Fun fact about Daniel Fielding: I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years. Hanging out at the food co-op, and general vegetarian/whole foods/organic crunchy hippies; I’ve made a lot of interesting friends along the way. This post below is about a vegan diet, and how you can make sure you’re getting the right nutrients.
Eating Vegan for Health and Environment
By Sasha Britton
Being an active person has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. I’ve always felt the need to get up and move, stay fit, and challenge my body. Eating a vegan diet is something that has developed a bit slower in my life, but something that I’ve somehow always felt the need to do. In going from vegetarian to vegan eating habits, I wanted to make sure that I’m informed and fueling my body as best I can. Being mindful to get a variety of nutrient- rich foods into my daily meals is no more difficult now than it was as an omnivore- so here’s the basics as I’ve found them so far in my journey.
What May Be Missing
In addition to protein, vegans may be missing the following nutrients in their diet:
- vitamins B-12 and D
Iron is quite important for building muscle and endurance. If you aren’t going to get this from beef, you’re going to have to make sure you’re eating the following on a regular basis:
- whole grain cereals fortified with iron
- legumes (beans, peas and peanuts)
- dried fruit (especially raisins)
- cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage)
In addition, you will want to combine these with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and berries; this will aid your body in absorbing and utilizing iron.
In lieu of dairy products, instead load up on fortified dairy-replacement products as well as leafy greens to keep bones strong with sufficient calcium: mustard, kale and chard are powerhouse foods in this regard, as well as dried figs. Sesame seeds are also a decent source of calcium; a unique form of nut butter made from sesame, called tahini, is a main ingredient in hummus and also available in many international foods aisles on its own. The easily absorbed calcium and vitamin D pairing is almost always present in Calcium supplements- a great addition to a mindful diet, especially if you’re a woman and over 40 or if you don’t get outside for a walk in the sun to absorb some D.
Peanuts (which are actually legumes, not nuts) and soybeans provide good proteins that are of the same quality as that derived from fish, poultry, dairy or eggs. Most tree nuts are also good sources of protein, and provide the additional benefit of healthy oils, such as omega-3. Include a range of nuts, legumes, and meat substitutes (soy or otherwise) throughout the day and you can rest assured that your covered. A great pre- or post-workout drink to pack in more protein is almond milk with hemp or soy protein powder. Depending on the flavors you pick, mix-ins like fruit or nut butters make for a delicious and healthy treat.
Zinc is mostly present in protein sources, and is vital for healthy respiratory and digestive function. Although a main source is animal products, almost any vegan protein- and especially pumpkin seeds- will provide good amounts of zinc.
Vitamin B-12 is essential for metabolism and making use of the energy stored in food. Unfortunately, the only reliable source of this nutrient is in animal-based foods. Whole grains cereals and soy milk are often vitamin B-12 fortified, but one would have to consume a great deal in order to get this nutrient in sufficient amounts from these vegetable-based sources alone. Therefore, a supplement is highly advisable for all vegans, athletes included.
By Sasha Britton, for Gym Source, provider of treadmills, ellipticals and home gyms for over 75 years.