It’s January again. Here in the UK it’s really cold! With the excess of the festive season firmly behind us (thank goodness), many people are setting new resolutions and intentions for 2017.
If like a lot of people you have decided to participate in Veganuary this year, well done! Whether you are doing it for your health, the animals or the planet, congratulations, you’re doing a great thing. You’ll feel lighter, brighter and happier by the time the month ends, and hopefully you’ll want to continue on throughout the year.
I have been vegan for about six years now. I first went veggie at the age of nine, and it was actually participating in Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge (like Veganuary) that helped me make the vegan pledge and evolve my diet from veggie to vegan permanently, so I am a huge advocate for challenges like this. They can and do change lives and help spread the ripple effect of love, health and happiness throughout the world.
So here are my top 7 tips for a nutritious and delicious Veganuary…
1. Vegan dairy substitutes
There is a multitude of fantastic dairy substitutes on the market today, making it easier than ever to go vegan.
You can buy great tasting milks made from coconut, almond, soya, hemp, rice, oat, hazelnut and more. They come sweetened or unsweetened, fortified with calcium and vitamin D and are really affordable and available in all supermarkets. Or you could try making your own, it’s easy, fun and much more nutritious.
You can also buy yummy vegan yoghurts make from almond milk, soya or coconut, a variety of different cheeses, and even cream, sour cream and vegan eggs!
We all know that protein is necessary for our bodies. Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, of which there are 20. Eight of these cannot be produced by the human body and so are known as ‘essential’, because it is essential we get them from our diet. Foods that contain all of these are referred to as a ‘complete protein’.
There are plenty of plant based proteins out there, in fact most veggies contain protein, and you can create a complete protein by combining beans or pulses with grains. But did you know that there are actually many plants that provide a source of complete protein on their own?
Great sources are quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, tofu, goji berries, buckwheat, amaranth, spirulina and tempeh.
3. Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3, 6 and 9 are known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and like the name suggests, they are essential to health. They ensure correct brain function, neurological and visual development in babies and children (including unborn babies), and they lower the risk of inflammation, heart disease and depression.
Omega-6 and Omega-9 are found in abundance in our modern fat-rich diets, but Omega-3 is more elusive in a vegan diet. Usually found in fish, Omega-3 can be sourced from flax (linseed) oil, walnut oil and chia in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), however, it is still debatable how efficient the body is in breaking ALA down into EPA and DHA, the forms that are utilised by the body.
A great way to ensure you are getting enough of these essential fatty acids in the correct form is to take a vegan supplement (sourced from algae, which is where the fish get it from in the first place), such as Opti3 Omega-3 EPA & DHA, or Arbonne Essentials Omega-3 Plus.
4. Vitamins B12 & D3
Vitamin B12 is an essential supplement to a vegan diet as it cannot be found in plant sources. Some say that spirulina contains B12, but again it is not clear how well the body can utilise it. It is in fortified nutritional yeast flakes and yeast extract, but it’s doubtful you could eat enough of these foods a week to hit your RDA. The best way to ensure you are getting the recommended daily amount is to supplement. And the best supplement is a sub-lingual spray such as BetterYou B12 Boost Oral Spray. Sprays such as this are the most bio-available way to take vitamins as they are absorbed through the mouth, bypassing the harsh stomach environment and entering the bloodstream quickly. They are also a great way to give vitamins to kids as they taste nice and contain no junk.
Vitamin D….ahhhh…the sunshine vitamin. So called because we need exposure to sunshine to make this vitamin. It’s fairly easy to hit your daily quota from sunlight exposure if you live in a tropical/sub tropical or very sunny region, or in the summer for us who live with a temperate climate. But if where you live is not sunny, or it’s winter, you’ll need to supplement. Those with darker skin and the elderly produce less Vitamin D than others, and would also need to top up with supplements. Again a liquid supplement is best. I avoid the BetterYou D3 spray though because it is not vegan. The Viridian Liquid Vitamin D Drops are.
5. Eat a Rainbow
Ok, not actually a real rainbow, that would be impossible. I’m talking about a rainbow of different coloured foods. The colours in fruit and veg aren’t just there to look pretty; each colour compound has different nutrient and antioxidant profiles, and all are important for the body. So in order to get an abundant variety of nutrition from your food, make sure you eat a rainbow (not skittles though, they don’t count..!).
6. Leafy greens
Along with your rainbow diet, leafy greens should feature heavily in vegan eats. These nutrient powerhouses are chock full of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants. They are rich in chlorophyll, which is actually only one molecule different from human blood, making it a powerful blood cleanser. And, they are delicious and super easy to pack into your daily diet. Add spinach to smoothies and juices, add powdered wheatgrass and barleygrass to your protein shakes, have salads with all your meals, cook kale and chard into soups, use fresh herbs in all your cooking, the possibilities are endless and delicious.
7. Have fun
There’s no point making all that effort if you’re not going to enjoy yourself. Make some indulgent vegan desserts, venture into the world of raw chocolate making, experiment with new recipes and ingredients. Get a friend to join in. Challenge each other. Post a daily photo of your creations on social media to encourage you. Throw a vegan dinner party. Hold a vegan pot luck where everyone brings a different dish. Make food you love to eat and share, then share it and eat it! Enjoy the experience and you’ll soon find that it’s easy and fun to eat without cruelty, and once you start seeing the benefits to your health, waistline, skin, hair, nails, joints, energy levels and general wellbeing, you’ll be so glad you took part in Veganuary this year!