How to be a healthy vegan

How to be a healthy vegan

What a vegan diet should include (macro and micro nutrients)

 

People have very different reasons for choosing a plant-based diet and for some the transition can be daunting and fraught with complexity.

people-ask-if-being-vegan-is-hard

Hopefully I can help you navigate your way through and understand what food types, nutrients and minerals you should include in your diet and what if any supplements you should ask your GP about

 

Lets start with the biggie PROTEIN!

Protein, if you didn’t know is a “macronutrient,” meaning you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. Different protein sources contains various amounts of amino acids that help build and repair muscles in our bodies

Vegan protein sources. jpeg

The average UK adult should eat about 50g of protein a day. To be more precise, it’s about 0.75g per kilo of body weight. If you weigh 11 st (70kg) your daily protein intake should be 52.5g. For a vegan that’s about 2 palm-sized portions of tofu, nuts, vegan quorn etc or pulses and beans

Protein rich meal ideas

Carbohydrates

This is another macronutrient, and its fair to say we should and probably do obtain most of our carbs from eating wholegrains, fruits, veg and pulses. And as with any healthy diet the carbs from simple sugars (cakes, biscuits, pastries, processed food etc) should be limited, as they have little nutritional value.

pasta-portionIf you need to lose a kilo or two I would advise you to portion control your bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. A balanced portion of wholegrain pasta or rice is 75g uncooked or 125g cooked. A portion of potato is 80g, and a serving of wholemeal bread is one slice

 

 

Fats

This is the final macronutrient. Its role is to transport fat-soluble vitamins, as a secondary energy source, to keep us warm and to aid brain function. It is the most calorific food at 9 calories a gram compared with protein and carbs at 4 calories a gram. So moderation is the watchword!

Too much fat has been associated with heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer. With that in mind I would suggest for general cooking, dressings etc you use olive oil or rapeseed oil. Coconut oil has a higher smoking temperature and can be used for deep fat frying and roasting. Be careful of processed, diet foods and ready meals as these can have high levels of fats

vegan-shoppingAs more and more supermarkets are stocking vegan versions of family favourites it is now easier than ever to find vegan cheese, milk, yoghurts and ice cream. But just take a look at the labels and check the fat content as you may be consuming more than the recommended daily amounts of saturated fat (20g for a woman and 30g for a man)

Other fats to incorporate are from avocados, nuts and seeds.  They contain good levels of omega 3 fatty acids

Now we get on to the micronutrients! The foods we need in smaller amounts

 

Vitamins

Many vegans will have been told that they will be lacking in vitamin B12 and D. This of course can be the case but it could also happen to a meat or fish eater. It really depends on the person’s ability to absorb nutrients and how varied and balanced their diet is. That said vegans do have to take more care as B12 especially, is only found naturally in a few foods and most of those are animal in origin

B12

 

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin; in order to keep your levels topped up spend about 10 minutes a day outdoors without sun protection. If that isn’t possible some vegan foods are fortified with this vitamin i.e. soya milk, orange juice, cereals and breads. Just make sure your D3 is from vegan sources. There is some evidence that if mushrooms are placed in the sunlight they will synthesise the rays in the same way we do and produce vitamin D enriched mushrooms

 

Calcium

Ryvita hummus

 

This mineral works with vitamin D to produce strong bones and helps maintain the function of our heart, muscles and nerves.

Good vegan sources are green leafy veg like chard, cabbage, spinach, kale, sesame seeds (hummus and tahini), oranges, soya (beans, milk, tofu)

 

 

Iron

Another mineral that vegans may have difficulty consuming because it is found in large quantities in meat and offal. But it is possible to have healthy iron levels if your diet contains some of the following: fortified breakfast cereals, kale, broccoli, watercress, soya based foods, dried prunes, dried apricots, nuts and seeds, beans, pulses and fortified wholemeal bread.

Vitamin C rich foods help with the absorption of iron but tea and coffee can hinder it.

Vitamin C

Bone up on calcium

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

Why should you care about the amount of calcium in your diet?

There is more calcium in the body than any other mineral and it has several important functions.images

These include:

  • helping build strong bones and teeth
  • regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeat
  • ensuring blood clots normally
  • helps in a the absorption of vitamin B12, needed for a healthy nervous system

logoTry this handy calcium calculator  to work out your weekly calcium intake.  If its low just incorporate more of the food below into your daily diet

This week the National Osteoporosis Society issued a press notice with this headline

 

dairyDoes it make you think, are you concerned about your child as they head off too university, move in to their first flat.  Are they confused about what makes a healthy balanced diet, are they concerned about their weight and have tried fad diets or cut out food groups like dairy?

If the answers yes then maybe read on

Good sources of calcium include:

  • IMG_2210milk, cheese and other dairy foods
  • green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and okra
  • soya beans, tofu and chickpeas
  • soya or other non- dairy drinks and yoghurts with added calcium
  • nuts (especially almonds), tahini and sesame seeds
  • bread and food made with fortified flourmixed nuts
  • fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and salmon
  • Fresh citrus fruits or calcium fortified orange juice
  • Dried figs – about 6

 

If you are concerned about your calcium (or vitamin D levels, for that matter) then maybe come and see me for a nutrition session.  Call me on 07946 301338

Cancer research UK has stated that dairy products (and non dairy alternatives) are high in calcium, and several studies show a lower risk of breast cancer for women with high calcium intakes or calcium blood levels.

calcium radio nottmBBC Radio Nottingham were also keen to explore this issue and asked me on to the Mark Dennison breakfast show.  Here’s a clip of the interview

 

It is important to make sure your children especially your daughters eat plenty of foods IMG_4234high in calcium so they have good bone density throughout their teens. It is thought that 1 in 10 teenage girls have very low intakes of calcium. By age 20, the amount of bone is at its greatest (called the peak bone mass), and then it slowly but steadily decreases. So, if not enough calcium is taken in during this critical period, less is available in the bones for the rest of life.  Encourage your children to drink and eat dairy and non- dairy alternatives; even low fat if its gets them to eat them!

Calcium friends

Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium. It is found in oily fish, liver, fortified spreads and cereals, and egg yolks. Your body also makes its own vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunshine (without sunscreen).

Be active – doing weight bearing exercise like walking, running, dancing, lifting weights and skipping are all good activities to strengthen bones

Magnesium – calcium needs magnesium to aid absorption so eat plenty of green leafy veg, brown rice and nuts

Vitamin K2 – works in conjunction with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones and heart healthy; found in offal, egg yolks and dairy products

Calcium foes

cola-drinksCoal drinks – Women who drink too many cola type fizzy drinks could have an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, because the phosphoric acid in these drinks has the potential to weaken bones. If the drinks also contain caffeine it could affect how much calcium is much absorbed in the body

Protein – Too much protein like read meat and poultry can drain the body of calcium

Salt – If you have a high salt diet, you will excrete a lot of sodium and with it a lot of calcium.  People who consume too much sodium  could face an increased risk of kidney stones.