Studies have shown that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can result in better health, as those who cut out meat and dairy foods are less likely to develop conditions such as heart disease and cancer. However, just omitting animal products isn’t enough, as we also need a combination of foods to get the right balance of nutrients to receive the health benefits
Michael Kern, osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy teacher and naturopath has been a vegetarian for 45 years and is a passionate advocate of a balanced plant-based diet. The PDF attachment looks at some popular vegan foods.
Meat eaters tend to get a lot of the required levels of iron from animal products, so when becoming vegan iron needs to be sourced elsewhere. Iron-rich vegan foods include green leafy vegetables, white beans, almonds, beet greens and chard. Vitamin C can also help the body to more efficiently absorb iron, so citrus fruits, berries and other foods high in vitamin C can help.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that’s not easily accessible in plants, but can be found in tempeh, yeast products and nori seaweed. Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs will probably get enough, but those on a fully vegan diet may need to include fortified foods such as spreads and milks.
Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish and animal products, but vegan foods such as chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts contain omega-3, although in a form that the body needs to convert to make use of. A good vegan-friendly omega-3 supplement may be helpful to maintain optimum health.
Vitamin A is found naturally in animal products, but the body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, so plenty of fresh red and orange fruits and vegetables will cover all the body’s requirements. These should be eaten with fat for better absorption and as part of a diet that includes enough protein and zinc.