How to ensure your vegan diet is healthy

How to ensure your vegan diet is healthy

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For vegans the choice to refrain from eating foods such as meat, dairy and eggs can mean that finding an abundant alternative source of vitamins and nutrients can be a challenge.  So how can vegans ensure they are getting everything they need from their diet and staying healthy?

Simon Bandy is the General Manager at nutritional supplements company, Veganicity. He says: “If your body lacks certain nutrients this can lead to fatigue, low mood levels and general poor health so it is important that vegans consider this as part of their diet.”

Here, Simon has identified some of the most important nutrients that can be difficult to obtain in a vegan diet, and how supplementation can help a vegan to maintain general health and well being.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, which is high in foods such as liver, fish and eggs, is one of the most difficult nutrients to obtain from a vegan diet. The vitamin is part of many bodily processes, including maintaining nerve health, helping make red blood cells and aiding digestion so a deficiency in Vitamin B12 can affect bodily functions. A lack of red blood cells means that less oxygen is being delivered to the muscles, causing potential fatigue and lack of energy. Additionally, nerve damage can lead to a depressed or confused mental state, and even memory loss.

With a deficiency in Vitamin B12 having potential repurcussions, vegans are advised to supplement such an essential nutrient to obtain optimum daily intake.

Iron

Iron is rich in foods such as meat, poultry and fish, and is well known for its involvement in haemoglobin production. Haemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying the oxgyen from the lungs to body tissues, so a lack in iron can prevent sufficent oxygen being delivered to the muscles to maintain energy levels causing fatigue, tiredness and a shortness of breath.

As iron is found in high quantities in animal derived foods, vegans and vegetarians can find it difficult to obtain in their diets so are generally at more risk of being deficient. However, eating nuts, seeds, brown rice and dried fruit – all of which are good sources of iron – will help to ward off any iron deficiencies.  

Omega-3

There are three types of Omega-3 – the long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are primarily found in fish and shellfish, and the short chain fatty acid ALA, which is naturally found in plants. For vegans and vegetarians, this source of omega-3 ALA is limited in its benefits compared to that of omega-3 EPA and DHA, with large quantities needing to be consumed to match the benefits of a diet that includes fish.

Omega-3 provides essential fattty acids that have several benefits to the body.  These include maintaining normal vision and brain function along with a healthy heart health and blood pressure. The fatty acids help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including lowering blood fat levels which reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes, as well as lowering blood pressure.

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