Whether you’re a longtime vegan, you’ve newly joined the team or you’re just interested in plant based nutrition, look no further. Regardless of eating vegan or not, it’s always important to know what you’re putting into your body, so that you can function at your absolute best. Here are a few things to keep in mind when filling your plate.
6 Nutrition Must-Knows for Vegans (and Everyone Else)
A common buzzword in recent years, and understandably so. Protein is vital for building and repairing tissues, and a component in every cell in the body. Adult females typically need 46 grams per day, while adult males require around 56 grams.
Protein can be found in lentils (18 grams per cup), tofu (20g), peanut butter (65g), soy milk (8g), black beans (39g), spaghetti (8g), lima beans (15g) and peas (8g).
Food fact: It’s virtually impossible to not get enough protein since so many foods contain it. As long as you are eating enough calories, you are likely getting enough protein!
Iron helps to transport oxygen around the body. It is recommended that females consume 28mg each day, while males need just 8mg. Interestingly, a lot of vegan foods have more iron than meat.
For every cup of soybeans, you’ll get 29.2mg of iron. Other iron-rich foods include lentils (6.6mg per cup), oatmeal (29.9mg), kidney beans (15.1mg), lima beans (4.5mg), sunflower seeds (7.4mg), chickpeas (12.5mg), dried apricots (3.5mg) and tofu (13.2mg).
Food fact: Vitamin C helps with iron absorption! Strawberries, oranges, leafy greens, lemons and limes are all rich in vitamin C and will help to keep iron levels healthy.
Naturally, calcium is important for bone health. But it also plays an important role in heart, nerve, and muscle health.
For adults, calcium needs usually range from 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day.
Tofu holds an impressive 868mg in one cup. Additionally, good sources include broccoli (42.8mg in one cup), kale (100.5mg), almonds (242.9mg), orange (72mg), bok choy (73.5mg), chickpeas (210mg), pinto beans (218.1mg), and parsley (82.8mg). Fortified drinks contain varying amounts too!
Food fact: While we are often taught that cow’s milk builds strong bones, studies have shown that dairy does not reliably improve skeletal health, and research has even linked milk intake with increased fractures. Additionally, countries that consume less dairy show less bone (and other health) problems.
B12 maintains nerve and blood cell health and helps make DNA.
Adults only require roughly 2.4 micrograms, but because B12 only naturally occurs in soil, it can be tricky to get in foods. Additionally, due to modern farm practices, some livestock are injected with B12 shots to maintain levels (this is the B12 that humans later consume through animal products).
Another alternative is to consume your B12 directly. While a supplement is the easiest method, you can also opt for foods fortified with B12. Look for fortified breakfast cereal, nutritional yeast (great for a cheese-like topping) and vegan milks. Additionally, you can find B12 in some plant-based meat products.
Food fact: Traditionally, people could get B12 by eating vegetables from the garden that still had soil on them. Nowadays, vegetables are often washed so health professionals generally recommend that everyone over the age of 50, as well as some young people, take a B12 supplement regardless of diet.
These essential fatty acids are important for cells and the nervous system. The recommended intake for Omega-3s sits at around 1.1 to 1.6 grams.
Flaxseed oil contains 7.26 grams per serving. Chia seeds (5.06g), canola oil (1.28g), walnuts (2.57g) flaxseeds (2.35g) are also great options. Alternatively, you might consider taking an Omega-3 vegan supplement.
Food fact: Fish get their omega-3s by consuming algae, but unfortunately also collect unwanted elements along the way. Vegan alternatives derive their omega-3s from the algae directly, meaning you get all their benefits without the risks.
With recent health and fitness trends continuing to grow, many consumers look for the best of the best to fuel their bodies. Here are a few favourites:
Blueberries: High in vitamin C, manganese, fibre, antioxidants and vitamin K, which improves bone and blood health. It has been suggested that blueberries also improve memory and blood pressure.
Kale: Contains good levels of fibre, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and potassium, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Kale can offer protection against diabetes and cancer.
Oats: Contains a massive range of benefits, including magnesium, iron, B vitamins, fibre and antioxidants. They help to lower cholesterol, aid digestion and can improve metabolism.
Almonds: These are the most nutritionally dense nut. Potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium are all great benefits. Additionally, they can lower cholesterol, reduce risk of cancer, and help with blood sugar levels.
Kiwi fruit: This fruit contains 273% of your daily need of vitamin C. As well as that, it contains vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Eating kiwi fruit promotes healthy skin, good cardiovascular health and can improve immune health.
Thinking of trying veganism? Click here to sign up for Veganuary for free!
The above nutrition information was collected from USDA’s Food Composition Database.