)! Other healthy fats for vegans to be aware of are mono-unsaturated fats that you can get from avocados, olive oil, rapeseed oil and olives.
Vitamin B12: it is important that all vegans regularly include a reliable source of vitamin B12 in their diet (it is particularly important for pregnant women and young children who are vegan). The only natural source of vitamin B12 is meat, although there are several vegan products that are fortified, such as soya milk and cereals, and vegan supplements that are free from animal products are also available. Although requirement for vitamin B12 is very small, and deficiency is rare, long-term deficiency can lead to neurological damage and short term deficiency can lead to anaemia, fatigue and depression – so it’s important to know your stuff! So when you’re shopping for cereal products and milk, ensure they are fortified with B12 or ask your pharmacist about a suitable supplement.
Iron: it can be difficult to get enough iron if you are a vegan or a vegetarian, but with a bit of knowledge on the rich vegan sources you can ensure your meals are packed with iron rich foods to help keep you full of energy and vitality. The iron found in plant sources is an inorganic (non-haem) form that is not as readily absorbed as the form found in meat. There are also various substances that can inhibit the absorption of non-haem iron, such as the tannins found in tea and high levels of fibre(so save that cuppa for between your meals)! Vitamin C, however, increases the absorption of iron from plant sources significantly – a perfect excuse to enjoy a fresh fruit juice with your meals. The plant sources of iron that vegans should look out for are fortified cereals, beans, lentils and chickpeas, dark green leafy vegetables and bread.
Zinc: zinc is similar to iron in that the richest sources are meat, and certain substances impair its absorption. Deficiency in zinc can lead to poor immunity and a reduced appetite – not what we want! Vegan foods rich in zinc include toasted pumpkin seeds, peanuts and dark chocolate and cocoa powder (hooray)!
Calcium: because cows’ milk and its products are the major dietary source of calcium it can be easy to forget that there are plenty of vegan sources that can keep your teeth and bones strong as well. So stock up on Brazil nuts, toasted sesame seeds, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified vegan milks and another of our beauty nutrition favourites, almonds. Why not snack on some raw unsalted almonds, throw a handful of toasted sesame seeds into your smoothies for a nutty twist and don’t forget your veggies! Remember – calcium status is rarely a problem if vitamin D status is adequate so get those sunnies out as it’s nearly Summer….
Please note that this is not an exhaustive guide to eating vegan. We will be bringing you more vegan nutrition news over the coming weeks so watch this space! In the meantime if you have any individual questions please comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org where we can either reply to your query individually or choose to feature it on the site
By Emily Stuart. Follow Emily on Twitter @FoodFirstLondon
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” (Albert Einstein)