How to do Veganuary | 5 Nutritional Reminders To Remember
Are you trying a plant-based diet this Veganuary? Remember that while plant-based diets can be great for both your health and the planet, it is important to ensure the diet you're eating is well-balanced and keeping you healthy.
If you’re thinking of trying Veganuary this year - that’s great! It’s important to make sure your new plant-based diet is balanced and healthy, so here are a few things we think you should be aware of when following (or first switching) to a plant-based diet.
A top tip to get you started: try and include plenty of nuts, seeds and legumes (like beans) in your meals! These foods are packed with key minerals, fats and proteins that your body needs, so they’re a great place to start when eating plant-based.
Note that the tips listed below are not a cause for concern or a reason not to follow a plant-based diet, since all of them can be well managed without eating meat or animal products - but they are worth bearing in mind so you can ensure that your plant-based diet is a balanced one.
1. Getting enough Iron
If you’re following a plant-based diet for Veganuary, your body will need to rely on the ‘non-heme iron’ found in plants to meet its iron needs. Unfortunately, while many plants contain quite a lot of non-heme iron, our bodies absorb it 3-4 times less efficiently than heme iron (found in meat). Meaning, plant-based eaters need to take in more iron than meat eaters do to meet the body’s needs.
Luckily, a well-balanced plant-based diet can easily contain more than enough iron to meet your body’s needs. In fact, recent studies have shown that vegetarians don’t get anemia due to a lack of iron any more frequently than those who eat meat. Plus, there are a few little tricks you can use to boost the amount of non-heme iron your body is able to absorb through veganuary - like increasing your intake of vitamin C, which helps your body more of the iron in your plant-based diet!
2. Getting enough calcium
Dairy products are well known for being rich in calcium, but since you’ll be going without them this veganuary you’ll need to turn to other calcium sources to ensure your bones stay strong. Luckily, there are a wide range of plant-based sources of calcium, including many modern alternative “milks”, which are often fortified with additional calcium to boost their nutritional content!
3. Getting enough B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential part of our diets, but it’s only naturally found in some animal products like milk and eggs. Therefore throughout veganuary, when you’re following a plant-based diet, you’ll be at a greater risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, so make sure your meals (and snacks) include plenty of foods that are fortified in B12, like bread or breakfast cereals, or regularly take a B12 supplement.
4. Getting enough protein
While many people think of meat as the best source of protein, there are a wide variety of plant-based foods that you can enjoy during veganuary that are actually almost as protein-rich as meat. Tofu, tempeh and seitan are good places to start, while beans and legumes (like lentils) also pack a punch when it comes to their protein content.
But getting enough protein is only half the battle: you also need to ensure you’re getting the right kinds of protein in your veganuary diet too. Luckily, animal products aren’t the only places we find proteins that contain the 9 ‘essential’ amino acids we need to live - we can also find them in plant-based sources like soy, quinoa and potatoes. Our bodies can digest and absorb some forms of plant-based protein (like soy protein) just as well as that from animal products, so you can meet all your protein needs this veganuary whilst only relying on plant-based foods.
5. Getting enough healthy fats
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that plays a number of important roles in our body and helps maintain our overall health. The best known source of omega-3 is oily fish, but those following a plant-based diet for veganuary can instead turn to nuts, seeds and even some green vegetables to meet their omega-3 needs instead. In a relatively new development, plant-based omega-3 supplements that contain microalgae rather than fish oils are now available too. So if you’re following a strict plant-based diet for veganuary, you now have another option to boost your daily intake of this essential healthy fat!
Are you doing Veganuary this year? Let us know how you’re finding it in the comments below!