The truth about protein: how to be a healthy vegan

We’re coming to the end of Veganuary, but for those looking to continue with their vegan diets here’s what you need to know…

“If you are cutting out dairy it is really important to ensure that you are getting enough calcium and iodine in your diet,” says Chloe Hall, Community Dietitian at Dorset Healthcare University NHS foundation trust.

Calcium is required for the formation of bones, muscle function and blood clotting and it can be found in calcium-enriched milk alternatives, such as almond milk, or dairy free yoghurts, such as soya, plus fortified cereals and enriched orange juice.

Iodine reduces the thyroid hormone and can kill fungus and bacteria. Hall says: “It is difficult enough to get Iodine in your diet without consuming dairy products and, therefore, a supplement may need to be considered.”

The only other supplement it is recommended vegans take is B12, especially when new to the regime, as it’s an important vitamin for making red blood cells, keeping the nervous system healthy and releasing energy from food and is only found in meat or specially fortified foods.

While meat is a good source of iron, essential for generating healthy oxygen-carrying red-blood cells, an iron-rich vegan diet needs to consist of legumes (such as peas and beans), dark green leafy vegetables, quinoa and tofu.

Nuts, seeds and a daily dose of flax or chia oil are good for Omega 3, which helps to maintain a healthy heart.

As for the highly-coveted protein, essential for the working of muscles and organs and our immune system? Well, two points really.

The first is beans, pulses, soya, and nuts are not only great sources of protein but also valuable sources of iron, zinc, soluble fibre, omega-3 and vitamin B12.

The second is we actually require a lot less protein than the media and fitness industry lead us to believe – world tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic and British former world heavyweight boxer David Haye are both vegans, while former Wimbledon champion Venus Williams calls herself a ‘cheagan’ (a cheating vegan).

And now, of course, Lewis Hamilton has joined the ranks.

All indications point to veganism being perceived less of a drag and more of a force to be reckoned with as a mainstream lifestyle diet.

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