Vegan nutritional hacks – how to make sure your body is getting everything it needs
“How are you going to get enough protein in your diet?” A universal question that is posed to most vegans at one time or another.
While a well thought out vegan lifestyle can be just as nutritionally valuable as a traditional omnivore diet, asking yourself if your body is getting everything it needs from time to time can only be of benefit.
The reality is, you do need to make sure you are getting enough omega fatty acids, proteins and calcium, among other things. The good news is, it is 100pc possible to do so on a vegan diet if you are informed and conscious of you are consuming every day.
Here are some things to keep in mind as a vegan.
Vitamins and minerals
You only have to read the back of a box of multivitamins to know that we need to consume lots of different types of vitamins and minerals every day. Fruit and veg are a fantastic source, however there are certain ones that we need to put a little extra effort into, when living by a vegan diet.
Most vegans will be aware that this is something that needs to be taken in supplement form if you are not eating animal proteins. B12 is crucial for the nervous system, and a deficiency could lead to anaemia, nervous system damage, infertility, bone disease or heart disease.
Vegan friendly: Mushrooms that have been grown in B12 rich soil, nutritional yeast, fortified foods (foods with vitamins and minerals added to them) such as unsweetened plant milk or cereals, B12 supplements.
Vit D helps our body absorb calcium and is important for bone and gut health. Studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency is a problem worldwide in both vegans and omnivores, the reason being that very few foods naturally contain it. So, this is a good one to let our omnivore friends know about, so they can be conscious of it too.
Vegan friendly: Sunlight (don’t forget the sunscreen), fortified foods such as bread and unsweetened plant milk, Vitamin D supplements.
Iodine is extremely important, especially if you are pregnant and vegan. Having an iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to brain damage in the womb, so getting the right amount is vital.
Iodine is also important for a healthy thyroid, and in return maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Vegan friendly: Use iodised salt, consume plants that were grown in iodised soil (plants grown close to the ocean are higher in iodine), and seaweed is another great source (and it’s really tasty in a salad).
Calcium is important and necessary to keep your bones and teeth healthy. Not only that, it also helps with muscle function, nerve signalling and heart health. Despite popular belief, dairy products are not the only food source that is high in calcium as many plants and legumes are also rich in the mineral.
Vegan friendly: Bok choy, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, watercress, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu and broccoli.
Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids are important to include in our diets for many reasons, from brain function to improving heart health.
The human brain is made up of nearly 60pc fat, a large amount of which are made up by Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 is a key component of brain cells. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consume Omega 3 on a daily basis.
Studies have shown improvements in concentration and sleep amongst those who get the right ratio and quantity of essential fatty acids.
While traditionally, fish has always been assumed to be the best source of omega fatty acids, flaxseed oil contains twice the Omega 3 of fish oils. There are also many other vegan friendly sources out there to include in your diet.
Vegan friendly: Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil. For a vegan omega 3, 6 and 9 supplement, Udo’s Oil combines organic ingredients including flax seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed, coconut oil, evening primrose oil, soy lecithin (GMO-free), rice bran and oat bran. Udo’s Oil is also available in vegan capsules.
Protein is used by the body for growth and repair. It also uses it to make hormones and enzymes, both of which influence our entire body. Without it, our bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood would suffer.
It gives us the feeling of being full, preventing us from over eating. However, too much protein can affect our digestion, so maintaining a healthy balance is key.
There are many protein-rich food sources available, that can stand in the place of animal products.
Vegan friendly: Tofu, lentils (did you know you can get pasta that is made from 100pc ground lentils? It’s a great substitute for white pasta), chickpeas, nuts and nut butters, nutritional yeast, spinach, green peas, quinoa, soy milk, oats, chia seeds, broccoli, tempeh, edamame, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Living a vegan lifestyle can have many positive benefits, from your health, to the environment to the welfare of animals. Remember that sticking to a wide variety of whole foods is key to reaping the rewards of a plant-based diet. Be conscious of what you eat every day and take the steps needed to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to stay healthy.
Udo’s Oil, Ireland’s leading source of vegan Omega 3, 6 and 9, is available exclusively from health stores and pharmacies. Find out more on the Udo’s Choice website