I was a reluctant vegan to begin with. Everything I learnt at University, taught me that a plant based diet was very difficult to maintain, extremely hard to consume all the macro and micro nutrients needed for good health and would lead to eating 'junk' vegan products because everyone got sick of cooking from scratch all the time. I saw a plant based diet as a restrictive diet which could lead to people becoming overly obsessed with what they were eating.
I had always had trouble digesting dairy but persisted with eating it as my research in nutrition deemed dairy to be so vital to good health. It might have been for the majority of the population but it wasn't for me. I have never been diagnosed with lactose intolerance but I know I have had it for most my life. After the Crohn's disease diagnosis, the part of my bowel that is damaged would indicate that lactose would have trouble being broken down in my body. I gave up dairy completely after my Crohn's diagnosis and felt better after 3 months. I then accidentally consumed dairy in a take-away in London by thinking all Thai Green Curries were made with coconut milk and not cream. After becoming sick, bloated and sore, I googled the menu at the take-away I went to and found that their Thai Green Curry was made with cream. Lesson learnt not to assume ingredients and always ask.
As I suffer with Crohn's disease, I was told to eliminate red meat from my diet as it could get stuck in my colon which now contained scar tissue from inflammation and meant that a section of my colon was very narrow. The only animal products left in my diet was eggs and chicken. There has not been much research into Crohn's disease and plant based diets but the research that has been done has shown reduced inflammation as well as a better microbiome (good gut bacteria). This is why I decided to try a plant based diet.
Tackling my major concerns
We all know that we need calcium to protect our bones, especially when you are a woman over 40. Dairy is not the only products containing calcium. Tofu contains a lot of calcium and can be eaten in so many ways. It did take a while to get use to eating it but now my favourite lunch is scrambled tofu. Plant-based milks are mostly fortified with calcium (check the packaging) as well as plant-based cheeses and yoghurts. Some vegetables also contain calcium as well as nuts and seeds.
My average day:
Alpro coconut and almond milk approximately 200ml 240mg
Koko vanilla yoghurt 150g 192mg
Tesco 'Free from' mozzarella 30g 045mg
Cauldron tofu 200g 800mg
The recommended amount for my age and gender is 1200mg. My average day also includes vegies etc. which are not listed so my total will be more.
B12 is harder for vegans to consume as no plant based products contain it. Fortified plant based products need to be consumed daily to avoid deficiencies. It is recommended that vegans consume 3 different B12 fortified projects a day. Nutritional yeast is a common way to get B12.
It can be hard for people of plant based diets to get enough iodine because iodine is readily available in seafood and dairy. Iodine is available in grains, cereals and vegetables. Americans get their iodine through iodized salt. It is near impossible to purchase it here in the UK. I was lucky enough for an American friend to give me a packet.
Protein is made up of amino acids in which some are essential amino acids. These essential amino acids cannot be made by the body so we need to eat products containing them. Meat contains all these essential amino acids so it is easy to get enough protein. Plants tend to contain a few essential amino acids in each product but not all of them. Some plants have some and other plants have others. This is why it is important to have such a varied diet when you are a vegan so you can get all your essential amino acids. There are a few plant based products which almost all the essential amino acids like quinoa. By having a varied colourful diet, it is possible to get all your essential amino acids.
If you are thinking about starting a plant based diet, join my