As recently as the beginning of the 21st century a vegan diet was still seen as somewhat alternative and extreme. More recently however, it has become increasingly mainstream, certainly helped by celebrity endorsement. But there is still a lingering notion that a vegan diet isn't complete and lacks nutrients. Whilst it is true that there are elements a vegan needs to be mindful of, a vegan diet can be as healthy a diet choice as any, when it's done well that is.
Nutritionist, Ian Marber, explains some of the nutrients a vegan diet commonly lacks, and how you can easily incorporate them into your lifestyle:
Proteins, which are responsible for building and repairing tissue, are made up of amino acids, 14 of which are considered essential to the body. Proteins that comprise of these 14 amino acids are termed 'complete proteins'. When following a vegan diet there are fewer choices of foods that contain these complete proteins, as most protein rich foods are animal derived. However foods such as quinoa, beans, nuts, tofu and chickpeas are a good alternative for vegans seeking complete proteins.
Iron is also a common area of concern for many vegans as the richest source again is from animal source foods, but with savvy food choices it too can be easily obtained.
Tofu, Beetroot and spinach provide a good source of iron. Iron is critical in the body's formulation of red blood cells, which are in turn, responsible for the transportation of oxygen around the body, keeping you feeling energetic.
The Vegan Society warn that low levels of vitamin B12 can cause anemia and damage to the nervous system, and is therefore a critical nutrient, yet isn't available from vegan food sources unless they have been fortified. Look for plant milks with added B12 or take a daily supplement of B12 especially formulated for a vegan diet.
These essential fats are required to manage cholesterol levels, maintain cells in the skin and brain, and help with blood glucose control. More often found in fish, omega 3 can also be found in vegan suitable sources such as rapeseed oil, walnuts and purslane (an edible plant, sometimes called a weed). There is also a recently discovered plant, Ahiflower, which provides omega rich oil. This has recently been proven 4x more powerful than Flaxseed oil. Vertese® is the only brand to produce Ahiflower capsules in the UK (available at revital.co.uk, rrp £12.99).
Notoriously hard to find in a vegan diet, this is often a nutrient that is added to foods, so a vegan might look for fortified orange juice or soy products. Alternatively one can choose to supplement their vitamin D intake with an appropriate food supplement.
The most familiar source of calcium is dairy, but it is far from the only source. Ideally we need around 1000mg of calcium daily and as a vegan diet naturally contains so many vegetables it's likely that most will be getting that easily. Vegan sources of calcium include kale, molasses, tempeh, almonds and almond butter, soybeans, broccoli and fennel.
In terms of supplementation, we have recently discovered Vertese®, the only food supplements brand specifically tailored to the nutritional needs of vegans. They make a number of products to help you gain the above nutrients in a natural way. Try Vertese Sea Mineral complex to aid with calcium levels (RRP £8.99). This complex provides calcium and magnesium sourced from seaweed. To aid with both iron and b12, try the Beetroot, B12 & Iron capsules (RRP £9.49). These are great for fighting fatigue. And for your vitamin D fix try the organic, high strength mushroom D capsules (RRP £10.99).
Vertese products are available from nutricentre. com
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