Record numbers have signed up to “Veganuary” for January 2019 and will try living on a fully vegan diet for a month and maybe more. Following a plant-based diet can offer significant benefits to your health and the health of the planet.

A plant-based diet can potentially lack some important nutrients, however, so in order to make sure that we are brimming with health and energy we need to be aware of what they are, and find out how to maximise nutrient-intake as we remove animal products from our diet.

Iron – Say no to tea and coffee

Iron is most abundant and absorbable in meat but as a vegan you will need to source other options such as dried fruit, beans, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. However tea and coffee inhibit the absorption of plant iron so combine iron-rich foods with a source of Vitamin C (like peppers or citrus) which will enhance iron absorption.

Plants can fulfil your calcium needs

There are many plant based sources of calcium. Obtaining enough calcium in a vegan diet can be achieved by eating a balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods and also by incorporating calcium fortified foods in to your diet.

Plant sources of calcium include bok choy, figs, kale, mustard greens, turnip, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, sesame seeds and fortified plant milks.

Iodine – Get wrapping

Iodine is vital for healthy thyroid function and is needed for metabolizing food into energy.
A low iodine intake can lead to hypothyroidism, often resulting in low energy levels, dry skin, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain.

Kelp (Kombu) is very rich in iodine and should only be consumed on occasion. Nori (sushi wraps) have more moderate levels (3 sheets per day contains almost all your recommended intake) and can be eaten regularly.

Essential Fats (Omega 3 & 6) – Nothing fishy

For a vegan to achieve the ideal ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6 which is about 1:1 the solution is to first cut back Omega-6 food sources by reducing the intake of processed foods and vegetable oils. Boost your intake of Omega-3 rich plant based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. You can also supplement with algae oil if needed.

Zinc

It is important to have small amounts of zinc on a daily basis in order to maintain health and perform important functions each day. Zinc helps with hormone production, growth and repair, improves immunity and supports digestion.

To maximize your intake, eat lots of of zinc-rich foods including whole grains, wheat germ, legumes, nuts and seeds.

If you would like personalised guidance, enlist the support of a naturopath or nutritional therapist who can help you achieve your personal health goals for now and the longer term.

If you would like to continue your learning about vegan health why not join us at our upcoming Open Evening and learn how you can become a CNM Vegan Natural Chef.

If you are eager to learn more about health and wellbeing why not join us on one of our upcoming Open Days

By Eva Killeen who directs CNM’s Natural Chef and Vegan Natural Chef training.