Are you a Negan (New Vegan)? Welcome to the club.
I have been eating mostly plant-based meals for over a decade but it is a new choice to consume a purely vegan diet. I had been safe in my knowledge that chicken, fish and yoghurt were enabling me to earn top marks on my blood test results. B12? Iron? Calcium? Gold stars!
While it can take a little more planning and awareness around combining plant based foods to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs for optimum health, once you understand which foods have the highest quality of calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc and protein, you can go wild with exploring flavours knowing that within each week, you're ticking all the boxes.
For me, I know the foods I really love and rely upon for essential nutrients, but I have a bad habit of not incorporating enough variety and adventure into my meals. I can get into a rut of the same thing daily for a week! That said, have you discovered purple sweet potato? If any food is worthy of a 12-step program, purple sweet potato is it.
Still. I digress.
Plant Based Meals For Inspiration and Convenience
To save myself from my own boring routines, I have ordered a Soulara delivery to get me through just over a week. I hugely recommend this meal delivery service to anyone and everyone, whether you're vegan or not. Having trialled a range of meal delivery services over the past few years, I can honestly say this is a no-fails option that is totally fresh, totally organic, and genuinely delicious. It doesn't feel like diet food and the serving sizes will genuinely satiate your appetite (not aeroplane-meal sized like some delivery services).
The great benefit of a meal delivery service for me (and you!) is that I can explore a variety of vegan meals and get a true sense of what I really love so that I'm inspired to get into the kitchen and create meals based on those flavours and ingredients. When I go to Ubud, Bali, I eat purely plant based meals and mostly raw food too. It is energising, it connects me deeply to the earth and it feels good in my belly and my body. Soulara is the closest I've come to home-delivered plant based meals that transport me straight back to a table overlooking rice paddies and yoga studios. Check out their Instagram for food inspiration.
Common Nutritional Deficiencies In A Vegan Diet
I recently went to the doctor for blood tests and under "Health Conditions" she listed "Vegan". I'm not sure this is typically considered an ailment! However, if you aren't doing your research and maintaining an eye on your calcium, iron and B12 levels, then you'll feel like being a vegan truly is an ailment. Apart from reading as much as you can and educating yourself, it's entirely worth making an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist who has expertise in vegan or vegetarian diets. They can advise - based on your gender, age, height, weight, general health and level of activity - what your nutritional needs are and how to meet them.
The most common nutritional deficiency is B12 because this is purely available in animal based products (meat, seafood, dairy). The most reliable vegan source of B12 is nutritional yeast or fortified milks. Alternatively, a supplement is your best bet. But ignoring B12 is dangerous. B12 is linked to mood, the nervous system and also works co-operatively with B9 (folic acid) to enable optimal absorption of iron. Calcium is vital to healthy bones and muscles. Especially important for women. There are many fortified milks (almond, soy often have "Calcium Fortified" on the label where this is the case). There's no question you can meet your protein requirements easily with soy based proteins such as tofu and tempeh but spirulina, peas, hemp seeds, brown rice and quinoa, chickpeas and beans also provide rich sources of organic protein. Again though, see a dietitian for a personalised plan. Once you know how to meet the requirements of your body, you can confidently go it alone. It's definitely worth telling your GP you are vegan so that they can keep an eye on your blood test results (in the first year, worth doing this every few months).
There's a good argument that you can meet your every nutritional need with wholefoods. But since the quality of food, soil and produce is not 100% reliable due to production and farming measures, it's absolutely worth investing in some supplements to ensure you're giving your body every opportunity to be well.
I am not a huge fan of turmeric as a flavouring so I'm very happy to take it in supplement form. My pick is Alitura Revitalize which contains ingredients based on Chinese Medicine, Western and Eastern Science. Turmeric, He Shou Wu (iron and zinc), chaga and reishi mushrooms (immune system and anti-ageing properties). I also take Evening Primrose Oil (Sports Research brand) which is rich in healthy fats for glowing skin and is also championed as support for women experiencing painful menstruation. Don't opt for any brand please - if you're going to spend on supplements, make sure you go with a high-quality product that's worth your dollars. I get my vitamins from Vibeality - the best spot to find Sports Research and Alitura brand in Oz.
Raw & Organic Vegan Essentials
Long Jetty in New South Wales has a lot of healthy selling points - the divine yoga studio/cafe Modern Organic as well as the raw and organic food, home and lifestyle store The Raw Deal. Since I'm only in Long Jetty for short stints (unless someone wants to offer me a full time job teaching yoga, writing and blogging?) I do my shopping online. Whether it's bulk chickpeas and lentils or organic almonds and raw cashews, nut milk or superfoods in liquid and powder form, it's all super affordable and the best, freshest quality. Steve who runs things at The Raw Deal is a genuinely good, generous human with the pure desire to bring healthy, chemical free produce and products to his local community and to the wider Australian community via the website. There's a lot to be said for connecting with the people you shop with.