Vegan diet tips to know
There's so much to think about when starting the vegan diet and it can get a little confusing to know how much of food groups a person will need to eat. With so many vegan type diets and 'know how' articles online, it's easy to miss the important considerations a beginner will need know. But getting it right can make all the difference, so here are some tips to think about before embarking on your first vegan diet.
MAIN NUTRIENTS TO KEEP IN MIND
Iron is one of the main nutrients to keep in mind when starting a vegan diet. The types of food groups to satisfy the level of intake is through plant-based foods like legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, whole-grains, dried fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables.
Accredited practising dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia Melanie McGrice said the iron level intake is generally around 18mg for women aged 19-50.
"From having a handful of seeds, you're going to get maybe 1 or 2mg of iron but not the full 18mg and so that's where it's about the whole of your diet and planning for each meal." Ms McGrice said.
For men aged 19-50, the adequate intake for iron is 8mg.
Dietitians Association of Australia reports the type of iron in plant-based foods (non-haem iron) is not easily absorbed, so in order to boost the absorption of iron in plant-based foods is to include food meals rich with vitamin C. This would mean including berries, citrus fruit, Kiwi fruit, capsicum, tomatoes and broccoli.
Along with iron, nutrients such as B12, Calcium, Omega-3 fats, Zinc and Choline will need to be kept in mind according to Ms McGrice.
REPLACEMENTS AND PLANNING IS KEY
Sustaining balanced nutrients while on a vegan diet can be hard to do, especially if you're starting out for the first time. Many people worry about getting enough iron intake or if they get enough protein. But according to Ms McGrice, replacements and planning is key in getting the adequate intake.
According to practising dietitians, this diet involves food groups like fruit and vegetables, bread, cereals, and grains, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, dried beans), soy food like tofu and tempeh, and nuts and seeds.
Ms McGrice said it's beneficial to really plan out your diet each day to make sure that nutritional needs are met. It's not about eating these food groups on its own but food groups that are complimentary as well.
"Instead of having dairy, you'll be having dairy alternatives such as soy milk and for Omega 3 - options include foods such as chia seeds." Ms McGrice said.
"With calcium - it will be about having something like tahini and green, leafy vegetables and for iron, seeds are a good source," she said.
It's beneficial to know food groups that contain these nutrients and by eating a well-balanced vegan diet with plenty of whole foods such as tofu, quinoa, and broccoli, it's ensuring the daily requirements that are rich in resources.
"I guess the key thing is that you're not going to get all of your nutrients just from one of those food types," Ms McGrice said.
"The best way for a nutritional balance is ensuring to have complementary proteins within the same meal," she said.
There are common mistakes made that affect nutrient adequate intake according to Ms McGrice. Sometimes these common mistakes can be tricky, even for those who have been and currently are on vegan diets.
"Not having complementary protein in food groups within each meal is a common mistake - it's the kind of thinking that they're going to meet the entire nutrient needs just by eating one food group with a particular nutrient," Ms McGrice said.
"Just because someone eats a cup of broccoli doesn't mean that they're going to meet all of their calcium needs. As mentioned before, it's better to plan each meal with complementary proteins."
Ms McGrice said it's easier to make an appointment with an accredited practising dietitian to help you to design a plan that's best for starting a vegan diet for the first time.
"Or attend a vegan support group and get some practical tips to help you through the process," said Ms McGrice.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
A vegan diet, if not done correctly, has potential for negative side effects.
Iron and B12 deficiency are a common, negative side effect if the nutrient requirements are not met according to Ms McGrice. The body can't make iron itself, so food is needed.
"Having an annual blood test is a good idea to check your nutritional profile," Ms McGrice said.
The main cause for iron deficiency, according to Ms McGrice, can be caused by not eating enough iron rich foods. Some people, like children and teenagers, and pregnant women need more iron than others.
Vitamin B12 is needed to help the blood form and for the brain and nervous system to function properly.
The common symptoms of B12 deficiency include tiredness, light-headedness, rapid heart rate, easy bruising and bleeding, weight loss.