With more and more people embracing a vegan diet, many questions pop up – particularly from sceptics who will ask questions such as:

  • “Where do you get your protein?”
  • “Won’t you suffer from B12 deficiency?”
  • “Where do you get Calcium?”
  • “How will you maintain fitness and muscle strength?”
  • “Is a vegan diet healthy?”
  • “Won’t you be weak and lacking iron?”

There are some negative statements made that might make you question whether your health might suffer changing to a vegan diet, whether it is just for ‘Veganuary’ or a longer-term lifestyle change.

Firstly, a bad diet is a bad diet whether you are vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian or a meat eater. Diets loaded with processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugar will obviously not lead to good health outcomes, whatever you decide to omit.

A question of Protein

As a vegan, there is no need to lack protein in your diet. Eating muscle doesn’t make muscle as your digestive system needs to break down the protein into amino acids in order to utilise it. Plant-based protein is easily obtained by eating foods rich in amino acids (the building blocks of protein) such as tofu, pulses, seeds and nuts. Adding a few lentils to your rice provides a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Buckwheat, quinoa, soya, chia seeds and spirulina are all complete plant proteins. You can easily build muscle and maintain fitness on a vegan diet see Athletes chase medals with plant proteins.

What about Iron?

Sometimes people who feel tired reach for iron supplementation. This is not always a good idea as the delicate balance of minerals can be affected. Food- based iron sources are best as is upping your Vitamin C intake as it helps with iron absorption. Vegan diets are often rich in vitamin C as a variety of yellow, blue and red fruits and vegetables are more likely to be consumed daily.

Some good vegan sources of iron are dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, chick peas, lentils, chard, spinach, tomato paste, curry spices, ginger and dark chocolate. Note: tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption so it is best to avoid drinking these when taking iron rich foods.

What about B12?

It is true that Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods, but you do store this vitamin in the liver and it is unlikely you will become deficient. So many vegan products, such as soya milk are being fortified with B12 and it is also found in Nutritional Yeast, tempeh and in Spirulina and Chlorella both of which are amazing nutrients to take alongside a vegan diet. See KIKI Health and Marcus Rohrer.

What about Calcium?

Calcium is rarely deficient, more often it is magnesium that needs to be increased in our diets in order to support the proper absorption of calcium. There are plenty of plant-based foods rich in calcium including pak choy, kale, broccoli, pulses, soya beans, almonds and sesame seeds. Many plant-based spreads and milks are also fortified with calcium.

How healthy is a vegan diet?

Undoubtedly, some people will find a vegan diet easier and will notice positive changes more than others. One important factor is that gut flora is likely to improve with the increase in fibre a vegan diet offers. The powerful phytonutrients in plant-based foods are also very supportive to organ function and health. Statistically, vegans are less likely to suffer from diabetes, have less eye-related probems, such as macular degeneration, and have fewer digestive problems, such as constipation.

Why not give Veganuary a go? It might just be healthier for you and the planet. You won’t miss out.