Some of you may know that I follow a Vegan diet and have done for a little over 2 years. As an endurance runner my interest in this kind of diet was pricked by athletes such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll who both have thrived mentally and physically by doing so. At the time it seemed astonishing that people could do so much without consuming meat products.
Without wanting to weigh you down with my own reasons for taking the leap, I have found that over the past couple of years that I have improved physically since 'going Vegan' and that there is no legitimate reason to be concerned about removing animal products from your diet if you really want to improve.
Interesting in a Vegan diet has been increasing in recent years and a recent survey showed that there has been a 360% increase in Vegan's over the past 10 years! Be it due to environmental, animal welfare or perceived health benefits, if you've started looking into this kind of diet with an interest there's a few things that you should be aware of.
There's often a lot said about Vegan's having a 'better' or 'healthier' diet. I don't believe this to be necessarily true, what I do know from personal experience is that I have to spend longer researching nutrition and ensuring that what I consume hits every macro and micronutrient requirement I have. Of course, my needs will be different to yours be it due to gender or activity levels so nutrition really is an individualised pursuit.
The reality is that a Vegan diet can be 'good' or 'bad' just as a standard diet or paleo diet or clean eating diet can be. There is such a thing as Vegan junk food (Hell Oreo's!). It is still easy to over consume and therefore put weight on but it's also a doddle to eat loads of vitamins and have a wide-ranging and enjoyable meal time.
Sometimes it's worth supplementing as dietary choices just do not hit every nail on the head, every single day. There are macronutrients and a few vitamins and minerals that Vegan's can be deficient in and it's those that I wanted to talk about in more detail today.
This is a vital nutrient that helps keep nerves and blood cells healthy, helps to make DNA and prevents megaloblastic anaemia that results in people feeling tired and weak. Everybody needs a good source of vitamins and the reality is that it isn't available in the plant world - hence why the best bet here would be to supplement.
That said, there are some foods that are fortified with B12 such as yoghurts, cereals, breads and you could always have a dose of marmite if you can handle :)
This mineral is an important component of haemoglobin that transports oxygen around the body and it's involved in the final stages of energy extraction from food. A deficiency in this mineral then would logically lead to lethargy and fatigue. It's particularly important for menstruating women to get enough Iron or else anaemia could occur.
There are two types of iron; haem and non-haem. Non-haem is found in non-animal products such as grains, nuts, veggies and fruit but it is poorly absorbed in the gut. The way to get around this is by taking in adequate Vitamin C which hugely improves of absorption - as Vegans your high consumption of fruits and dark, leafy greens should be nice and easy.
We will often relate this mineral to healthy bones (which is true) and a vital part of growth and development so it's essential that we get enough. But not only that, calcium is needed for a massive range of functions such as muscle contraction, secretion of hormones and nerve transmission.
This mineral is present in a lot of plant-based food but it becomes difficult for your body to absorb due to phytates and oxalate so spinach is not a great option but low-oxalate options such as cabbage and kale are! Again, you can find foods that are calcium enriched so it may be worth looking into soya milks & tofu
It's also worth noting that high protein, salt and caffeine intakes have been shown to inhibit the absorption of calcium.
No doubt you'll also be questioning as to where you get your Protein from, because surely you can't get Protein without eating meat....... right?
Essential for growth, maintenance and repair of body tissue, protein is part of EVERY living cell. Protein is made up of amino acids, eight of which are essential - so your body can not create them itself - and you must consume them. The reality is that animal proteins do contain every essential amino acid and only a few plant-based food contain all EAA's so a vegan will need to get as wider range of proteins as possible to fulfil body needs.
It's worth making soya, buckwheat and quinoa into your diet as much as possible but sticking to a balanced diet should see you through OK!
Omega 3 (Fat)
Finally, fat - or more importantly Omega-3.... this is an essential fatty acid. These protect against heart disease, prevent blood cots, have beneficial effects on cholesterol amongst other important roles.
You can get some great sources of Omega-3 from flax seeds, hemp, rapeseed and walnuts.
OK - I think that's everything covered off for the time being but if you need even more information about this and other vitamins and minerals that you might need to consider then just drop me a mail over at email@example.com and let's chat some more :-)