How to Make Sure Your Vegan Diet Is As Healthy As You Think

A vegan diet can be great for your health and wellbeing if it’s done in the right way.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into certain traps that make it a lot less healthy than you might think.

Here are some tips to make sure that following a vegan diet really does make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Some of the many health benefits that a vegan diet can encourage include:

  • Having more energy

  • Healthier skin, hair and nails

  • Better cardiovascular health including lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating less saturated fat (due to the lack of meat and dairy)

  • Lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating more fiber, which is great for better digestive health

  • Eating good sources of nutrients that are often lacking in non vegan diets including iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and plenty of antioxidants

  • Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

  • Lower risk of some cancers, including breast,prostate and colon cancers

  • Lower risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration as you get older

  • Lower risk of developing osteoporosis

Potential Pitfalls of a Vegan Diet

There are a few things that can go wrong with a vegan diet so it’s important not to make these kind of mistakes when you go vegan:

Too much fat: Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet won’t lower your fat intake (and bring cardiovascular benefits) if you replace them with lots of high fat alternatives such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and nut milks. These are all great in moderation but they add up to a lot of fat if they’re making up a large part of your diet. Some people find that they actually eat more fat on this type of vegan diet than when they were eating meat and dairy so it’s definitely something to keep a check on.

Not getting a balanced diet: If you’re not eating milk and dairy, it’s really important to make sure that you’re getting vital nutrients such as iron and calcium from plant based sources instead. This can protect against deficiencies and makes sure that your vegan diet is really having the benefits you think. Vitamin B12 is another area to focus on as it’s mostly found in animal sources and can be very lacking in a vegan diet. You may want to look at foods that are fortified with B12 (such as breakfast cereals) to make sure that you get enough of it.

Assuming that all ‘vegan’ foods are healthy: There are lots of vegan options on the market now and unfortunately not all of them are all that healthy. Sticking to unprocessed, wholesome food will help you to get balanced nutrition and will bring a lot more of the health benefits associated with a truly vegan diet.

Making Sure Your Vegan Diet is Really Healthy

How can you avoid making some of these common mistakes? These tips should help you to get the biggest benefits from a vegan diet!

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

You can’t go too far wrong if fruit and vegetables makes up a big percentage of your vegan diet!

Aim for up to 75% and pad this out with things like legumes (such as beans and pulses), potato, whole grains and some healthy fats.

Ideally, healthy fats should be up to 10% of your vegan diet, which works out at around a handful of nuts or a third of an avocado.

Vegan Iron Sources

Non vegans can get iron from their meat intake but for vegans, it’s really important to eat the right foods to avoid iron deficiency anemia – especially for women.

Some good vegan sources of iron include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Raisins

  • Prunes

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and cooked green beets

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Quinoa

  • Kidney beans

  • Cashew nuts

  • Almonds

  • Sesame seeds

Vegan Calcium Sources

Calcium can come from some surprising sources in a vegan diet so it’s not too difficult to get enough of this nutrient. For example, dark leafy greens are a good source of calcium, especially kale and broccoli.

Other options include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Blackberries

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Prunes

  • Oranges

  • Orange juice

  • Sesame seeds

  • Pulses

Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Vegans can easily become deficient in vitamin B12 as it’s largely found in animal sources and isn’t readily available in a plant based diet.

Vitamin B12 is added to quite a few fortified foods these days, including cereals, vegan spreads and some non dairy milks such as soy milk.

Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

A vegan diet can be deficient in vitamin D, especially if you aren’t getting much of this nutrient from exposure to sunlight.

This is another area where fortified vegan products are a good idea as vitamin D often comes from animal sources such as dairy.

Vegan sources of vitamin D can include fortified vegan spreads, fortified cereals and even soy drinks.

Vegan Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep your heart healthy and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

The jury is still out on whether omega-3 fatty acids from plant based sources offer the same cardiovascular benefits as those from fatty fish but as part of a healthy diet, they can still play a key role when it comes to heart health.

Vegan sources include:

  • Walnuts

  • Soya based foods such as tofu

  • Flaxseed and rapeseed oil (in small quantities)

A vegan diet can be incredibly healthy and protect against a number of diseases and conditions but it does require a bit of planning to make sure that you don’t become deficient in key nutrients. Once you get it right, there are so many benefits to a vegan diet!

 

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