Are you embracing Veganuary this year? If you are, Dr Naomi Beinart – nutritionist and psychologist – reveals 5 important things to consider
Is adopting a vegan diet healthy? What makes it any different to all the other diets we are told are good for our health?
There is a lot of confusion out there historically about nutrition – propagated by the media, food companies and even health professionals themselves.
But few can can argue with the benefits of eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, the superiority of whole unprocessed foods the need to limit or avoid processed meats, sugary cakes, sweets, fizzy sugary drinks, white flour and white bread where you can.
So if you’re giving Veganuary a go – well done you – then you may want consider these 5 things says Dr Naomi Beinart, PhD, Nutritionist (BSc) and Chartered Psychologist specialising in Health…
Veganuary tip #1 Make sure you are eating a good diet
Eat lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants, which help to to protect against free radicals and keep us healthy.
We tend to eat less fruit and veg in winter, but there are so many tasty winter vegetables and brightly coloured root vegetables (e.g. butternut squash, sweet potato and carrots) that contain carotenoids which reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the body.
there are so many tasty winter vegetables and brightly coloured root vegetables
So, if you enjoy being outside on these cold, sunny, winter days, don’t forget your root vegetable soup.
One of the main challenges with a vegan diet is getting enough good quality protein. Vegans can get protein from plant based sources like peanut butter, seeds, grains, and legumes, and alternative products like tofu and soymilk also provide protein, so be sure to include plenty of these during Veganuary.
Include healthy starches like potatoes, rice, and pasta (choose wholegrain where possible) and have some fortified dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yogurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options).
READ MORE: 5 protein-packed vegan recipes we’re loving from Gaz Oakley’s new cookbook
Veganuary tip #2 Don’t let your energy levels fall
As well as eating a healthy diet, make sure you are eating lots of energy dense foods that are rich in iron – nuts and nut butters are especially good for this and suitable for Veganuary.
As well as diet, make sure you are adapting lifestyle changes to make sure you are staying healthy and well.
Fresh air is always the best thing when you’re feeling a little lethargic or mentally low. Getting outside and going for a walk in green space will allow you to clear your mind and get a bit of exercise whilst you’re at it.
if you are just starting a vegan diet, try a relaxing exercise like a yoga class
Dr Naomi recommends that if you live in a city, try to head to a park or a larger green space so you can really immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the sunny weather, and perhaps listen to a motivational or inspirational podcast whilst you’re out and about.
Most likely you will come home feeling more positive and upbeat. Also if you are just starting a vegan diet, try a relaxing exercise like a yoga class, which is gentle but can leave you feeling really energised and upbeat.
Swimming is also a great relaxing exercise that is low impact and you can take as gently as you like – swim in the morning to feel energised for the rest of the day.
READ MORE: 9 Pilates benefits you probably didn’t know about
Veganuary tip #3 B12 is one of the most important vitamins for Vegans
Due to the absence of red meat in a plant-based, Veganuary diet, vegans (and vegetarians) are typically deficient in vitamin B12 and iron. This can lead to fatigue, headaches, dizziness and if left untreated, anaemia.
Ensuring you have enough B12 you can make a big difference to how you feel, your energy levels and your overall well-being. So how can you make sure you have enough B12? This is far easier for people who eat animal products, such as meat, fish and dairy.
However, even if you are eating the right foods, Vitamins B12 is notoriously hard to absorb.
Since your body can’t make B12, I always recommend a good quality B12 spray
Some vegan foods and drinks are now fortified with B12, and you can find some in vegan foods like nori and nutritional yeast.
However, research shows that our B12 needs cannot be met from vegetarian or vegan sources alone
So, what can you do to make sure you are getting enough B12? Since your body can’t make B12, I always recommend a good quality B12 spray.
BetterYou B12 Spray, uses the most bio-available form of B12 (methylcobalamin) which is a naturally active form found within human metabolism. It is really easy to use and can be applied directly onto the inner cheek of the mouth.
Also available to purchase on Amazon
Veganuary tip #4 Don’t neglect your thyroid health
Your thyroid is a small gland at the front of your neck that uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, but if you are deficient in iodine then your body can’t make enough thyroid hormones.
When this happens, your thyroid starts to work overtime to make these vital hormones and can result in overgrowth of the thyroid gland, called goiter. Luckily, if caught soon enough this can be reversed by improving iodine intake.
Thyroid hormones are vital for so many of our body’s natural processes including bone health, metabolism, reproductive health, and brain health.
As a nutritionist I have seen numerous women over the years who struggle with low energy, weight gain, dry skin and feeling cold all the time.
Thyroid hormones are vital for so many of our body’s natural processes
While there is a lot to consider when someone presents with these symptoms, iodine status is the number one place we start and is often found to play a role in some of these issues.
The primary sources of iodine are white fish and dairy making it challenging for vegans and those doing Veganuary. Seaweed is the only natural and plant-based source that provides adequate amounts of iodine for optimal function.
Try: Weed and Wonderful® Pure Seaweed by Doctor Seaweed. Each 500mg capsule contains similar levels of iodine as one portion of haddock.
READ MORE: Thyroid problems? These 4 natural fixes are proven to help
Veganuary tip #5 Ensure your immunity isn’t compromised
If you’re someone who works long hours, with busy personal and family schedules, travel and frequent commuting, you will find that you are more susceptible to any viruses that are going around.
Taking care of your immune system by ensuring that you aren’t lacking any vital vitamins and minerals, is essential, especially if you’re on a plant-based, Veganuary diet.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, muscles and teeth
Public Health England recommends that we all supplement with Vitamin D to support and strengthen our immune defences and to support energy levels and mood throughout the winter. Plus, Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, muscles and teeth.
Mushrooms are one of the best sources of Vitamin D, together with some fortified foods, but it’s best to ensure you have adequate Vitamin D levels, by taking a good quality daily supplement, especially throughout the winter months.