With the rising number of people switching over from a mostly animal-based diet to a plant-based diet, it’s no secret that incorporating more meatless meals into your diet can support your overall health. There is much research that shows that eating more plant-based foods can decrease risks related to cardiovascular health, diabetes, weight management, and some cancers. If you have newly transitioned over to a Vegan/Vegetarian lifestyle or have been an avid guru for sometime, you should be mindful that there are a few nutrients that must be included in your diet and a bit of planning is necessary to make sure that you are consistently getting enough of what you need.
Be mindful of these 5 Nutrients that could be lacking in your diet:
1. Vitamin B-12
It is found mostly in animal products, but is needed to maintain our DNA production and nerve cells. A good source of B-12 is found in fortified cereals, some soy products, and some milk substitutes. With that said, a great way to get your B-12 intake is through a daily supplement between 200 mcg a day to 5 mg a week.
Many will say that Calcium is only found in dairy products which come from certain animals, however, calcium rich foods are actually found in all food groups. Some great vegan sources are leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, almonds, figs, broccoli, chickpeas, and soybeans – just to name a few. The suggested dosage is 1200 mg coming from diet and supplementation.
3. Vitamin D
Known as the sunshine vitamin, this is one nutrient that it is a necessity. Depending on your skin tone, where you live, and what time of year it is, it can be hard to obtain Vitamin D from the sun. Other great sources of Vitamin D are mushrooms, orange juice, plant based milks such as soy, almond, and fortified breakfast cereals such as Cheerios and Rice Chex. Each person’s tolerance and intake of Vitamin D is different, but it is suggested anywhere form 1,000 IU to 10,000 IU daily. For more information on how much you would need, seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
These important fatty acids provide building blocks for our cell membranes, bones, joints, brain health, and nervous system. Vegans and Vegetarians might find it difficult to get the appropriate amount of Omega 3, unlike Omega 6 fatty acids, which is found mostly in the western diet, Omega 3 sources will be via ALA, which can be found in flax and chia seeds, and leafy greens such as kale and spinach. If you do not include these in your daily meal intake, it is suggested to supplement with an algae derived DHA/EPA supplement.
Being a Vegan myself, upon complete transition, I found myself not incorporating enough iron rich foods into my diet, thus becoming anemic. I just didn’t understand how I was going to get the appropriate amount of iron without eating meat. There are two forms of iron, hem and non-hem. Hem is found in mostly animal products such as poultry, fish, and meat. Non-hem is found in plants such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Some great sources of iron are lentils, tofu, chickpeas, pumpkin, figs, broccoli, kale, spinach, and dark chocolate. If you are not consuming or incorporating some iron rich foods into your diet at every meal, it is suggested to take a supplement – however, it varies from person to person and it is recommended to see a healthcare professional for an accurate reading of how much is required.
If living a healthy Vegan/Vegetarian lifestyle is what you are looking for, please bear in mind these 5 essential nutrients while you plan your meals. From one Vegan to another: Happy Eating!