Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than one million people in 192 countries to try a new vegan lifestyle in January. Thousands of new vegan products and menus were launched during 2020. You may have noticed supermarkets such as ASDA, Lidl and Aldi have trademarked a range of vegan products in their stores, these include fresh and frozen products such as meat substitutes (nuggets, meatballs, sausages), ready meals, pizzas, burgers, pastries and sweet treats such as ice cream, chocolate and biscuits.
With all of these plant-based products on the market now, is the perfect time to ditch meat and dairy products to make room for your new healthy vegan lifestyle.
Harmful effects of meat
Eating lots of meat and dairy foods increases blood pressure and cholesterol and can lead to heart disease and strokes. A low-fat plant-based diet containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain foods, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), nuts and seeds can lower cholesterol and even reverse heart disease (see the 2 week vegan rescue diet)
Harmful effects of dairy
Dairy is often the culprit in indigestion, several inflammatory bowel conditions, constipation and stomach pains, it’s also been linked to many health issues ranging from acne and asthma to certain cancers and diabetes. Plant-based alternatives such as oat, almond and soy milk are rich in vitamins and minerals, low in fat, don’t contain cholesterol and contain a healthy combination of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Don’t miss out on essential nutrients this Veganuary!
Just because you’re vegan that doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Replacing animal proteins with an excessive amount of carbohydrates, fats, and vegan junk food may result in unwanted weight gain and bad health.
You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet. For a healthy vegan diet:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- base meals on rice, pasta, potatoes and grains (choose wholegrain where possible)
- have some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
- eat beans, lentils, chickpeas and other proteins
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
- drink plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)
With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet; you can get all the nutrients your body needs. If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12, although if you are concerned about getting enough vitamins you can purchase these from your local pharmacy.
The best way to maximise your nutrient intake is to plan your meals in advance and to make quality Veganuary recipes.
Here are some of our favourite Veganuary recipes and ideas!
Vegan Overnight Oats
Vegan Overnight Oats are the easiest make-ahead nutritious breakfast ever! Find the recipe here!
Vegan Chickpea Salad Sandwich
This vegan sandwich is full of protein and 3 of your 5-a-day! Find the recipe here!
This BBC Good Food vegan chilli is packed full of vegetables and flavour. Find the recipe here!
Common Vegan Concerns
The first question asked of vegans is often where do you get your protein? Some of the best sources include tofu, tempeh, vegan sausages made from pea or soy protein such as Linda McCartney or Richmond Meat-Free; lentils, chickpeas, black beans, baked beans and edamame; seeds, nuts and nut butter; quinoa, oats, rice and grains. Even vegetables contain protein!
Beans and greens tend to be calcium-rich, so eat plenty, including black turtle beans, kidney beans, soya beans, kale, watercress, okra and broccoli. You’ll also find calcium in sweet potato, butternut squash and tofu.
Foods to help boost your iron intake are edamame beans, lentils, chickpeas and beans, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, blackstrap molasses, watercress, kale and other dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, sesame seeds and dark chocolate.
Omega-3 and omega-6
Omega-6 can be found plentifully in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains and most vegetable oils. It is very easy to get sufficient omega-6 on a balanced vegan diet, but this fat competes with omega-3 for use in the body so we need to make sure we are getting sufficient omega-3 every day. The best sources are leafy green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach), walnuts, rapeseed oil, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soya beans and tofu.
Iodine can be tricky to get right because having either too much or too little can cause thyroid problems. There are small amounts in nuts, bread, fruit, vegetables and beans but the best plant sources are seaweed and iodized salt, though the amounts in seaweed can vary quite widely.
Vegans can get B12 by eating yeast extract, nutritional yeast (aka nooch), breakfast cereals and plant-based milk that are fortified with it. However, it is recommended that everyone on a vegan diet takes a supplement of this important vitamin to be sure they are getting a sufficient amount.