Going vegan can be tough, and not simply because of the drastic lifestyle changes the process requires in our society. It’s hard enough to find suitable choices, much less worry especially about what nutrients you may or may not be missing by forgoing meat and animal byproducts. Knowledge is the best tool for balancing one’s diet—especially for any vegan brave enough to navigate our meat-centric culture. So here they are, the big three: The nutrients you must consider if you banish all animal products from your diet.
Iron, while plentiful in meat, can also be found in vegetables. Oatmeal, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, bran, dried beans and peas, and tofu all contain this essential mineral. So why then are vegans in greater danger of an iron deficiency than their meat-eating counterparts? Because the human body doesn't efficiently absorb the variety of iron found in plants as it does the kind found in animals.
There are tricks for getting the maximum amount of iron from your vegetables. One of these is to eat iron rich vegetables with foods containing vitamin C. Another: cook your vegetables in cast iron pots and pans.
A significant percentage of our society gets its daily protein from meat, dairy or another animal product like eggs. As a result, one of the greatest barriers to going vegan is finding adequate protein sources. The daily protein intake suggested by most doctors and nutritionists is 46 grams for women, and 56 grams for men. The recommended daily intake is high because protein is critical to good health.
When digested, it breaks down into essential amino acids, which in turn facilitate cell growth and repair. This function is, as you can imagine, pivotal for every system in your body. So what are good sources of protein for vegans? A few of the very best include dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame, chia seeds, tofu, soy (as cheese or milk), tempeh, green peas, quinoa, and nuts.
3. Calcium & Vitamin D
Calcium plays a significant role in muscle contraction. When you don’t get enough calcium, your body takes it from your bones, causing them to weaken. Vitamin D is of critical importance because it facilitates calcium absorption, and thus, bone fortification. The two nutrients are not just grouped here because they work together to promote bone health; they are grouped here together because most people satisfy their need of both with dairy.
Vegans can get the calcium they require from legumes, collard greens, turnip greens and Kale. Calcium can also be found in any number of fortified products, including soymilk, tofu, and orange juice. Calcium is available in a supplemental form as well.
Vitamin D can be found in fortified cereals, fortified soymilk, or in a supplement. A better way to get vitamin D, however, is going outdoors. Believe it or not, exposure to sunlight, for even 5 to 15 minutes a day, can provide you with the all the vitamin D you need.
CATEGORIES: Diet, Protein, Nutrient, Vegan, Healthy, Meat, Plant