Nutritional Tips for Healthy Vegan Diet

Plant-based and vegan diets are getting more and more popular.

Vegan diets are very healthy and are very helpful with weight loss and weight control. Following a plant-based diet can be nutritionally healthy for many people, but a vegan diet is a bit more restricted. Depending on your body type and exercise intensity, if you are following a nice vegan diet, you have to make sure that you focus on balancing your diet with all the specific nutrients that vegan people tend to get depleted of to help support your physical health. For People who do regular training or intense exercise it can lead to some suppressed immune function by increasing natural killer cells and neutrophil function. This impact on the immune system can increase the risk of bacterial infection, which can also cause some illnesses. On the other hand, if your vegan diet is well balanced, then your well-planned vegan diet will be highly beneficial to help nourish the body with plant-based foods. Many ultra-runners and athletes following a balanced-vegan diet, see a great increase in their performance and energy level, faster recovery and overall well-being. Vegan people need to focus on seven primary nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are often lower in plant-based diets.

 

Vegan Primary Nutrients, Vitamins and Minerals

 

  1. Protein: This nutrient is a vital part of an athlete’s diet or even more sedentary people, to help with muscle recovery and energy, and body refuelling. Often people following a vegan diet tend to feel hungrier. Not eating any animal foods makes it a bit more challenging to include enough protein with all the required amino acids. The recommended option to eat enough plant-based protein nutrients and amino acids, is to include a great variety of plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.

 

Protein-Rich Food Sources

 Tempeh

 Tofu

 Nuts and Seeds

 Hemp seeds, flour

 Beans

 Legumes

 Soy

 Unsweetened soy milk or almond milk

 Plant-based protein powder

 

  1. Healthy Fat: This nutrient is crucial for our body to absorb certain nutrients, help with recovery, have anti-inflammatory properties, help reduce the hunger and provide some energy for training. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial nutrients for anti-inflammation and help speed up repair of soft tissue damage and recovery.

 Healthy Fat Food Sources

 Extra virgin oil

 Avocado oil

 Avocado

 Flax seed meal, oil

 Hemp seeds, Hemp seed oil

 Chia seeds

 

      3.Iron: Adequate iron intake is critical for runners, especially long-distance or intense training. Iron is used to transport oxygen to muscles, often after running long-distance races our body gets depleted of several vitamins and minerals including iron. Women athletes have higher issues of iron deficiency. Without enough iron our muscles feel weak, our breathing is challenging, especially when running uphill. To sustain the iron absorption, you need to include some high vitamin C foods with the high iron foods. 

 

Iron-Rich Foods Sources

 Green leafy vegetables- Spinach, kale, Swiss chard

 Beans

 Legumes

 Tofu

 Tempeh

 Vegetables- Tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli

 Fruits- Prunes, olives, mulberries

 

      4.Calcium: Calcium is essential for bone health and muscle function. Including calcium-rich foods in your daily diet is important. Some plant-based calcium-rich foods also contain components such as oxalic or phytic acids which can reduce the ability of the body to absorb the calcium (spinach and soy beans) When you eat these foods, ake sure you include other calcium-rich foods in your meal.

 

Calcium-Rich Food Sources

 Green leafy vegetables

 Nuts- Almonds

 Seeds- Sesame seeds

 Figs

 

        5.Vitamin D: These days up to 80% of the population is depleted of vitamin D. This vitamin is necessary for bone health, calcium absorption and muscle function, as well as energy levels. Runners and athletes following a strict vegan diet might consider being tested for vitamin D deficiency, to see if adding a vitamin D supplement is required. Most of the vitamin D rich foods are animal based.

 

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

 Mushrooms

 Unsweetened soy milk

 

       6. Vitamin B12: This vitamin is necessary for DNA synthesis and nervous system function. Once our body is depleted of vitamin B12 the side effects include neurological damage and increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 sources are only found in animal-based foods. It is important for people following a vegan diet to include some daily vitamin B12 supplements.

 

       7. Iodine: Due to today’s soil depletion, most plant-based foods are very low in iodine, which is necessary for the thyroid function. According to some research, 80% of vegans tend to be deficient in iodine. A good option is to take a multi vitamin that contains iodine and other vitamins and minerals as a good back up.

 

Iodine-Rich Food Source

 Seaweed

 

Final words

When following a vegan diet, make sure you focus on including foods and supplements containing all the vitamins and minerals vegans tend to get depleted of to support an overall health. A healthy vegan diet will have many benefits in terms of providing antioxidants, faster recovery, and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Joseph March
Founder and Physiotherapist

After graduating from university in Australia, Joseph had solid exposure in a wide range of areas including professional sports, neurological, pediatrics, gerontology, and rehabilitation.

Joseph has over a decade of experience in Hong Kong, specializing in rehabilitation of musculoskeletal and sports injuries. He has treated issues related to pregnancy, desk jobs, as well as the unique injuries that come with a variety of athletic pursuits.

He has partnered with the Hong Kong Football Club as the performance squad physiotherapist, as well as the Hong Kong Ballet as the consulting physiotherapist.

Joseph’s hobby outside of work is the pursuit of a better functioning body. This has led him to delve deeply into many types of exercise and performance training. He has years of experience in Olympic weight lifting, movement training, powerlifting, yoga, pilates and strength, and conditioning. Through his own journey, Joseph has positioned himself well to understand other bodies and across a wide range of exercise and sport.

In the past Joseph competed at a high level in football and long distance running.

Cardeux Nel
Senior Physiotherapist

Cardeux represented South Africa and attained her first karate world championship medals at the age of 11. Cardeux’s other sport of interest is field hockey, which she has also played at a national level. From a young age, she attended physiotherapy to enhance performance and recovery. Understanding the importance of this stimulated her to pursue a career in helping others.

After graduating from The University of The Free State in South Africa, Cardeux spent a few years working in private practice as well as gaining experience in sports physiotherapy. She assisted with the Springboks in the lead up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup and worked at the Comrades Marathon for 4 consecutive years.

Cardeux’s treatment is focused on exercise, education and a holistic therapy approach. As a keen trail runner, she specializes in performing full running assessments, both clinical and video. She has also completed her post-graduate course in Dry Needling which she provides as part of her treatments.

Cardeux spends her time off continuing to pursue sports-related endeavors. She is captain of the Valley Premier women’s field hockey team, coaches running, and manages the Hong Kong Sports Clinic running team. She also extends her passion for the sport by giving back, as a member of WISE HK – Helping empower, educate and connect women and girls through sport in Hong Kong.

Elaine Leung
Principle Chiropractor

Elaine completed her chiropractic training at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia with a Bachelor’s degree in Chiropractic Science and Master’s degree in Chiropractic. She then moved to Hong Kong to pursue her career and to promote the importance of health and the work-life balance.

Coming from a family of martial artist and traditional Chinese lion dancers, Elaine also developed an interest in Muay Thai, BJJ and weight training. This of course also comes with some injuries which have always been managed with chiropractic.

Her long interest and love for animals have then lead her to complete a Certificate in Animal Chiropractic in the USA to enable her to provide care for animals as she does for people. She is passionate about getting people (and animals) out of pain and living their lives to the fullest.

Emma Piachaud
Senior Physiotherapist

Emma returned ‘home’ to Hong Kong in 2011 after having spent her childhood here. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) in Physiotherapy in the UK and has subsequently worked in the UK, France, and Hong Kong in a variety of settings, including the National Health Service, private hospitals and clinics, and a ski resort.

Emma is a keen sportswoman, which has led to a natural interest in sports injury rehabilitation and exercise-based therapy where she has completed many postgraduate courses specialising in manual therapy and core stability retraining. These have been in areas such as the lumbopelvic complex and thoracic rib cage and their combined effects on the musculoskeletal system. She has used this knowledge when treating clients, from elite athletes with chronic overuse injuries to postnatal women returning to sport.

Emma is available to assess and manage all musculoskeletal conditions including neck and back pain, sports injuries, thoracic and ribcage issues, and post-surgical rehabilitation. In addition, Emma has a specialist interest in treating specific problems related to ante and post-natal women, including pelvic girdle pain, rectus diastasis, mastitis, and assisting in return to sport and fitness.

Katia Kucher
Principle Nutritionist

Katia is a nutritionist with a Precision Nutrition certification and NASM Sports nutrition certification. Katia has also been a fitness, road, and trail running coach for many years. Her focus is on finding the ideal personalized diet plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Her other certifications include NASM Personal Trainer, PTA Global Personal Trainer. She also does corporate talks and presentations about nutrition and fitness.

As a nutritionist, her goal is to create a personalized nutrition plan and diet to help clients reach their health and fitness goals, or resolve any health issues. The key is to find a healthy, balanced, life sustainable diet that is adaptable to the client’s body type, metabolism, and lifestyle. For athletes, she creates nutrition programs to improve their performance, strength and endurance levels, and promote faster recovery.

Her background also includes helping clients dealing with injuries, by recommending a diet and specific foods that follow the healing phases to help with the healing quality and speed.

If you find it challenging to find a proper diet that will help you reach any of your goals, Katia can help you achieve your goals or help with any health issues, by recommending a diet you will enjoy and be able to maintain.

Taras Makarenko
Principle Osteopath

Taras is the Principal Osteopath with the Hong Kong Sports Clinic, where he specialises in mechanical pain associated with sports injuries, “desk-bound” related back pain, and nerve entrapment syndromes, like sciatica pain.

He has post-graduate training in both pre and postnatal as well as infant and newborn treatments. His experience includes over 6 years as an independent osteopath, working with multi-disciplinary fields alongside general practitioners, sports doctors, and physiotherapists to provide a higher level of effective recovery for his patients. He has engaged with high-level athletes in the field of tennis, soccer, rugby, field hockey, basketball, dance, ballet, trail-running, and triathletes.

To achieve long-lasting results, Taras strongly believes that structure and function have to be considered equally. His methodology includes an emphasis on educating patients about their pain, and to consider that effective recovery and treatment extends beyond the therapy room. Education is a key component to treatments when walking with patients for their road to recovery, with a mixture of in-clinic and home exercises (stretches and strength focused) as keys factors to improve symptoms.

A French national, he enjoys the fast-paced environment of Hong Kong, with his two kids and wife his loves alongside a keen interest in tennis and running.

Hamish Dickie
Senior Physiotherapist

Hamish originally undertook a Sports Science degree at Otago University and followed this up completing a physiotherapy degree at the Auckland University of Technology. A proud Kiwi, Hamish has worked with a number of high-performance teams and individuals and was part of the New Zealand Olympic team in 2018 where the team won 2 medals.

The first NZ Winter Olympics medals in 26 years. Hamish is still involved with the New Zealand Olympic program and physiotherapist for the Hong Kong Rugby men’s team. In 2018, Hamish’s wife Alex gave birth to the couple’s first child Charlie who has quickly become the apple of his father’s eye.

Prior to Hong Kong, Hamish and Alex spent a number of years in beautiful Queenstown, New Zealand where he developed the regions first high-performance youth sports academy to progress talented athletes. Hamish has worked in other high-performance programs including the New Zealand Baseball team and has worked at major tournaments such as the New Zealand Golf Open.

He has also worked in house at CrossFit boxes and is enjoying working with the CrossFit and weightlifting community in Hong Kong. Hamish was the physiotherapist for the Hong Kong Cricket Club rugby section in 2016/17 and is an active member of the cricket section where he captains the Optimists Sunday premier league team. An avid fitness enthusiast, Hamish loves all the running options that Hong Kong offers and is an avid runner on the wonderful trails.

Needless to say, Hamish understands sports and has a special interest in biomechanics and strength and conditioning components of rehabilitation. Hamish is also a qualified dry needling technician and uses a number of mobilizations, soft tissue and active release techniques to enhance the recovery process. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, youth athlete trying to reach the pinnacle of your sport or an international athlete Hamish is the right physio for you.

Charles Wang
Senior Physiotherapist

Charles completed his Physiotherapy degree at the University of Sydney, Australia. Charles has a particular interest in the link between biomechanics and injury, especially in the lumbopelvic area and lower limb. As such his treatment approach incorporates manual therapies and exercises prescription to optimise movement patterns and to recover from and prevent recurring injuries.

Joe Zhang
Physiotherapist

Joe graduated from the University of Sydney and has worked with a variety of athletes and programs, particularly at the Olympic and Professional level. He was a physiotherapist at the NSW Institute of Sport, working across all the programs in particular the Cycling, Hockey and Wheelchair Basketball programs.

Joe was also a team physiotherapist at the NSW Waratahs Super Rugby team and Sydney FC’s W-League team. He worked also as a state program physiotherapist in gymnastics and netball.

Joe’s treatment approach incorporates soft tissue release, dry needling, mobilisations and exercise prescription to speed up recovery, optimise movement patterns, and prevent injuries from recurring.

Joe has played representative basketball, and was also involved in weightlifting.

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