In yesterday’s part 1 Lisa Lowry-Jones started to explain and illustrate just how and why a vegan diet can be healthy in the long term. Here she concludes with more great advice…
People often think that vegans cannot obtain calcium since they do not drink cow’s milk. 700Mg daily is the recommended daily amount and this can be obtained quite easily through green leafy vegetables such as bok choi, kale and watercress. Calcium can also be obtained from fortified foods such as cereals, non-dairy milk and calcium-enriched tofu.
Vitamin D is difficult to obtain from any type of food and is made more efficiently when we expose ourselves to sunlight for around 10-20 minutes a day. It needs to be without sunscreen and when the sun is hottest. Although we should all be careful with over-exposure to the sun, the time out in the sun isn’t for too long.
Vegans will need to supplement with D2 as opposed to the superior version of D3 as this is derived from animals, usually sheep’s wool. There are also vegan versions of D3 on the market should you wish to supplement.
Iron is vital for the transport of oxygen in the blood and can be obtained from a vegan diet from pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts and pulses such as lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas. Wholegrain, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate and thyme can all help to increase iron levels.
Zinc is involved in protein building, making DNA and even helping to make a stronger immune system. Vegans can obtain zinc from spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, adzuki beans, kidney beans and mushrooms.
K2 is not as well known as a vitamin but is important in transporting calcium to bones and also helps with blood clotting. It can be found in leafy greens, although it is primarily found in animal products. A supplement of K2 may be beneficial to someone on a vegan diet.
There are many other vitamins and minerals that may be low in anyone’s diet – meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan.
My advice would be to get your blood levels checked before going vegan and then again 12 months later to keep a check on those levels. Speak to your GP if there is a particular vitamin or mineral that you are concerned about as not everything is covered in a routine blood test (such as B12).
Like any diet, there are good and poor examples
A variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables are the best way to ensure that you are taking in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Adding pulses, beans and fortified non-dairy milks along with grains, oats, flax seed, nuts and seeds should help a vegan cover most essentials.
Not eating the same foods every day, keeping processed foods to a minimum and trying to eat as many colourful foods as possible should help anyone to keep a vegan diet healthy in the long-term.
I would still recommend supplementing with B vitamins – especially B12 and B6 (folic acid), with the option of adding vitamin D in the autumn and winter months – or all year round if you don’t see much sun. Female vegans of childbearing age may wish to supplement with iron too.
So the answer to the question, Can a vegan diet be healthy in the long term? Is an emphatic Yes…as long as you stick to the principles I have mentioned here.
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Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S. Review.
Why Vegetarians and Vegans Should Supplement with DHA.Webpage: https://chriskresser.com/why-vegetarians-and-vegans-should-supplement-with-dha/?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_term=why-vegetarians-and-vegans&utm_content=&utm_campaign=blog-post&mc_cid=06e78add87&mc_eid=a68f071427