Many wonder how a vegan can sustain a healthy diet without eating some of our main food groups. How can we be healthy without meat? How can we be healthy without dairy? And the main question of all, what do vegans really eat?
Living off a healthy vegan diet is not quite as challenging as some people assume. Basing a diet around plenty of fruit and vegetables, plenty of starchy foods, beans and pulses for protein, and just a small amount of our beloved sugar and fatty snacks creates a great start for a healthy human being.
Not only does a balanced plant-based diet leave you feeling great after a meal with the ease on our digestive systems but it also helps keep the body in lean shape which I’m sure is something many of us would love.
However, ditching the meat and dairy does need to be planned or else you can lose out on some essential nutrients our bodies require. Calcium can be found in:
• fortified soya, rice and oat drinks;
• calcium set tofu;
• sesame seeds and tahini;
• brown and white bread (in the UK calcium is added to white and brown flour by law);
• dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots.
For our bodies to absorb the calcium, we need vitamin D. Sources for this nutrient:
• exposure to summer sunshine – remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn (see sunlight and vitamin D);
• fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and soya drinks (with vitamin D added);
• vitamin D supplements.
Iron is required for the production of red blood cells. The essential iron we need can be found in:
• wholemeal bread and flour;
• breakfast cereals fortified with iron;
• dark-green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens;
• dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs.
B12 is usually found in animal products so vegan alternatives are often more of a struggle to find and are needed for the body to maintain healthy blood and nervous system. Sources of B12 are found in:
• breakfast cereals fortified with B12;
• soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12;
• yeast extract such as Marmite.
And last but not least, vegan’s need omega-3 fatty acids. This is to maintain a healthy heart and reduce the overall risk of heart disease. Sources of omega-3 for vegans includes:
• flaxseed (linseed) oil;
• rapeseed oil;
• soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu;
So to sum it up, vegans do eat. They can be healthy. And there are many alternative sources for the essential nutrients we need to survive.