WE CAN VEGAN31 Oct 2021, Posted by FYS News in
1st November is world vegan day so I wanted to address some of the common questions that get raised about vegan diets or being more plant-based.
As some of you might know, I advise Meatless Farm, the leading UK plant-based meat company on nutrition and health. So, this is a topic I have really looked into. I am not a vegan, but I would call my diet plant-based. What I mean by that is that I prioritise the plant-based foods in my diet but don’t exclude animal-based foods. I do choose my animal-based foods very carefully for sustainability, animal welfare and nutrition reasons.
These are my answers to some of the common questions asked about vegan diets.
Do vegans need to supplement their diet with vitamins or minerals?
Vegans are more likely to be low in selenium, vitamin B12, iodine and zinc versus omnivores. If you are a strict vegan then you might want to look for a multi that contains those.
You might be surprised that iron isn’t on that list?
There are two types of iron – heme iron which is found in flesh foods and non-heme iron which is found in plant-based foods. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body, although there are a number of additional factors – such as the microbiome – which will influence how well your body absorbs all vitamins and minerals. Interestingly, total iron intake levels were found to be HIGHER in vegans than in omnivores. So, if vegans eat a balanced diet they can easily have sufficient iron status.
Can you get enough protein in plant-based foods?
Yes you can, but it is certainly something to pay attention to.
The following table is quite interesting because you can see that some of the plant-based foods don’t contain as much protein, per portion, as we might think (or need). As a “rule of thumb” you want to aim for 16-20g protein per meal.
Quinoa is often billed as a protein food and while it has a brilliant mix of all the amino acids, it doesn’t have as much total protein as say oats. So, we do need to build up our different sources of protein if we are going to eat a vegan or plant-exclusive meals.
|Ingredient||How much protein|
|100g raw chicken breast (small fillet)||24g|
|100g lean steak||20g|
|100g Greek Yogurt||9g
Vs approx 5g in non-greek yogurt
|½ cup shelled Edemame||11g|
|100g Tofu (pack is normally 250g)||16g|
|1 cup cooked quinoa||8g|
|1 cup raw oats||10g|
|½ cup frozen peas||3.5g|
|½ cup cooked lentils||9g|
|100g soft goats cheese||18g (more in hard but also more fat)|
Can you eat too much protein?
Yes, we can and too much protein in the diet can lead to kidney stones, bone loss, liver function issues and has even been associated with higher rates of cancer.
We need to eat sufficient, to meet our needs, but not too much, which is a “waste” and a bit of a load on our system.
I will do a blog about protein in the coming weeks.
Do plant-based foods increase your risk of bloating?
Well, they do contain a lot more fibre than animal based foods, so yes. But remember, we NEED a lot of fibre to keep our digestive system moving and feed the microbiome. Bloating can be the result of your microbiome feeding and growing on that fibre.
Some people might experience a short-term increase in bloating as they start to eat more of a plant based diet but this usually stops once your microbiome become accustomed to the fibre.
The recommended fibre intake is 30g per day, but the average intake is only 19g.
There is no other macronutrient that is has such a big gap between what we need and what we eat. The fibre gap is a HUGE reason for why eating more plant-based foods is a good thing. Any of you who have followed my diversity challenge will already be doing great on this front.
Aren’t some plant-based foods highly processed?
Yes, they can be. This was something I was acutely aware of when I started working with Meatless Farm. I convinced them to do a research study to look at what happens to the microbiome when we eat their plant-based meat. The results were fascinating. Eating the plant-based meat led to improvements in the microbiome – it was able to produce more butyrate which is a great thing for our brains and health overall. It demonstrated to me that the fibres and phytonutrients we find in peas, beans, grains (the raw materials in a plant-based meat) were still in the finished product – because those must be what was influencing the microbiome.
So, would it be better to make plant-based food from raw ingredients? Yes.
Should I dismiss plant-based meat as “highly processed”? No, there is still great stuff in it.
All we need to watch out for is the salt that gets added….that’s my target for 2022!
In health and happiness