During 2013 Australia’s peak health body, the National Health and Medical Research Council, recognised that a vegan, or plant-based, diet is a viable, healthy option for all Australians. Now, to add to this long awaited official recognition, the Dietitians Association of Australia is also in agreement that plant-based diets are a viable option for all Australian’s regardless of age.
Multiple Government and health bodies have analysed and produced official recommendations that plant based diets are in fact a healthy, nutritious diet that every single Australian, and person around the world, can adopt—what excuse is left? Why not explore how you can begin to change what is on your plate today, and start on a path that helps animals, our environment and your own health
The following foods can be included in a vegan diet:
- Fruit and vegetables,
- Breads, cereals and grains,
- Legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, dried beans),
- Soy products,
- Nuts and seeds.
Animal meat, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, animal fats and honey, plus other animal-derived ingredients or food additives are all excluded in a vegan diet.
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The main reasons why some people choose to follow a vegan diet include: animal rights, environmental and health concerns and religious reasons. Like any eating plan which excludes certain food groups, a vegan diet needs planning to ensure that nutritional requirements are met. Following are sources of key nutrients in a vegan diet:
- Protein sources include legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, soy products and wholegrain breads and cereals (particularly amaranth and quinoa).
- Zinc: sources include legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrain breads and cereals.
- Iron: sources include legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, wholegrains (especially amaranth and quinoa), dried fruits and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Vegans can easily obtain enough iron from plant foods. However, the type of iron found in plant foods (non-heme iron) is not as readily absorbed as the type found in animal foods (heme iron). In order to increase the absorption of iron from plant sources, follow these simple steps:
- Include a vitamin C-rich food with meals to increase the iron absorption–e.g. berries, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, capsicum, tomatoes or broccoli.
- Drink tea between meals instead of with the meal, as the phytates in tea can inhibit iron absorption.
For more information about iron visit Nutrition Information A-Z Anaemia
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- B12: Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, but it is originally derived from bacteria. Those following a vegan diet will need to ensure that they either consume foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take a vitamin B12 supplement. For further advice about supplementation, see your doctor and speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
- Calcium As a vegan diet does not include dairy products, it is essential that non-dairy sources of calcium are consumed on a daily basis. Some good plant sources of calcium include calcium-fortified soy products, hard tofu, almonds, unhulled tahini (sesame seed paste), and green leafy vegetables such as Kale and Asian greens (e.g. bok choy, Chinese broccoli).
- Vitamin D: Most of our vitamin D comes from the action of sunlight on the skin. Therefore vegans can obtain their vitamin D from safe sun exposure unless they cover up or spend significant time indoors throughout the year. Vitamin D is found in a limited number of foods. Fortified soy milks and ‘vitamin D mushrooms’ provide a good source for vegans.
- Omega 3: Sources for vegan diets include linseeds/flaxseeds and chia seeds (and their oils), walnuts, soy products and omega-3 fortified foods such as some breads. While some food products enriched with omega-3 use a derivative of seaweed as the source of omega fatty acids, vegans should check food labels for suitability.