What you need to know about going Vegan’? Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition. www.healthspan.co.uk

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What you need to know about going Vegan’?
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition


& www.healthspanelite.co.uk


Veganism is the pinnacle of plant-based eating, which is a revolution that’s been gathering momentum in the wellness industry for some time now. This way of eating is not just about avoiding all foods of animal origin but also addresses the wider issues of food production such as environmental and animal welfare concerns.

According to findings from a survey commissioned by the Vegan Society in 2016, the number of vegans in the UK had exceeded 500K people (just over 1% of the population). More recent findings from a survey carried out by Compare the Market have shown that this figure has increased to an impressive 7% of the population now being vegan.

Changes in the vegan stereotype

Whilst many people may still associate veganism with hippies, sandals and macramé, things have seriously moved on. The media has often portrayed veganism as a way of helping skinny yoga-obsessed celebs to lose weight, but professional sports people have helped to blow this misconceived stereotype out of the water. The footballers Jermain Defoe and Dean Howell, professional cyclist Christina Vardaros, tennis-pro Serena Williams and even heavyweights such as the British boxer David Hayes are just a few examples of professional sports people that have adopted veganism as a way of eating to improve performance.

What are the health benefits of veganism?

A well-balanced vegan diet is more likely to contain a greater quantity of fibre-rich wholegrain foods and pulses, which are hugely beneficial to health. It’s also been shown that vegans are more likely to exceed the daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, which means gleaning a greater quantity of micronutrients and antioxidants, such as the carotenoids found in orange and dark green vegetables. Some have suggested that these nutritional properties of the vegan diet offer potential performance benefits in sportspeople.

Plants are not the panacea and you still need to get the basics right

Following the basic principles of healthy eating are key to achieving a good balance of nutrients to support your body’s needs and are still relevant to people following a plant-based diet. You can glean everything your body needs from eating plant-foods, but it does take a little more planning and understanding of what to eat and how to put meals together.


Protein is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in the body, which is key for sports professionals especially in terms of recovery. The body requires 21 amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and nine of these must be obtained from the diet (essential amino acids).

To ensure your amino acid intake, include a variety of plant proteins with every meal. Those with a complete set of essential amino acids include quinoa, buckwheat (such as soba noodles), hemp seeds, chia seeds, tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, Quorn (vegan products in the range) and Ezekiel bread (from Jerusalem, made using beans, lentils and grains). Professional sports people will likely need to top up their diet with protein by using powders such as Healthspan Elite Complete Vegan Protein (£19.99 for 1kg).


Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey have shown that 27% of women do not get enough iron from their diet putting them at risk of anaemia, which causes chronic tiredness and fatigue. This is a particular issue for female sports professionals.

Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet such as beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, tempeh, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and dried spices.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is only found in a few plant-foods such as nutritional yeast and marmite spread. Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body and help to release energy from food. The best way to ensure your intake of vitamin B12 is by including fortified foods such as cereals, plant-milks and soy products. Contrary to popular belief, spirulina and other algae products are not reliable sources of this vitamin.


Calcium is required for healthy bones and muscle function, which are essential for the performance of professional sports people. This mineral is especially important for young sports people whose bones are still developing up until the age of 25. Obtain calcium through plant foods such as tofu, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini and fortified plant-milks.

Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are referred to as ‘essential’ as they need to be obtained from your diet; they have many health benefits, which include the reduction of inflammation in the body.

Plants such as dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, seed oils, quinoa and nuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to EPA and DHA. Whilst these foods are a useful source of omega 3, the conversion in the body is poor so vegans may want to consider topping up their diet with a vegan Omega 3 supplement such as Healthspan Veg-Omega 3 (£17.99 for 60 capsules).

1 https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/find-out-how-many-vegans-are-great-britain
2 https://www.comparethemarket.com/car-insurance/content/cars-against-humanity/
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707634
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20622542/
5 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25339853/

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