It’s becoming increasingly popular in the UK to adopt a plant based diet for health, animal welfare or environmental reasons. Diets centred on a wide variety of plant foods offer affordable, tasty and nutritious options. Plant-based diets which are rich in beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, whole-grains such as oats, rice, and cereal based foods such as breads, and pasta can provide all the nutrients needed for good health. This includes essential fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and plenty of fibre too.
Well balanced plant-based diets, that are also low in saturated fat, can help you manage your weight and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. However, as with any diet, plant-based nutrition needs to be planned.
Most nutrients are abundantly available in plant-based diets, but if you are avoiding all or minimising your consumption of animal-derived foods there are a few nutrients that you need to pay attention to.
Calcium is essential for bone health, along with weight bearing exercise and a healthy diet. An adult requires approximately 700mg per day.
Dairy foods are rich in calcium but if you are not eating these make sure you obtain calcium from other sources like fortified plant-based dairy alternatives, dried fruit e.g. figs, nuts such as almonds, leafy green vegetables, red kidney beans, sesame seeds, tahini and tofu to lower your risk of bone fractures.
Omega 3 fatty acids
These fats have been shown to be important for health and are commonly found in oily fish. However, if you are not eating fish, plant sources of omega 3 include walnuts, flax (linseed), hemp seeds, chia seeds and soya beans.
Plant-based sources of vitamin D include sun-exposed mushrooms and fortified foods such as vegetable spreads, breakfast cereals and plant-based dairy alternatives. Since it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement of 10mcg/ day during the autumn and winter months.
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