Veganism & Veganuary

It is January, which is now also known as Veganuary to everybody wanting to try the vegan diet for a month or longer. Veganuary campaign absolutely exploded in 2018 when the popularity grew by 183%. 84% of people were women, 60% under 35 years old. This is a little guide to everybody wanting to start out their vegan journey this year.


Veganism is a philosophy and a way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Today I will help equip you with the knowledge you need to confidently transform your diet into a vegan one.


A vegan will not consume any animal’s flesh nor will they eat any animal by-products. This goes beyond the usual cheese and eggs and also extends to honey. However, removing these foods from your diet will also remove a variety of minerals and vitamins, so the key to being a confident, healthy vegan is to know how to substitute these foods without becoming deficient in important nutrients.


The biggest question isn’t where vegans get their protein from but what foods should they eat to get complete proteins from their diet. Plant proteins are usually lacking in one or more essential amino acids and should be therefore eaten with complementary proteins to ensure a full amino acid profile. This means just because a plant-based food item is high in protein, does not ensure a complete nutrient intake. The best example is is seitan, which has 70g protein per 100g product. Seitan is pure gluten mixed with water and its texture resembles meat so will be a great meat alternative for anybody new to a vegan diet. It is low in lysine, however, and therefore should be eaten with beans.


Spirulina and nutritional yeast are also very high in protein, ranging in the 50-60g per 100g range, however these are usually consumed in small quantities, so not a significant source of protein. Textured vegetable protein is soybean flour that has its oil removed, which makes it a highly processed food, yet has a relatively high protein content – 43g per 100g. Other sources such as almonds, sunflower seeds, mycoprotein, tofu, and cooked beans, lentils, quinoa all contain 20g of protein per 100g and less. Jackfruit, which we see in many vegan dishes nowadays, is used for it’s meat like texture not its protein content. It is a fruit and only has 0,5g of protein per 100g.


Plant based diets can be high in iron yet vegans and vegetarians can still be deficient because plant based non-heme iron isn’t absorbed as well as animal heme-iron. This can be jeopardised further by eating foods high in ingredients that inhibit iron absorption. To ensure an optimal iron intake from your foods, try to consume tea and coffee a couple of hours after your meals instead of with them. To assist your body in taking up more iron from your foods, consume Vitamin C with your meals: replace the cup of tea or coffee with a glass of orange juice instead; add citrus fruits to your breakfast and red pepper to your stir fries.


A deficiency in B12 can have severe effects on your health, so a vegan will have to know, which foods are high in B12. You should always try to get your nutrients from real food before you consider supplements. For vegans, best sources of B12 are fortified cereals, marmite, yeast flakes and soy milk.


Instead of milk, vegans can drink calcium fortified soya, oat and nut milks. Dairy free cheese is easily available, however isn’t always fortified with calcium, so ensuring you eat tofu, kale and almonds can help you meet your daily needs.


Getting sufficient levels of Vitamin D in the winter can be difficult for us all, and non-vegans can consume egg yolks, liver, red meat, oily fish to make up for the loss. As a vegan you should consult labels to ensure the products you’re consuming are fortified with Vitamin D such as breakfast cereals and fat spreads.


A vegan needs to get their iodine from seaweed. However, I advise caution and encourage you to do your research as some seaweeds can have a very high iodine content, which can adversely affect your thyroid gland. Kombu kelp is one of these as already 1g contains more than 20 times the recommended daily intake.


Usually found in eggs and fish, a vegan diet is lacking in DHA and EPA. Plant foods contain ALA (alpha linoleic acids), which can be converted to DHA and EPA, however that process isn’t very efficient. Algae is a source of HDA and EPA and for ALA, you can eat flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soy.


It is very important to remember that going vegan doesn’t automatically mean you are eating the healthiest diet as the foods consumed could still be low in vegetables and highly processed, high in fat, salt and sugar. The convenience of ready-made meals and the popularity of vegan cafes and restaurants has also made us see a rise in so called lazy vegans. To ensure you get an adequate nutrient profile and vitamin and mineral intake, I encourage you to prepare the majority of your meals at home in advance so you’ll never be caught off guard.


I understand this influx of information, albeit very important, can leave your head spinning. I don’t want you to be discouraged, so I am offering to analyse everyone’s food diaries over the month of January to help you see what your nutrient intake is from your new diet. This will help you plan your meals better and help you be better to your own body as well as the environment.

Share this video with your already vegan friends and everybody you know that has considered trying a vegan diet. Sharing is caring and when it comes to our own health, there’s no such thing as too much information.

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