So you’ve heard how important it is to eat iron-rich foods when going vegan, and you probably realise how important it is to keep a check on your B12 levels. But did you know that iodine is also important and that animal-free substitutes aren’t always what they claim to be?
Scroll down to find out more and to ensure you get the most out of your vegan lifestyle today.
Low FODMAP? … Unfortunately not.
You might find your new-found vegan diet perfect for shedding excess kilos and leaving you more energetic, but for those of you with gut issues, veganism may not be the way to go or at best, you’ll have to be super mindful of what vegan options work and which ones you need to give the flick.
Vegan food generally speaking is high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). In other words, foods that are high in fructose and are prone to causing digestive issues such as cramping and bloating for those individuals with sensitive tummies.
According to Monash University, high FODMAP foods include onion, garlic, artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, green peas, leek, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, apples, dried fruits, pears, plums, almost all legumes and pulses and some nuts and seeds.
Though there are plenty of alternatives to these foods, for a vegan, high FODMAP foods present a problem in that in lieu of meat, dairy, eggs and seafood, generally speaking, more legumes, pulses, fruits and vegetables are consumed, thus bumping up your FODMAP intake.
Solution? Invest in a high-quality low-FODMAP vegan cookbook (try saying that quickly ten times in a row!) or get an app to help you create mouth-watering creations worth sharing.
Abundant Micronutrients from Increased Vegetable Intake
You’d imagine that with an increase in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses you’d be glowing from the inside out. And yes, this is possible, but often, you need to consume a larger proportion of vegetarian foods in order to reach the same level of micronutrients as that found in non-vegetarian sources.
Unless you’ve been in hiding, you would have heard how important it is to eat iron-rich food. Iron is vital for the health of your blood – it helps carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. It inversely supports your immune system by mode of fighting infection. It helps maintain healthy cells, hair, skin and nails and it even helps with cognition.
You likely would also have heard about the importance of Vitamin B12. So important that without adequate B12 levels, your nervous system is so severely shunted that it can cause permanent and irreversible nerve damage and degeneration of the spinal cord. Low blood levels of Vitamin B12 have even been implicated in hyperhomocysteinemia, a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Something that is surprising however is that veganism has links with low iodine levels. You might be munching on sea vegetables (seaweed) but without the higher intakes of iodine associated with seafood consumption, you could be at risk of a deficiency. Low iodine and iron levels have been linked to cognitive impairments and long term behavioural changes.
If you have any concerns for your micronutrient intake, consult a trained healthcare professional such as a nutritionist or naturopath to ensure your dietary choices support your body in whatever stage of life you are in.
Can’t Stop Thinking About Food?
If you’re thinking about food every waking moment, chances are you’re not getting the right ratio of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to adequately sustain your body. Try tweaking your newfound diet by upping whatever it is currently low in (be it carbs, proteins or fats). You might be on a vegan diet, but your body type might be crying out for more sustenance. Experimenting with your macros is the easiest way to fix this.
Chocolate cravings can also be helped with the same theory, though micronutrients are also at play here.
If you’ve had years of healthy eating, listening to your body can do wonders in your own healing. If you’re new to healthy eating however, start to tune in to what makes your body feel good and to what leaves it lacking in energy, vitality and strength.
It’s Not Just About the Food
As a new vegan, you’ll know to avoid bee products, leather, sheepskin and wool and other products of animal origin. Be careful with your substitutes however. You might be honouring your values, which is to be commended, however pay heed to synthetic alternatives that do no good for the environment, let alone your skin, respiratory and reproductive systems. For more information on the deleterious effect of chemicals found in some clothing and other products, read this review publishing the findings that the Endocrine Society released as a caution to the scientific community on environmental endocrine disruptors and their adverse effects on health.
The easy solution here is to buy non-synthetic clothing made of organic fibres such as organic cotton, hemp and linen.