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Healthy Vegan diet??
I was inspired to write something about Vegan nutrition as some people may be considering a Vegan diet, particularly during BAM. It is an important part of the ethical consideration in becoming Vegan - ie looking after ones own health.
This is a very basic introduction, with the aim of raising awareness; I’ve recommended some books for those who want to explore this further.
It is important to remember that we all take individual responsibility for working out what is right for us and I am not in a position to claim that a Vegan diet would be healthy in all circumstances. The general principles won’t necessarily apply to everyone (and of course there are many different views about healthy eating out there, this is just one view!)
HEALTHY EATING BASICS
A healthy vegan meal would ideally look like this: half of your plate would be vegetables, preferably with a range of colours, the other half would be beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains.
Vegetables already contain carbohydrates, so for most people a smaller portion of grains or potatoes is needed. Refined carbohydrates like white pasta and white rice offer little nutritional value.
We also need to beware of eating too much sugar, one of many reason for this is because our bodies actually have to use up nutrients to digest the sugar, so it depletes us of all those lovely vitamins and minerals that were hopefully in our healthy meal.
5 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit per day is a good amount to aim for!
For most people, protein should make up about 20% of their daily food intake. A basic concept to be aware of is ‘complete protein’ and ‘incomplete protein’ sources. A complete protein source includes all the essential amino acids - these include foods like soya, quinoa, hemp, and buckwheat. An incomplete protein source contains some but not all of the essential amino acids.
You can still get all the essential amino acids into one meal by combing incomplete proteins, its easy to do - you don’t have to do it every meal time but doing so increases your body’s ability to use the protein. To combine proteins ensure that your meal contains a mixture of wholegrains and nuts/seeds or beans/pulses; or a mixture of nuts/seeds and beans/pulses. For example: beans on toast, rice and lentil curry, humous on oat biscuit.
A basic point about fats in general is to avoid saturated fats, cook with olive oil or coconut oil, and use raw oils such as hemp and flax.
To ensure you get an adequate intake of essential fats like omega 3, it is recommended to take 1 tablespoon of ground omega rich seeds per day and 1 tablespoon of flax oil. A good combination of ground seeds you can make up at home is - 50% flax seeds and the other 50% sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds - its best to grind them up in small batches and then store in a sealed container in the fridge. You can also make some tasty wholesome snacks using nuts and seeds (but remember they’re much easier to digest when ground).
In some circumstances it is also helpful to add in an algae based supplement. This is because the body has to convert the fats in seeds into EPA and DHA, and sometimes higher doses are needed - eg in some health conditions, pregnancy and childhood. Did you know the reason fish are rich in EPA and DHA is through the algae they consume? You can get algae based Omega 3 supplements over the internet - I recommend Opti 3.
A healthy vegan diet can provide all the vitamins and minerals the body needs, with the exception of B12. You can get foods that are fortified with B12, but the best and easiest way to ensure adequate intake is to take a sublingual B12 supplement once a week. (Sublingual means disolved under the tongue and is better absorbed than tablets you swallow).
If you’ve been vegan for a while and need to boost up your B12 storage, take 1 a day for 2 weeks, and then go to once a week. In some circumstances its needed more often, but for most people that will be plenty.
BOOSTING YOUR NUTRITION
You can boost your protein intake by adding protein powders such as hemp or soya to your diet - I recommend adding them to smoothies along with your ground seeds. It can also be beneficial to add in other super foods like spirulina.
I personally feel better if I also take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement every day. If you’re concerned about your energy levels, its advisible to have a blood test to check your iron and B12.
- Thrive by Brendan Brazier - loads of information about healthy vegan food and raw food vegan recipes.
- Vegan by Yvonne and Tony Bishop-Weston - nutritional advice and recipes
- The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford - useful if you want to learn more indepth about nutrition and using supplements to optimise health.
I would like to acknowledge Yvonne Bishop-Weston as the source of much of my knowledge about Vegan Nutrition.
You are welcome to print out and share this information.
Amaladhi, BAM 2015.