By David Saunders | UPDATED: 01:01, 01 January 2020
Veganuary, which has proven popular for the last few years, is a charity which inspires people to try being vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.
Since the movement started five years ago, participant numbers have more than doubled each year and a massive 193 countries have signed up. With 2020 estimating to hit a record number of sign ups our experts comment on this movement, providing the benefits, what to beware of, their top tips and recommendations
Can we see the positive effects in just one month?
“A month of consuming fibre-rich plant based protein, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds can never be a bad thing. Positive effects on blood sugar levels may be seen immediately, however possible improvements on cholesterol and blood pressure may take a few weeks. Weight loss has also been noted for some embarking on a veganuary, which may start to show within a week or two.”
“However it’s important to remember that whilst it’s possible to eliminate animal products and still have a nutritionally adequate diet, if not carefully planned, it can be easy to succumb to the nutritional deficiencies that can come alongside a vegan diet,” advises Leading London Nutritionist, Lily Soutter (www.lilysoutternutrition.com).
Hormone-balancing effects to help beat Menopausal Symptoms
“There is also some research to suggest that foods rich in phytoestrogens may have modest benefits for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and even heart disease risk.
Phytoestrogens are another word for naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of oestrogen within the body, meaning that they may have hormone-balancing effects. Rich sources of phytoestrogens include an array of vegetables,” explains the London’s Leading Nutritionist Lily Soutter (www.lilysoutternutrition.com).
Top Tip: For a wholesome
plant based meal, packed full of phytoestrogens, try itsu’s ‘No Meat Mondays (£7.99, www.itsu.com).
Immune fighting pros
How many times have you been sick in the last year? If your answer is more than three times perhaps veganism is for you. “Vitamin C is found in abundance in fruits and green vegetables.
Benefits of vitamin C include protection against immune system deficiencies, prenatal health problems, eye disease and even skin wrinkling. Other plant compounds that are not considered ‘essential’ also seem to be helpful for our immunity – such as Flavonoids and carotenoids found in brightly coloured vegetables and fruit, and Glucosinolates found in the cabbage-family vegetables,” explains Nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
Omega 3 Fats
“These fats are primarily found in oily fish and are essential for both brain and heart health. They also play a positive role in depression and anxiety as well as inflammatory conditions, and line every cell within the body. So, if you really want glowing skin and shiny hair then these oils shouldn’t go amiss.
In comparison to oily fish, there are very small amounts of omega 3 oils found in plant-based food. The omega 3 oils found in plants also need be converted to the active form, however the conversion rate is inefficient. This means that you would need to eat a whole load of flaxseeds to receive just a fraction of the omega 3 oils that you find in oily fish.
In order to obtain a sufficient amount of omega 3 fats, daily dietary intake of ground flax seeds, flax seed oil, chia seeds, chia seed oil and walnuts is essential. Omega 3 fats are also found microalgae, which can be taken in supplement form,” advises Lily Soutter.
Combine plant based proteins
Amino acids are essential for growth and development of the muscles. Lily Soutter explains how important it is to combine plant based proteins when following this diet. “Protein from plant-based sources either do not contain all essential amino acids, or provide them in varying amounts.
If two foods which contain plant-based protein are eaten in combination, for example lentil curry with rice, you are more likely to get a sufficient range of amino acids to create a complete protein. It’s therefore essential to combine plant based protein sources to ensure they receive a greater range of amino acids.
A mix of protein sources should be included at each meal and snack; Tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, quinoa, nuts, seeds and vegan protein powder.”
Top Tip: The much-loved Natures Plus Organic Paleo Protein Powder (£33.95, www.naturesplus.co.uk) only includes wholesome, organic, natural proteins – which all pack a powerful protein punch.
The combination of organic sunflower, organic pumpkin seed, organic almond
and organic flax delivers 20g of vegan protein, along with beneficial fatty acids and dietary fibre. It’s the ultimate all-round organic, vegan protein powder!
“Heme iron is a specific type of iron, which is only found in meat and fish and has a much greater bioavailability in comparison to plant-based non-heme iron.
The absorption of plant-based non-heme iron can also be blocked by anti-nutrients called phytic acid, which means vegans have a much greater risk of developing anaemia.”
“When embarking on vegan diet it is important to include adequate amounts of iron rich plant-based food like legumes, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, pumpkin seeds, and dark green leafy vegetable like spinach, kale.
By consuming vitamin C rich fruit and veg or taking vitamin C supplement at meal times you also can increase absorption of iron by fourfold,” add Lily.
Watch energy levels
Vegans are also more likely to fall short in vitamin B12 and iron, both of which are vital for energy. And the more energy they’re using up, the more of these nutrients they’ll need. I’d suggest that vegans who are training hard get their iron and vitamin B12 levels tested regularly by their doctor and take these nutrients in supplement form if necessary. For B12, I’d recommend Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Vitamin B12 (£19.95, www.planetorganic.com). It contains the active form of B12 – methylcobalamin – in a base of organic whole foods and enzymes,” explains Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor Cassandra Barns.
“Iodine is an essential mineral required for thyroid health but is also particularly important during pregnancy and breast feeding for brain and intellectual development.
A major source of iodine comes from cow’s milk but can also be found in fish and seafood. Ensure that your plant based milk is fortified with iodine. Whilst seaweed is a rich source of iodine, levels can be variable with some types providing levels which are simply too high.
Therefore seaweed should be used sparingly and referring to the nutrition label on the package for guidance is a must. Whilst those who are pregnant and have thyroid problems should limit intake of seaweed and seek guidance from a health professional before taking.
A more accurate way to ensure iodine intake is sufficient would be to supplement,” explains Lily.