Veganism is on the rise and this January many people will challenge themselves to ‘Veganuary’, a month-long campaign aimed at encouraging people to try out a vegan diet. A vegan diet contains only plant-based food and drink options and this can offer benefits for the environment, animal welfare and health.
The health benefits of a vegan diet depend on what food and drinks you choose. People who follow a vegan diet generally consume more fruit, veg and fibre, and less saturated fat than non-vegans, and this can have a positive impact on heart health.
Tips for healthy eating as a vegan:
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day – keep it varied and colourful.
- Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and rice, and choose wholegrain versions to increase your fibre intake.
- Include dairy-free alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts and choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options where possible.
- Eat protein-rich foods such as beans, pulses, tofu, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
- Ensure you include some unsaturated oils and spreads in your diet. Rapeseed and flaxseed oils contain omega-3 fats, which can be beneficial for heart health.
Top yourself up!
- To make sure your body isn’t missing out on essential nutrients, a vegan diet needs to be well-planned, and you might need to top up on some vitamins.
- At this time of the year, when sunlight exposure is limited, everyone in the UK should consider taking a vitamin D supplement. This is especially important if you’re cutting out animal products.
- You’ll also need to supplement on vitamin B12 as you can’t get this from plant-based foods. Check food labels for the word ‘fortified’- most vegan spreads, breakfast cereals and soya products have vitamin D, calcium and B12 added to them.
The vegan diet isn’t the be all and end all to good health but taking a leaf out of the vegan way could set you off in the right direction when it comes to heart health. Why not give Veganuary a go? You could start with just one vegan meal a day, or one vegan day a week, and see how you like it!