People often ask me how they can ensure that they don’t develop any deficiencies or miss out on any vital nutrients while following a vegan diet and lifestyle. I just want to preface this by saying I am a firm believer in following the lifestyle and diet which works for YOU and your body -and it really is different for every person. If veganism works for you, great! If vegetarianism works for you, great! If omnivorism works for you, great! I’m about helping people live their life in the healthiest and happiest way possible for them. So with that said, let’s jump right in.
With veganism, I find the biggest thing to watch out for is making sure you are getting enough Protein, B vitamins, Zinc, Iron and Omega 3’s. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become deficient in these nutrients with a vegan diet if you aren’t making a conscious effort to include certain foods.
But with extra planning and some supplementation in place for good measure, you should be able to live healthily within a vegan framework. Here is a cheat sheet to make sure you get your nutrient quotas in:
Pea or Hemp protein powder with a breakfast smoothie can be a great way to boost your protein intake in the morning. Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias, pistachios), Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and hemp), Legumes & Beans (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, split peas, pinto etc.) and Quinoa are great sources too -just make sure you are getting a wide variety each day as you need the full range of essential amino acids.
*I’m not a fan of soy products for protein as they are often GMO and can have negative hormonal effects.
B vitamins are notoriously tricky to get in a vegan diet, as B vitamins are mostly found in animal products. I suggest using Nutritional Yeast (tastes a bit cheesy), along with Whole Grains (brown rice, oats, buckwheat, millet) and Leafy Greens (spinach, chard, kale, beetroot greens) to increase your exposure to plant-based B’s. Even with these additions though, I would recommend a high-quality B Complex supplement to make sure you are getting enough.
Zinc is so important for so many aspects in the body, it is vital for a robust immune system, speedy wound healing, optimal brain function and healthy skin & nails. Pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds are great sources of plant-based zinc! Zinc can also be found in some grains and legumes but because of their phytate content, absorption is inhibited unless they have been ‘activated’, soaked, fermented or sprouted.
Iron is another one that I would definitely consider supplementing as plant-based iron (non-heme) is harder to find AND harder for the body to absorb. The RDI for vegetarians and vegans is 1.8 times higher than for meat-eaters. Iron sources are: Dark Green Leafy Veg (spinach, kale, beetroot greens, chard), Legumes & Beans (lentils, red kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas), Nuts (cashews, almonds, pine nuts), Seeds (Pumpkin, sesame, and hemp seeds).
In order to absorb as much iron as possible:
- Have Vitamin C rich foods (lemon juice, citrus, kiwi, strawberries) at the same time as it increases iron absorption.
- Use a cast iron pan for cooking.
- Avoid tea and coffee with meals as this can reduce iron absorption by 50-90%.
Chia seeds, Hemp seeds, Flaxseed/Linseed and Walnuts are sources of Omega 3’s. I would suggest finding a way to have these every day, you could pop some chia seeds and hemp seeds in with your morning smoothie or on top of your oats for example.
I hope these tips help you have a more rounded diet if you choose to be vegan and give you confidence in what to look out for. Always check in with your body to notice any changes and if you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, have any menstrual changes, are getting sick often or feel dizzy or weak, definitely make an appointment with your naturopath. It is also a great idea to see a GP to get blood tests every now and then to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Hi! I'm Emalyse.
I adore everything to do with herbs, health and wellness and am on a constant quest to find more ways to support myself and others to become a glowing beacon of health -and not just for our bodies, but our minds, spirit, emotions and relationships too!
My happiest days are spent helping clients imrprove their health through a mix of holistic traditional medicine and the latest scientific research & functional testing. I like to blend the best of both worlds, and share my years of knowledge with you in the process.
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