Being vegan doesn't automatically mean that you're healthy. While it is great that we can have vegan cheesecakes, ice cream, cookies, we can't only eat these foods and expect to be healthy.
In order to achieve a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, we need to place plants at the center of our meals. The best part is that doing this doesn't mean compromising on taste, flavor, texture, and diversity. With about 20,000 edible plants, we can include a variety of legumes, whole foods, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, herbs, and spices that will color your tastebuds happy while also experiencing good health.
Here are some important nutrients and common concerns and how to get them on a vegan diet.
One of the most common questions every vegan gets is 'where do you get your protein?' It's actually quite funny because nearly all plant-based foods have protein, however, some foods have higher amounts and are better sources.
Some of the best vegan sources of protein are tofu, tempeh, soy, peas, chickpeas, oats, beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, nuts, and various nut butters.
A typical day's meal plan that exceedes protein requirements could look like this:
Breakfast: Oats, topped with fruits, seeds & nut butter
Lunch: A falafel or tofu wrap with a salad
Dinner: Stir-fried soya, baked potatoes & steamed broccoli
2. Vitamin B12
This one is kind of tricky to get on a vegan diet but not impossible. Vegan sources of B12 are nutritional yeast, plant milks, and cereal fortified with it. You may want to think about getting supplements to ensure that you're getting sufficient amounts of the vitamin.
3. Calcium & Vitamin D
There are a ton of plant-based sources of calcium like beans such as soya beans, kidney beans, and black turtle beans. Other interesting calcium mines are veggies like okra, kale, butternut squash, broccoli and potatoes, tofu, almonds as well as some plant milks and yogurt that are fortified with it.
Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium therefore, it is important to get as much of it as you can from vegan margarines, bread & breakfast cereal fortified with it as well as from the ultimate source, the sun.
4. Omega 3 & 6
These two essential fatty acids are fairly easy to find on a well-balanced vegan diet. Omega 3 for one is found in leafy vegetables such as kale, Brussel sprouts and spinach, flaxseeds, walnuts, tofu, soybeans, and rapeseed oil. Omega 6 on the other hand is also found in leafy green veggies, most vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and grains.
Another tricky mineral to get is iodine - this is because it could be tricky to find the perfect balance since too much or too little can cause thyroid problems. You can find trace amounts in bread, beans, nuts, fruits, and leafy greens, however, the best sources are definitely seaweed and iodized salt. If you dislike seaweed and have to reduce your salt intake, you should consider getting suplements.
If you're intentional as a vegan, you may be able to get your daily iron intake at breakfast! Oats and breakfast cereal fortified with it topped with seeds and dried fruit is perfect for this. You can also get your iron from lentils, tofu, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, tempeh, leafy greens, cacao, nuts, and seeds.
Eat as much vitamin C as you can to help absorb iron and reduce coffee and tea if you have an iron deficiency as they reduce absorption.
It is obvious that different people may have different nutritional needs (athletes, pregnant people, people with lifestyle and/or chronic diseases, or people with nutrient absorption problems. In such cases and for specific nutritional and health concerns, be sure to speak to a general practitioner or nutritionist.