What makes up a healthy vegan diet?
Cytoplan explains the vitamins we need to maintain a healthy vegan diet
Following a vegan diet has a variety of benefits; it’s rich in a whole host of nutrients such as phytonutrients, fibre, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins C and E.
Plant-based diets are also associated with reduced risk of chronic disease such as cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.
However not all vegan diets are made equally, a lot of meat alternatives are heavily processed and high in carbohydrate and a wholefood vegan diet can often be low in essential nutrients such as protein, essential fats, B12, iron, vitamin D as well as iodine and vitamin A.
Additionally, many vegan alternatives are fortified but with poorly absorbed synthetic nutrients.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that a vegan diet is carefully planned to ensure there is optimal intake of all nutrients but a lower intake of refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
Make sure you’re fulfilling your daily needs of the following vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients.
Protein is an essential nutrient for multiple reasons in including growth and repair, hormone and neurotransmitter production, supporting blood sugar regulation and satiety as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight.
You should ensure you consume a vegan source of protein with every meal e.g., fermented tofu, nuts, seeds, houmous, legumes, tempeh, and edamame. It can also be a good idea to use a vegan source of protein powder such as pea or hemp to help support protein intake.
Essential fats are important for cell membrane health and therefore affect every cell in your body, they also play an important role in cognitive function and modulating inflammation.
Make sure you include healthy fats from avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, oils in flax and chia seeds contain omega 3.
However, omega 3 from flax and chia need to be converted by the body into the active forms EPA and DHA, conversion can be inhibited by a number of different factors including certain nutrient deficiencies and physiological issues such as stress.
Therefore, it is useful to consider a vegan source of EPA and DHA from marine algae.
B12 is essential for energy production, nervous system function, and cognitive health, to name a few.
B12 deficiency is common in those following a vegan diet. Additionally, those with digestive dysfunctions can have a reduce absorption of B12, further exacerbating low B12 levels.
Therefore, a good vegan B12 supplement is recommended, preferably in the active forms of B12 which are methyl cobalamin and adenosyl cobalamin.
Vitamin D is so important for many functions within the body, in particular bone density and immune health and vitamin D deficiency is associated with many chronic diseases.
Vitamin D can be produced by exposure to sunlight, but levels in the UK and use of sun creams etc means that sun exposure is insufficient to maintain optimal vitamin D levels all year round.
There are common vegan sources of the active for of vitamin D, D3. Therefore, it is again useful to supplement a vegan D3 from a source such as lichens.
Iron, iodine and vitamin A
Iron, iodine and vitamin A are important for red blood cell production, thyroid health and immune function respectively, all of which can and issue for vegans.
At Cytoplan, we have recently launched a vegan care bundle created by our Nutritional Therapists to support vegans which includes our Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Omega 3 Vegan and Wholefood Iron.
Article by Cytoplan, cytoplan.co.uk