OH! Magazine - Australian Version June 2018 - Page 10

( NUTRITION ) NUTRITION Q&A ASHLEIGH FELTHAM Ashleigh Feltham answers your nutrition and health questions. Q UESTION: Is being a vegan safe for my health? ANSWER: With increasing evidence on how eating too much red and processed meat can negatively impact your health as well as the planet’s health, it is not a surprise more people are becoming a vegan. Being a vegan means you do not eat any product that comes from an animal. This includes the meat of course, as well as other products from animals, such as dairy food and eggs. There is however, one specific nutrient that is available only from animal products, which is vitamin B12. So anyone who follows a vegan diet needs to take a B12 supplement and try to include products that are fortified with B12 such as soy milk, some cereals or Marmite. It is important a B12 supplement is taken whether or not the fortified food and drink products are part of your diet. There is a common misconception that protein can only be found in animal sources like meat or eggs. This is not true as protein can be found in very good amounts in vegan sources like nuts, legumes, textured vegetable protein, wholegrains, amaranth grains, and seeds and even in vegetables. The average person needs 0.7g to 1.2g of protein per kilogram a day. If you are following a balanced diet this is very achievable without taking protein supplements. For optimum health, vegans should ensure they are consuming the following six key nutrients: 1. Omega 3 fatty acids You need omega 3 fatty acids to protect your body against disease and promote good health. Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to improved heart health as well as mood improvement. Typically most people get their omega-3 from seafood but vegans can still get this nutrient from plant sources like seaweed, flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans, tofu, chia seeds, linseeds when stored in the fridge and fortified milks like soy milk. 5. Iodine What is iodine’s role in your body? To make sure normal growth in the body and to produce thyroid hormones, which play a role in how fast your metabolism is. You can find iodine in iodised salt or seaweed. 2. Calcium You need calcium for strong bones and teeth, muscle contractions, allowing your blood to clot and for nerve function. Since yoghurt, cheese and milk from animals is off the menu, vegans need to get their calcium from other sources like calcium- fortified soy, rice or nut milks and fruit juices, almonds, Brazil nuts, amaranth grains, dried apricots, figs, soybeans, calcium-set tofu, kale or other Asian greens or broccoli. Try to avoid caffeine when having these calcium foods as it stops the minerals being absorbed by the body’s cells. 6. Iron Why is iron important? It helps your body transport around oxygen. Vegan forms of iron include legumes, green leafy vegetables, fortified foods and drinks, tofu and tempeh, quinoa, nuts, seeds. To increase the amount if iron your body gets, try having these foods with a vitamin C source and not include caffeine, calcium supplements or tea as these can stop the iron being taken into the body’s cells. 3. Vitamin D Vitamin D helps your immune system and lets calcium be absorbed into your bones. A vegan source of vitamin D can be found in vitamin-D fortified margarine, as well as some soy milk. Mostly you will get your vitamin D from the sun. 4. Zinc Why bother having enough zinc? To make sure you have good immunity, strong skin and can effectively heal. This nutrient can be found in legumes like chickpeas, lentils or red kidney beans, nuts, seeds and soy products (e.g. milk, tofu or yoghurt). The bottom line is, there are many health and planetary benefits from following a vegan diet. You just need to be careful you meet all the needs your body requires to stay healthy. If you don’t understand how to include all these things, why not see an Accredited Practising Dietitian who can help you manage being a vegan in your lifestyle! To view the full references for this article visit feedyourfuturedietetics.com YOU CAN CONTACT ASHLEIGH VIA: Web: feedyourfuturedietetics.com Facebook: FeedYourFutureDietetics Instagram: @feedyourfuturedietetics