In Alexandria, VA, there are all types of eating philosophies. They include vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians and etc. There are benefits and drawbacks for all types of nutrition philosophies. For vegans, getting adequate nutrition is one concern and whether taking supplements is necessary. By eliminating all animal products from their diet, which includes meat byproducts like gelatin, honey, seafood, milk products and eggs, it’s harder to get certain nutrients.
It takes time to ensure you get adequate complete protein.
Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids that our body doesn’t make. There are some complete protein sources in the plant world, such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh, edamame, buckwheat, pistachios, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Even though there are eight sources, three are from soy products and there is a link between too much soy and some forms of cancer. For variety, you can mix and match food to make complete proteins. A whole wheat peanut butter sandwich is one example. While lack of adequate complete protein is of the concerns, with careful planning, it shouldn’t be.
Vitamin B12 may be lacking.
People normally get their vitamin B12 from animal products. Vitamin B12 is necessary to build prevent anemia and build red blood cells. Women need it in early stages of pregnancy to prevent birth defects. It boosts bone health, reduces the risk of macular degeneration and improves brain health. It also plays a role in metabolism. Unless you’re taking nutritional yeast, eating shitake mushrooms or eating B12 fortified foods, you may need supplements.
Vitamin D and other nutrients may be missing from vegan diets.
You’d think that vitamin D would be the easiest nutrient to get, since it comes from exposure to the sun, but both vegans and non-vegans are often deficient in this vitamin. Constant sunscreen is one reason, your location, skin color, age and weight are others. While fortified foods contain D, mushrooms are another decent source. It’s necessary to activate calcium, but calcium intake is another problem for vegans. It’s in broccoli, kale and other greens. Iron is also a problem, since most people use fish, chicken or beef as a source. Fortified foods are one option.
- Balancing your omega6 and omega3 fatty acids is important. If you’re vegan, focus on walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed to boost omega3.
- Two good sources of protein for vegans are lentils and chickpeas. Lentils have 8.84 grams of protein per half cup and chickpeas provide 7.25 grams. Hummus is made from chickpeas, so choose it for a healthy dip.
- Zinc is a difficult nutrient to get on a vegan diet. Even non-vegans suffer from deficiencies. Zinc is high in animal products, but you can also get it from eating pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils and cashews, to name a few sources.
- Fat and protein help you feel full longer and faster, but vegan protein sources provide less protein and more bulk. You may have to eat several times throughout the day to feel satiety. Be careful you aren’t snacking on unhealthy vegan options, like fries or potato chips.
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