Posts Tagged ‘vitamins’

How to get your 5 a day without much effort!

We’re told that as part of a healthy diet we must try to eat at least 5 fruit and vegetable portions every day. In fact we’re made to feel positively guilty if we aren’t achieving this on a daily basis. It can seem quite difficult to reach 5 portions EVERY day, but actually, it’s a lot easier than you might think. I’m going to attempt to show you different ways you can get fruit and vegetables into diet without you really noticing….

First things first::.

-What counts?

Did you know that your fruit and veg doesn’t have to be fresh in order to count towards your 5 a day? Nor do you have to eat them on their own. Here’s a quick run down of things that count towards your portions:

  • fresh fruit and veg (obviously!)
  • frozen fruit and vegetables
  • tinned or canned fruit and veg (try to get the ones tinned with natural juices or water rather than sugars!)
  • dried fruit, such as currants and figs
  • fruit and veg cooked in dishes such as soups and pastas (did you know half a can of heniz spaghetti hoops counts as 1 of your 5 day!)
  • a glass of unsweetened fruit juice (note: this only counts as a maximum of 1 of your 5  a day no matter how much you drink)
  • smoothies (smoothies count up to a maximum of 2 portions)
  • beans and pulses (again only count as a maximum of 1 of your 5 because they contain fewer nutrients than other fruit and veg)
  • fruit and veg in convenience foods such as ready made meals etc. (it should say on the packet whether it counts towards your fruit and veg portions but be careful with these, some ready meals are high in salt, sugars and fats. So don’t use these as a regular substitute for fruit and veg. Remember to always check labels!)

-tricks of the trade

So how can we manage to get all of these things into our diet daily? Easy! Just follow some of these easy tricks:

  1. Chuck some beans in your curry, put some peas or broccoli in with your pasta, throw some chick peas or butter beans in your soups
  2. Top your cereal with fruit (fresh or frozen- make sure you defrost though!) berries and bananas work beautifully!
  3. In stead of snacking on crisps why not try an apple? Or a banana? Or perhaps some dried fruit? A little pack of raisins goes a long way.
  4. Have a side salad with your meal instead of chips. Dress it up nicely and it’ll look just as tasty as a greasy fried potato!
  5. Instead of your morning coffee try some orange juice. Or cranberry. Or apple. Or apple and elderberry. Or ruby breakfast. Or any other type of juice you like. It’s such a quick and easy way portion maker and won’t leave you with nasty coffee breath. 
  6. Buy a blender and make your own smoothies! There’s so many different combinations of smoothies you can try and you can have some real fun creating your own concoctions and they can count as 2 portions. Thus, if you have a smoothie for breakfast you’re almost half way there before you’ve opened your eyes properly.
  7. REMEMBER: to get the most benefit out of your portions try eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I like to make sure whatever meal I’m cooking has a least two colours of F+V in it. Then I know I’m getting lots of different nutrients.

If you make sure to change some of daily habits with the tricks above you’ll be laughing your way to a happy and healthier life and won’t have to apologise to your poor long suffering tummy for filling it with junk!

Just a quick note here on potatoes: Potatoes, as lovely as they are, DON’T COUNT as a portion of your five a day. Nor do yams, cassava, and plantains. They are considered starchy foods. Other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips DO count!

However, whilst potatoes don’t count as part of your five a day, they aren’t all bad. In fact they do help to play an important role in your diet. They are a good source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium. (As long as your not suffocating your potatoes in salt and oil, they are an excellent choice of starchy food!)

I hope this helps!

The importance of vitamin B12

When going vegan people often bring up the difficulties of watching your calcium intake, your protein intake, and your iron intake. Whilst a decent calcium and protein intake is easy to maintain (I get more calcium and protein than most omnivores), iron is something that should be watched. But ensuring you get enough iron isn’t too hard. The only real threat of deficiency in a vegan diet is vitamin B12. B12 comes from bacteria – no foods naturally contain it – it isn’t intrinsically in meat and animal products. It is essentially created by bacteria. Bacteria obviously thrive in animal products and meat, creating vitamin B12. I have heard some reports of ensuring B12 can be obtained by eating unwashed vegetables, but I wouldn’t call this a reliable (or necessarily a safe) source of B12.

So why is B12 important? And are vegans destined for deficiency?

B12 assists ensuring an effective working nervous system, and works to help with red blood cells. As you can imagine from this, a sign of deficiency is anaemia, so couple B12 deficiency with iron deficiency and you have a double whammy of anaemia. One of the other main benefits of B12 in the diet is that it helps to release energy from food. So, B12 is definitely important, but what are the risks of being deficient in it? Well, as mentioned, anaemia is a key problem in B12 deficiency. A more serious lack of B12 can result in pregnancy difficulties, heart problems, and/or damage to the nervous system. Some doctors have listed B12 deficiency as a cause of ME.

This is probably sounding pretty worrying, but don’t let this put you off veganism. The good news is that it’s very easy to stay on top of B12. The body needs an exceptionally tiny amount of the vitamin to stay healthy, and even if you’re not getting that then signs of deficiency will only start to rear their head after around 5-6 years as your body holds onto a huge supply of B12, storing it as though it were fuel for a car. This means there’s plenty of time to ensure you are back on track with your intake of the vitamin. As for where you’ll find it in a vegan diet, that’s also easy.

Most soy milk/plant milks are fortified to contain extra calcium and B12, as is a lot of tofu, so you’ll easily be getting enough from just a standard vegan diet probably. Often meat substitutes are fortified with B12. On top of this, many cereals are fortified with it. Another great source (if you can stomach it) is yeast extract, such as Marmite and Vegemite. If you’re taking a multivitamin pill, that’s also likely to have B12 in it.

What I’m trying to highlight is that B12 should be noted as important but it should not be a worry.

It has actually been highlighted that obtaining B12 from fortified foods makes it both more absorbable and obtainable that maintaining B12 levels from animal products. The US Institute of Medicine actually states “because 10 to 30 percent of older people may be unable to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12, it is advisable for those older than 50 years to meet their RDA mainly by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12-containing supplement,” making it clear that fortified foods are more efficient. Indeed, it has been said that a well monitored vegan diet is far less at risk of B12 deficiency than the average omnivore.

Hopefully, from this you can see that B12 should not be too much of a worry. It is just important to highlight it, and ensure that you avoid any claims that B12 can be consumed through unwashed vegetables. Whilst this may be true, there is nothing wrong with being careful about what you eat. This also doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural – what is natural about killing more animals every five days than the number of people who’ve died in every recorded war and genocide in human history (click the link, it’s a pretty interesting article).

I hope this has been of some use, and I apologise if I got anyone worried at first about their health. If you need any more info on B12, check the sites below:

Excellent Vegan Society page on B12

Vegetarian Resource Group page on B12

In-depth look at B12, although beware her advice about not cleaning vegetables…

Love it or hate it, it's a good source of B12

Another attack on vegan health…

A study has been published today highlighting the risk of a low level of omega-3 and B12 in the diet. There has been numerous attacks on veganism and its supposedly adverse effects on health, but this one is pretty amusing as it focuses on heart disease. Now, I’m no medical expert, but it’s pretty obvious that a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol will result in less likelihood of heart disease. Obviously, there are other factors to take into account but diet is a key one, and I’m pretty confident that eating vegan will reduce my risks of heart disease in the future.

I’m not going to deny the importance of omega-3 and B12 in the diet, and I accept that B12 is fairly lacking in a vegan diet, but supplementation is easy and many vegan foods (such as most soy milk) are already fortified with the vitamin. As for omega-3, providing you’re being responsible as a vegan in what you eat, it is fairly easy to obtain the required daily dose. Flaxseed oil is a worthy supplement to take, just as many omnivores take cod liver oil. Presumably, oily fish is the most prevalent source of omega-3, but even when I ate meat I wasn’t keen on fish and not everyone is. So, this study would surely affect a large number of omnivores too, at least when it comes to omega-3? As a vegan, I use a range of different oils in cooking, omega-3 fortified margarines, and eat plenty of different nuts and seeds: all of which are high in omega oils.

The most amusing thing about this study comes from the conductor of the study, Duo Li – “Despite the fact that vegan diets exclude any foods from animal origin, in his recommendations Li outlined several sources of dietary omega-3 and vitamin B12 sourced from animals.” Thanks for the help there.

I know that the article highlights that vegans are generally at lower risk from heart disease, but constant attacks on deficiencies in vegan diets are beginning to drag me down. It’s so plain to see how many people die every day from excessive consumption on unhealthy, meat-based diets. Surely it’s time to start promoting veganism, and teaching people how to live healthily as a vegan, instead of consistently attacking it whilst the world’s health gets dragged down further and further.

About the vegan health category

As we mention in our About page, we want to give a little extra with this blog, and to gain a more rounded picture of veganism it’s important to talk about the health aspects involved. Although perhaps a ’rounded’ picture is the wrong term to use when talking about health, and most followers of veganism don’t actually tend to be very round at all really…

Ok, I’m getting distracted here. What I want to do with this first post for this section is just help to illustrate some of the key issues that we’ll discuss under the umbrella of VeganHealth. Many people when they think of a stereotypical vegan picture a pasty, pale, thin mess of a person who’s shedding years off their life by following the diet, and shovelling supplement pills down their throats like some kind of crazy vitamin junkie. Now, there probably are a few vegans like that here and there, but then there’s such a range of people in all diets. And look at it this way, the Half Ton Man didn’t get that way by eating lentils and tofu. But nevertheless, we hope to help dispel some of these myths, and deal with some typical issues… *cough* protein *cough*. We will talk about important aspects of nutrition, supplements you should consider (but none are necessary – I would recommend some supplements to every one), as well as other useful blogs which discuss vegan fitness, and giving details of some inspirational atheletes too. Basically if we stumble across anything cool that is fitness and vegan related then we’ll probably stick it on here. So if you’re a fitness freak, curious about veganism and whether it’s healthy, or just need some inspiration to work up a sweat then hopefully this section will come in use!

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