With many people adopting vegan diets this January for environmental, animal welfare and perceived health reasons – some for the first time – it’s important your plant-based diet is as nutritionally complete as possible. Follow these top tips to ensure Veganuary is good for you.
Calcium (bones, teeth, muscles and nerves)
Most non-dairy milks and yoghurts are fortified with calcium. However, check your labels, because organic versions aren’t.
Other sources include figs, almonds, sesame seeds and tofu. Aim for 700 mcg/day.
Omega 3 fatty acids (brain function, reducing inflammation and (may) reduce heart disease).
An essential nutrient commonly found in oily fish.
Other sources include walnuts, flax (linseed), hemp seeds, chia seeds and soya beans.
Vitamin D (bones, muscles, teeth and helps prevent many chronic diseases)
Sunlight can be elusive this time of year, so ensure your foods are fortified and/or take a daily supplement of 10mcg/day.
Vitamin B12 (deficiency can lead to fatigue, anaemia and nerve damage)
This is only found in animal products, so you need to ensure foods are fortified, e.g., non-dairy milks, breakfast cereals or by taking a daily 10mcg supplement. Nutritional yeast is also a good source.
Iodine (thyroid and metabolism)
The main sources of iodine are dairy and fish. The iodine content of plant foods depends on the soil in which it grows, with foods grown closer to the ocean often higher in iodine. Iodised salt and seaweed provide iodine in high levels – it’s recommended they’re only consumed once per week.
Furthermore, with many plant-based diets being high in soya, this can compromise thyroid function, especially when iodine intake is inadequate.
Solution? Consider taking a supplement of around 140-150 mcg/day.
Selenium (antioxidant, great for the immune system and may reduce disease risk)
Two Brazil nuts each day will provide you with your daily requirement.
Iron (even a mild deficiency can lead to fatigue)
Phytates (found in tea, pulses, grains and calcium supplements) inhibit absorption, so try to plan these meals separately.
Good sources include nuts, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, seeds and pulses.
Vitamin C (antioxidant rich)
To enhance iron absorption from plant sources, include citrus and kiwi fruits, strawberries and peppers.
Zinc (immune boosting)
Zinc absorption from plants foods may be lower than from animal foods, making requirements up to 50% higher. Phytates and plant sources like wholegrains and beans also reduce absorption, so eat separately.
Good sources include quinoa, chickpeas, sesame seeds, almonds, cocoa powder and goji berries.