Veganuary: an annual ritual that has become a failsafe in many of our calendars after devouring everything in sight over the festive period. But is it really a good idea for us all? There is no debate that eating a more plant-based diet is beneficial for the environment and animal welfare. A lot of meat and poultry in the UK is mass produced, fed hormones and of poor quality. However, that isn’t the case across the board, and we shouldn’t demonise animal produce for this reason. You can reduce your meat consumption and instead buy more expensive, high quality meat less often, opting for free range or grass fed produce.
Eating plants is undeniably healthy. Consuming a diet rich in a wide range of vegetables increases your nutrient profile, as well as your fibre intake which contributes to a healthy gut. Although this isn’t to say that a vegan diet is healthier. You can be a meat eater and still obtain a high nutrient profile with a wide range of vegetables forming part of your diet as well as animal products.
So, before you ditch animal products altogether read on for tips from Head of Nutrition at Natural Fitness Food, Rachel Butcher to find out how to make it work for you.
Make it work for you
You don’t have to go fully vegan, there are no set rules when it comes to your diet. You may want to commit and change your diet entirely, increase your consumption of plant-based meals or you may feel elements of it just don’t work for you and adapt part way through – listen to how your body feels and do what works for you.
Your nutrient intake will change
When you reduce your consumption of animal products, there is naturally an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, simply because they can be harder to find in plant-based foods. But that’s not to say that can’t be found at all. Nutrients we should be aware of include omega 3, calcium, iodine, vitamin D & vitamin B12 – B12 in particular since it’s difficult to obtain enough through the diet, so you may want to consider supplementing B12.
Be aware of choline intake
Found largely in fish, dairy and animal products, this nutrient is rarely discussed but its’ importance shouldn’t be discounted. It is needed by the brain and nervous system to regulate memory, mood, muscle control and cell communication. Not enough can lead to muscle and liver damage. It can be found in quinoa, cruciferous veg such as broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower and in small amounts in nuts and seeds.
Check your nutritional status
While it would seem an ideal solution to grab all of the high-risk nutrients as supplements off the shelf, I only recommend supplementing when needed so if you are serious about going vegan, head to your GP and get a blood test to find out what you do need to supplement.
Vegan doesn’t guarantee good health
While there are many health benefits to increasing your vegetable and fibre intake, a vegan diet doesn’t inherently mean a healthy diet. There are a wide range of vegan products available, some of which packed with artificial additives, sugars and sweeteners. Try to opt for a whole food vegan diet rather than relying on highly processed vegan alternatives.