Challenges of a vegan diet
Perhaps the most important aspect of changing to a plant-based lifestyle is keeping a nutritionally balanced diet. If you experience weight loss, hair loss, lack of energy, loss of appetite or constipation, these could be negative effects of a vegan diet as a result of nutritional deficiencies.
Follow our advice on how to develop a vegan diet rich in all the nutrients your body needs – and always talk to your GP if you have any concerns.
Protein is essential for the body’s growth and repair and to maintain good health. Around 10-15% of the body’s dietary energy comes from protein, so it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting enough.
There are lots of vegan foods that are rich in protein – aim to include some of these foods in every meal to keep your protein levels up:
- Nuts and seeds – sprinkle on cereals, soups and salads or use nut butters and powders.
- Soya, seitan and tempeh – tofu, seitan and tempeh are all great meat substitutes, especially if you’re missing the chewy texture of meat. Soya milk and yoghurt are also rich in protein.
- Beans and lentils – a filling, protein-rich addition to soups, casseroles, dips and sauces.
We need calcium to help keep our bones and teeth strong. As it’s predominantly found in dairy products, it can be tricky for vegans to incorporate enough calcium-rich foods into their diets.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Soya, rice and oat milk.
Fish and seafood generally contain the highest levels of Omega-3, so vegans can struggle to include this ‘good’ fat in their diet. Don’t risk overlooking it though – Omega-3 may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis.
There are two types of Omega-3 fats – read our article on 5 vegan foods high in Omega-3 to find out how to make sure you’re getting enough of both types.
Vitamin B12 is a big player when it comes to keeping our bodies’ nerve and blood cells healthy. It helps us fight fatigue and a deficiency can lead to anaemia, leaving us feeling extremely tired and faint.
Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods from animal sources, such as meat, eggs, milk and cheese. So, vegan B12 sources only come from enriched products, such as yeast extracts, breakfast cereals and soya products.