Interest in eating a plant-based diet has soared over the last couple of years. In the UK alone, there are now over 3.5 million people following a vegan lifestyle. Whatever your motivation for trying veganism, our quick fire guide will help you reap the benefits and navigate potential pitfalls.
Without the high protein content of meat, fish and eggs, it can be easy to rely on carbohydrates but protein is vital for muscles, bones, tissue repair, brain and hormone health as well as keeping you feeling full. It also helps avoid those energy dips and balance blood sugar, supporting a healthy weight.
It can be harder to fulfil your protein needs as a vegan but all it takes is a bit of thought to ensure you have enough. Start your day with a bowl of porridge made with soya milk, sprinkled with a tablespoon of mixed seeds or a fruit smoothie with dairy-free milk, nuts, seeds, and a tablespoon of hemp protein for breakfast and you are already a third of the way there. Follow it with a roasted veggie and hummus wrap for lunch, and a chickpea, tomato and spinach curry with rice for your evening meal and you easily reach your daily target.
Nuts and seeds are fabulous sources of protein, minerals and essential fats and are great for those mid-morning snacks. Flax, chia, pumpkin and walnut top the charts as they contain the important omega 3 fats.
It can be more challenging to obtain enough iron, iodine, calcium, and B12 as a vegan. An easy way to avoid being deficient is to take a multivitamin, but add seaweed, spinach, pulses, leafy green vegetables, nut and seeds, and yeast extract regularly to your diet to boost your intake.
Whilst ready-made vegan foods can be helpful when making the initial transition try not to make them a staple in your diet. Often very processed, these foods lose their nourishing, health giving properties and lack nutrients.
Milk can be easily swapped for the increasing varieties of dairy free alternatives. Craving ice-cream? Opt for a coconut or soya based one, blitz frozen bananas in a blender, or if you are feeling adventurous, try our recipe for an indulgent cashew based ice cream (available on our Health Matters blog at highernature.com).
Try making your own cashew cheese. Simply soak 200g of cashew nuts overnight in water, then add them to a power blender with half a clove of garlic, 4 tablespoons of lemon, 3 tablespoons of water and salt and pepper to taste and blitz until creamy. Make it creamier by adding a dollop of flavour-free coconut oil and a teaspoon of lecithin granules if you have some.
Following a vegan or vegetarian diet can halve your risk of developing type II diabetes and obesity and can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 40%. It might also be good for your brain - studies show a 29% reduction in cerebrovascular disease in those following a plant based diet.
Whether it's eating responsibly, healthfully or simply the buzz that comes with reconnecting with real food, following the plant philosophy can be nourishing, liberating and positively uplifting.