Veganuary: 4 things you should know before switching to a plant-based diet

Veganism: Dr Potter advises on switching to plant-based diet

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Veganism is on the rise in the UK and this January thousands of Brits will tentatively move towards a plant-based diet by trying out Veganuary. During Veganuary, those who are keen to adopt a more plant-based diet commit to shunning dairy and meat-based products for a whole month. Here’s everything you need to know before taking on the challenge.

Veganism is surging in popularity with the number of vegans increasing by a staggering 40 percent in 2020, according to Plant Based News.

Now an estimated 1.5 million Brits follow an exclusively plant-based diet, equating to about three percent of the population.

Concerns around animal protection, climate change and individual health have been cited as popular reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle – here are the four things you need to know if you want to make this change.

Take supplements

Although a plant-based diet “can absolutely be healthy”, vegans have an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Nutritionist Jenna Hope told Express.co.uk that vegans should consider taking vitamin B12 and D supplements as these can be hard to obtain from a plant-based diet.

She added: “Always opt for fortified plant milks. Milk is a rich source of nutrients such as calcium, vitamins B12 and D, iodine and phosphorus.

“Ensure you’re opting for fortified plant alternatives to reduce the risk of deficiencies.”

If you are thinking of making the switch, you will also need to monitor your iodine, iron and omega-3 intake consuming enough of these nutrients from plants can be a challenge.

Consider your gut

If you struggle with good gut health, adopting an exclusively vegan diet may not be the best approach.

Dr Megan Rossi, a dietitian and author of Eat More, Live Well, told Express.co.uk: “You don’t need to go vegan for good gut health.

“In terms of our health, the science suggests plant-based not necessarily plants-only is the best approach.”

If you are set on going completely vegan, she recommended that you go “slow and steady with your fibre load”.

This will give your gut the time it needs to adjust. Rather than quitting meat and dairy all at once for Veganuary, Ms Rossi said it’s best to slowly increase your plant (fibre)-load over several weeks.

Make sure you have enough energy

Vegetables and fruits are a central part of a healthy vegan diet, but these tend to be less calories tense than meat options.

Ms Hope stressed: “Ensuring you’re consuming enough energy is important.

“Therefore make sure you’re opting for healthy fats from nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados, olives and olive oils.”

Avoid heavily processed foods
It’s a common misconception that if something is vegan, it’s automatically healthier than meat-based dishes.

Dr Shireen Kassam founder and director of Plant Based Health Professionals told Expres.co.uk: “Not all plant-based diets are created equal.

“Plant-based foods include white bread, crisps and chips for example, but this is not going to be a healthy plant-based diet in the longer term and will not help your physical or mental well-being.”

Many new vegans will turn to heavily processed meat alternatives, such as vegan burgers and sausages.

This may make the transition easier but these can be packed with salt and saturated fat.

Dr Greg Potter, Chief Science Officer at Resilient Nutrition told Express.co.uk: “You’ll likely be tempted to replace some animal foods with vegan junk foods because the reality is that a lot of sausages and burgers and that type of thing aren’t particularly healthy and the same goes for vegan equivalents of this foods.”

Dr Kassam recommended that those adopting a plant-based diet should stick to healthier meat alternatives such as tofu, tempeh and seitan.

Be realistic if a vegan diet might not be suitable for you. Dr Potter said: “Some people respond very well to vegan diets other people respond very poorly to them.

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