Veganuary: Vegan Supplements & Dietary Advice
The interest in going vegan for a month each year during January -–now known as Veganuary – has grown year on year. As Veganuary gets underway, we take a look at how to go vegan, and the main differences between a vegan diet and a vegetarian one.
What’s The Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian Diets?
Sometimes the difference between vegan and vegetarian diets can be confusing, but there is a clear distinction between the two. A vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, whereas a vegan diet is much more restrictive because it excludes all animal products entirely, including dairy and other foods sourced from animals. As well as the diet, a vegan lifestyle also involves avoiding animal byproducts such as leather and wool.
The decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle can be influenced by many factors, including animal welfare concerns, the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry and personal health reasons.
What Can’t You Eat On A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet excludes all meat, poultry, and fish. It also eliminates all dairy products – so no milk, cheese, cream or yoghurt. This means you must be careful when shopping for readymade foods – and avoid any which include these ingredients. This includes milk chocolate!
Eggs are also off the menu, which means that many mayonnaise products, some custards, and sauces are also out. Honey is another food excluded from a fully vegan diet because it is made by an animal.
As you can see, becoming vegan is not as easy as many people think; careful planning and thoughtful shopping are required!
Additionally, when removing these food groups from your diet, you are also removing a source of many nutrients. Meat provides highly absorbable iron, and vitamin B12 comes mainly from animal-sourced produce, while fish is an excellent source of the essential omega 3 fatty acids.
What Can You Eat On A Vegan Diet?
In short, anything and everything which is sourced from plants! However, it is not as simple as excluding all meat, fish, and dairy and simply sitting down to a plate of vegetables and potatoes each evening. A healthy vegan diet needs to be carefully planned and balanced to ensure that it is providing proteins, essential fatty acids, and nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
How Do Vegans Get Calcium And Iron? – What to Add to Your Diet
Studies have shown that those who follow a vegan diet have a higher risk of having inadequate levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc and the omega 3 fat DHA.
This doesn’t mean that these important nutrients can’t be sourced from a healthy, well-balanced and properly planned vegan diet. However, these nutrients may be harder to source and harder for your body to absorb without careful research and planning. Foods to include on a vegan diet include:
- Pulses such as beans and lentils – full of fibre as well as amino acids, pulses are an important daily addition to a vegan diet.
- Nuts and seeds – these are full of essential fatty acids and also top your body up with the amino acids you can’t get from pulses.
- Green vegetables – leafy veg such as kale, spinach and cabbage are an excellent source of iron for vegans.
- Soya – soya-based meat and fish alternatives such as tofu or bean curd provide protein and are easily adapted into recipes.
- Calcium-fortified plant milks – as vegans can’t eat dairy, calcium-fortified plant milk is a good alternative source of calcium.
- B12 enriched nutritional yeast – many vegan recipes will include B12 enriched nutritional yeast as an ingredient to replace cheese.
The Best Supplements For Vegans
Vitamin B Complex or Vitamin B12
Alongside B12-fortified nutritional yeast, it can be a good idea to add a B vitamin complex or vitamin B12 supplement to your daily routine, as a vegan diet may cause a deficiency. Vitamin B12 supports the body in many ways; its roles include supporting the nervous system, supporting energy production, and helping to support healthy red blood cell production.
Plant-sourced iron is harder for the body to absorb than meat sourced iron, which is why the diet should be loaded with greens. Those who menstruate should also consider adding a daily iron supplement to ensure their body is topped up with the correct levels it needs. Iron Bisglycinate is a form of iron which is gentle on the stomach, easily absorbed by the body, and vegan sourced, making it the ideal way to top up on iron. Iron is vital for helping to support oxygen transport around the body, healthy red blood cell formation, energy production and healthy cognitive function.
Many people here in the UK could be low on vitamin D, especially through the winter months. Vitamin D helps to support a healthy immune system and is required for proper absorption of calcium and for healthy bones.
Vegan Multivitamins and Minerals
As we mentioned in our blog What Vitamins Should I Take?, many diets could be low in specific nutrients. This may be due to cutting out food groups, but it can also be down to budget and time constraints. Many people could benefit from adding a multivitamin to their daily routine, to ensure valuable nutrients are topped up daily.
Vegan Diet Pros And Cons
Vegan Diet Pros:
- Vegan diets have been shown to be healthy for the heart.
- They can potentially reduce inflammation.
- They can also support healthy blood sugar levels.
- Vegans tend to have a healthier BMI (Body Mass Index), which may be due to the diet containing a lot of fibre.
Vegan Diet Cons:
- A vegan diet takes a lot of planning and preparation to ensure your body is getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals it needs.
- Vegans are at high-risk of certain nutrient deficiencies, as it can be harder to source these from a vegan diet without supplements.
As with all dietary regimes, a vegan diet must be fully understood, well planned and balanced, especially if it is introduced as a long-term lifestyle change.
Vitamins For Vegans
Whether you want to try going vegan for a month or continue with the diet past Veganuary, Natures Aid has a wide range of the best vegan supplements to help support your body. All our vegan supplements are certified by the Vegan Society, so you can rest assured that our supply chains and raw materials have been checked and verified as suitable for vegans.
Check out our full range of vegan supplements, where you can find specific vitamins for vegans as well as many vegan alternatives to popular nutritional supplements.