Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired more than half a million people in 178 countries to try veganism for January, and in the UK, it’s predicted that a quarter of a million Brits will give it a go as well. With a wide range of on-the-go foods now available in vegan form (here’s looking at you Greggs!), there’s no denying a vegan diet is on the rise even outside of January.

As beneficial as introducing a vegan diet can be in terms of both your health and environmental impact, it’s important to ensure you are still getting your essential vitamins and nutrients to keep you fighting fit.

A varied and balanced vegan diet can provide you with everything your body needs, but you must plan your meals carefully to avoid becoming depleted of calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 in particular. Here are some top tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your plant-based diet.

  • Opt for higher fibre starchy foods like sweet potato, oats, wholemeal bread, and brown rice
  • Make sure your diet contains a variety of fruit and vegetables. Frozen fruit and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh – and they’re easier on the wallet!
  • Eating nuts and seeds regularly can provide a good helping of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Good sources of protein include chickpeas, tofu, lentils, and beans
  • Good sources of calcium include green, leafy vegetables, pulses, sesame seeds, and fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks – and calcium is vital for maintaining strong bones and healthy teeth
  • Good sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, dried fruits, wholemeal breads and fortified flour
  • Consider taking supplements for vitamin D and vitamin B12, as these are more difficult to obtain from a purely vegan diet. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods from animals, but you can find it in fortified breakfast cereals, and Marmite.

Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you have any concerns about adopting a vegan diet and whether dietary supplements are right for you.

Phil Day is Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, an online service which provides free, fast and convenient delivery of NHS repeat prescriptions.