The Necessary Nutrients on a Vegan Diet
Veganism used to be considered a fringe or weird diet. However, in the last decade or so it has become mainstream, especially among millennials (typically categorized as those born between 1981 and mid-1990s). The motivation for people switching to a vegan diet is personal health, environmental concerns, and animal welfare.
One of the concerns and questions vegans get asked is, "How do you get enough nutrients?" and here is the truth about Getting the Proper Nutrients.
Vegans do not consume any food with a connection to animals. Besides of course not eating meat, vegans do not eat honey, eggs, or dairy products. Also, veganism is a lifestyle that abstains from using products made from animals or tested on animals such as cosmetics. They don't wear clothes or using anything made from leather, wool, goose down, and fur.
The Vegan Diet and Nutrition
There are some misinformed ideas regarding nutrients and veganism. For example, there is the idea that an all-plant diet doesn't provide adequate protein, calcium, and iron. However, there are many plant sources for these nutrients.
Although, some planning is necessary to safeguard that vegans receive enough of those nutrients along with zinc, iodine, and essential fatty acids. One nutrient that a vegan diet does not provide enough of for most people is vitamin B12.
That said, a vegan diet has been found to be high in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber. Nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, magnesium, potassium, and folic acid were also found to be in higher concentration.
Here are some nutrients that vegans need to ensure they are getting and how to get them https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/19-high-protein-vegetables#2
According to research vitamin-b12/what-every-vegan-should-know-about-vitamin-b12 a vegan diet does not provide enough B12 to reduce heart disease risk and prevent pregnancy complications. Besides eating foods fortified with B12 like plant kinds of milk, supplements are the only other source for it.
A deficiency of protein is typically not a concern for vegans. Although, a vegan diet can leave many people feeling unsatisfied after eating if they don't eat some "hardier" plant-based protein. Some food containing proteins are:
- Legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils, peas, edamame, etc.)
- Seitan (glutenous wheat protein food)
- Seeds (sunflower, poppy, and sesame)
- Non-dairy milk (soy, almond, etc.)
- Nuts and nut butter
- Sprouted grain bread
- Sweet corn
In the U.S., there is a misconception that the best and only source for calcium is from animal protein like dairy products. However, many plants contain calcium. But, vegans do need to try to get plant-based calcium. Some plant sources of calcium include:
- Fortified foods like orange juice and soymilk
- Greens such as turnips, collards, bok choy, kale, broccoli, kelp, spinach, etc.
- Sweet potatoes
- Soybean sprouts
The iron intake of vegans is comparable to carnivores (meat eaters). However, iron from plant sources is not readily absorbed as meat sources. And some women have become iron-deficient after switching to veganism and vegetarianism. To combat this, consume vitamin C containing foods when eating foods with iron because iron binds to vitamin C. Plant-based sources of iron include:
- Swiss Chard
- Dried figs
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Studies show that most people are deficient in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Because the body doesn't make them, omega-3s are consumed in foods or taken as supplements. And the typical Western diet doesn't contain them. Plant sources of omega-3s are
- Flaxseed (grounded for absorption)
- Canola oil
- DHA supplements
Many vegans fall slightly short of getting the daily requirements of zinc. So, they need to make an effort to get foods rich in zinc zinc-foods-for-vegans-vegetarians such as
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
- Fortified cereals
- Shitake and white mushrooms
- Hemp seed
- Firm tofu
- Wild rice
- Chia seeds
While a vegan diet is rich in many nutrients, vegans need to do some planning to make sure they are getting the ones mentioned above. It is smart to consult professionals as carrierunde
Fortunately, some foods such as spinach, tofu, quinoa, nuts, etc. contain more than one of the necessary nutrients, making planning a little easier.
Hancox, Dan. The unstoppable rise of veganism: how a fringe movement went mainstream (April 1, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/01/vegans-are-coming-millennials-health-climate-change-animal-welfare
Norris, Jack, RD. Tips for New Vegans (January 2018). Retrieved from https://veganhealth.org/tips-for-new-vegans/
Parker, John. The year of the vegan. Retrieved from https://worldin2019.economist.com/theyearofthevegan
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