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Healthy foods

How to safeguard your health when going vegan

If you've just started following a vegan diet, or are thinking about cutting out animal products, these tips can help you enjoy a varied diet and get all the nutrients you need.

Start slowly

When removing animal products from your diet, it's important to go at your own pace. Some find it easy to give up everything at once, while for others it may be a case of cutting things out slowly. You may find it easier to add different foods into your diet before subtracting anything; this way you can get used to cooking with ingredients you may not be used to.

Get enough nutrients

There's a misconception that vegans lack basic nutrients in their diet because they've cut out animal products that are well known to be rich in calcium, protein and iron. Although animal products are high in these nutrients, they aren't the only way to meet the recommended intake.

For example, meat is one of the few 'complete proteins', and so includes the 8 amino acids that the human body can't produce on its own (leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and lysine). However, buckwheat, soy, hemp, beans and rice, chia seeds, quinoa and spirulina are also all complete proteins.

Vegan protein sources (recommended daily intake: 50g)

  • 1 cup tempeh - 41g
  • 100g spirulina - 57g
  • 100g chia seeds - 17g

Vegan calcium sources (recommended daily intake: 700mg)

  • 100g raw collard greens - 232mg
  • 100g tofu - 350mg
  • 1 cup bok choy (steamed or boiled) - 150mg

Vegan iron sources (recommended daily intake: 8.7mg for men, 14.8mg for women

  • 1 cup soybeans - 8.8mg
  • 1 cup spinach (cooked) - 6mg
  • 100g hummus (with lemon juice for vitamin C to aid iron absorption) - 2.4mg

Finding plant-based sources of nutrients doesn't have to be difficult, but if you can't include the amount you need in all your meals, you can always try a supplement: it's worth considering vitamin B12, which is particularly hard to get from a vegan diet.

Read the label

To make your life easier when shopping, it's worth perfecting your label-scanning technique. Vegetarian-friendly food is often clearly labelled, but this is still not always the case for vegan foods. The quick cheat is to look for foods labelled as vegetarian, then scan the ingredients for things like milk and eggs; these are allergens, so will be in bold.

However, don't forget to check for honey as this isn't vegan or an allergen, so won’t be in bold. Some non-vegan ingredients can be hidden as E-numbers, too, and this is where a quick search on your phone will help.

Explore new foods

Don't get stuck in a rut eating the same few meals that you're comfortable with, because you'll get bored quickly. Veganism is a great time to experiment with different fruits, vegetables, pulses, beans, seeds, and everything else!

Related products

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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