JUNE 8, 2020

How To Cover All Your Nutritional Needs On A Vegan Diet

From its role in stopping animal cruelty to its impact on the environment , adopting a vegan diets presents numerous benefits that have been extensively discussed, time and again. However, in spite of all the evidence that going vegan is good for you, many still have objections about reducing or completely eliminating their consumption of non-vegan products. One of the most persistent arguments is that vegans don’t get enough nutrition from vegan diets.
Luckily, all it takes is a basic knowledge of food groups and the nutrients your body needs to disprove this. In fact, you can definitely stick to a plant-based diet and still get all the nutrients your body needs.

Read these vegan diet tips, #VEERAHwarriors, as we tackle the different nutritional needs of human beings—and how we can get all of them from plants.

Calcium

We’ve all been taught that a steady, adequate intake of calcium helps strengthen our bones and prevents the brittle-bone disease, osteoporosis. However, we’ve also been conditioned to think that we can only get the amount of calcium we need from non-vegan dairy products such as cow’s meat. Fortunately, that’s not true.

To get the calcium your body needs while still sticking to a vegan diet, make sure to include green, leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, okra, and kale), calcium-set tofu, fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks, and sesame seeds in your diet. For healthy and calcium-rich snacks, go for dried fruit (like figs, prunes, and raisins).

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How can your palate say no to all these colorful (and nutrient-rich) plant-based foods?
(photo by Trang Doan/Pexels)

Iron

Iron is what makes our red blood cells look red, and is also what helps them bring oxygen to different parts of our bodies. While it’s true that iron from meat is better absorbed by the body than plant-based iron, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get enough iron when you go vegan. A high-iron vegan diet includes beans, broccoli, dried fruits, nuts, pulses, raisins, wheat, wholemeal bread and flour, and tofu. You can also add iron-fortified cereals to your breakfast options. Another tip for better iron absorption? Eat more vitamin C-enriched plant-based foods (such as oranges, lemons, and tomatoes).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

When we talk about omega-3 fatty acids and their beneficial effects on the heart and brain, we’re typically referring to the kind we get from fish oils. However, fish oils aren’t the only source of these healthy compounds.

It’s said that consuming the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids regularly can help lower one’s risk of cardiovascular diseases. As for sources of omega-3, you won’t go wrong with flaxseed (linseed) oil and meal. Rapeseed oil, walnuts, soya oil, and soya-based foods (like tofu) are great sources, too, as well as vegan products that are explicitly advertised as fortified with plant-based omega-3. As for supplements, make sure to consult your doctor first (and to check the label to verify that it’s not made from fish oils).

Now, some studies show that plant-sourced omega 3 fatty acids may not reduce cardiovascular disease risk on the same level fish oils can. However, don’t be disheartened (pun intended): By simply eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, avoiding sources of saturated fat, and cutting back on your salt intake, you can still take care of your heart without relying on animal-based omega-3 sources.

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The right knowledge and a dash of creativity will take your vegan diet a long way (Photo By Ella Olson/Pexels)

Protein

As we all know, protein plays a vital role in building and maintaining our entire body, from the muscles and bones to the organs and skin. Additionally, the building blocks of protein—amino acids—help our bodies break down and process the food we eat. Meat eaters love to argue that a vegan diet won’t give you the protein you need, but that argument is misleading at best and factually dishonest at worst. As a matter of fact, you can get all the protein your body needs by adding grains, legumes, nuts, peanut butter, seeds, and soy-based products (like soymilk and tofu) to your diet. Additionally, by eating certain types of food together (such as beans and corn or beans and rice), you can ensure that you’re getting complete protein (meaning protein that fulfils all your body’s amino acid needs).

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps keep your circulatory and nervous systems healthy by maintaining consistent red blood cell production and preventing anemia. Some studies also show that it could help improve your mood and fight depression. Ensure that you’re getting enough of it even without the usual sources—dairy, meat, fish, and shellfish—by going for B12-fortified products. Some excellent vegan sources of vitamin B12 include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified unsweetened soya drinks, and fortified yeast extract. You may also want to consider taking a B12 supplement without any animal ingredients (though you’ll have to seek your doctor’s advice before you do this).

Vitamin D

Like calcium, vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health. Aside from promoting bone growth, it is to calcium what vitamin C is to iron. Make sure your diet has fortified soymilk, rice milk, and cereals to get your vitamin D fix. Another (simpler) way to get enough of this vitamin? Spend 10 minutes walking under the early morning sun (with ample protection, of course) at least 3 or 4 times per week.

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Going vegan? Plant-based milk will be one of your best friends (Photo by Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels)

Zinc

Last but certainly not the least is zinc, which helps your body fight diseases and infections, speed up your reactions, improve your memory, and reduce your risk of age-related chronic diseases. Beans, cashew nuts, chia seeds, chickpeas, ground linseed, hemp seeds, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tofu, walnuts, and wholemeal bread are all excellent sources of zinc.

With a balanced plant-based diet made up of high-quality foods, you’ll never have to worry about nutrient deficiencies as a vegan—and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself, too!

References:

https://www.health.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-nutrition
https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrition-overview
https://familydoctor.org/vegan-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/
https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-supplements-for-vegans#1

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