There are lots of reasons why you may decide to follow a vegan diet. The motivation may be religious, for ethical/moral reasons or the view that following a vegan diet is healthier than a regular diet.
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Through careful planning it is possible to eat adequate amounts of macro- and micronutrients. A dietitian can help you to identify key nutrients that need to be supplemented and modify your diet to suit your specific needs.
The difference between the vegetarian and vegan diet is that the vegan diet also excludes all animal products. This includes eggs, milk, cheese, and even honey, to name a few.
The following should be considered when following the vegan diet:
- Iron intake: Here, we distinguish between heame and non-heame iron. You get heame iron from meat. It is better absorbed by the body. Vegans must rely on non-heame iron sources found in vegetables such as spinach, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. Certain foods aids in the absorption of the non-heame iron. These foods contain vitamin C: tomatoes, broccoli and citrus fruits. Caffeine, on the other hand, hinders the absorption of iron, as well as certain antioxidants in tea.
- Vitamin B12: One nutrient that is almost exclusively found in meat and animal products is vitamin B12. It is important to discuss supplementation of this nutrient in your diet. Be on the lookout for starches that has been enriched with vitamin B12, for example certain breakfast cereals.
- Calcium: With the exclusion of dairy products from the diet, the intake of calcium needs to be addressed. Vegan sources of calcium may include enriched fruit juice, soybeans, kale and broccoli. Remember to combine your calcium intake with enough sun exposure to prevent low vitamin D levels. This is important to maintain bone density.
- Omega 3- fatty acids: The last nutrient that needs special attention is Omega 3- fatty acids. The body is totally reliant on intake through food for adequate levels. Canola oil and seeds such as linseed and flax seeds as well as walnuts must be included in the diet to reach recommended intake.
The Physicians’ Committee published a paper very recently that found that following a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease with 40% and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus with 50%. When approached responsibly, a vegan diet can be a sustainable lifestyle choice that may promote health.
If need inspiration for preparing delicious, quick and healthy vegan recipes this recipe book is for you: