Is a Vegan Diet a Healthy One?

The health benefits of including more fruit and vegetables in your diet are well documented, however many more people than ever before are taking the extra step of becoming vegan. This means that they eat no animal products or products which have been derived from an animal, including eggs and dairy products. While those who are advocates of the vegan lifestyle firmly believe that it is a healthy choice, its critics say that it cannot possibly be healthy to eliminate all animal products completely. So, what is the truth?

Can A Vegan Diet Be Healthy?

Although the vegan diet does eliminate many types of foods, that doesn't mean that it's impossible to obtain all of the essential vitamins and minerals that we need for good health. While they cannot be obtained from the usual sources such as fish, meat or dairy produce, they can be found in other foods which can be included in a vegan diet.

How To Get Protein In A Vegan Diet

Eliminating meat and fish from the diet doesn't mean that you won't get any protein. In fact most foods contain protein, albeit in varying amounts, and some rich sources such as beans and soya are perfectly acceptable for vegans.

Omega 3 Substitutes

We are all encouraged to eat more foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids, since they are essential for brain, skin, joint and heart health. Although the most common source of Omega 3 is oily fish, which cannot be eaten by vegans, it can be found in canola oil, walnuts and flaxseeds as well as DHA capsules, all of which are fine to eat.

Finding A Source Of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins which is difficult to obtain as a vegan, however it is not impossible. It can be found in fortified nutritional yeast as well as in fortified rice and soya milks and some cereals.

Dairy Free Calcium

Trying to obtain enough calcium without consuming dairy products isn't as hard as it sounds. Beans, almonds, broccoli, kale, collard greens and sesame tahini are all high in calcium and are simple to include in the diet, and for an even easier way to obtain your RDA you can even drink fortified soya or rice milk, or orange juice.

Getting Enough Vitamin D

If you live in a sunny climate, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight shouldn't be a problem, however elsewhere it's possible to get sufficient vitamin D from drinking fortified orange juice or non-dairy milk, and by eating mushrooms and tofu.

Strong Sources Of Iron

Although red meat is one of the best known sources of iron, there are plenty of iron-rich vegan food options including spinach, beans, lentils, black eyed beans, oatmeal, chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, millet and quinoa. By eating this foods alongside a glass of orange juice, you will increase your absorption rate since vitamin C boosts iron absorption rates.

As long as you eat a healthy and well balanced vegan diet that includes all of the above foods on a regular basis, you should have no problems in staying well. However, if you find it difficult to maintain a balanced lifestyle, taking a food supplement when eating a vegan diet is advisable.