Inspired by Veganuary this week’s article will aim to shed some light on plant-based living. Veganuary is a British charity that promotes the idea of trying out a plant-based diet for the first month of the year. When adopting a new diet it is crucial to be prepared and educated in all its pros and cons so as to execute dietary choices wisely.
Here is a list of some common nutrients that may be deficient in vegan or vegetarian lifestyles. This can help guide your meal plans and supplementation if you chose to participate in Veganuary!
There are a total of 20 amino acids that the human body uses to build protein. They are classified as either essential or non-essential amino acids. Your body can produce non-essential amino acids (There are 11 of them) but it cannot produce essential amino acids (There are 9 of them). So essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet.
Different types of proteins can vary greatly in the types of amino acids they contain. The amino acid profile varies between plant and animal proteins. Animal protein sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy contain all essential amino acids, so they are called complete proteins. Plant proteins are a little different. Each plant you eat has a different amino acid profile, so most plant proteins are calledincomplete. For example, grains are high in the amino acid tryptophan but low in the amino acid lysine. Legumes, on the other hand, are high in lysine but low in tryptophan. Grains and legumes are complementary proteins because when you combine them you get all of the essential amino acids. So if you are adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it is super important to combine proteins. It does not have to be done at every meal, but as long as you get a variety of different proteins sources throughout the day you're good to go!
Here are some more examples of complementary proteins
Now, not all plant-based proteins are incomplete sources. The following plant-based proteins are complete sources: soybeans, quinoa and hemp seeds
Our main supply of Vitamin B12 comes from animal products
Ensure to eat foods that are high in B12 (Almond milk, soy milk) or fortified with B12. Otherwise, it is best to supplement with a good quality Vitamin B12 or Vitamin B12 injections
The two forms of dietary iron include heme iron (only found in meat) and non-heme iron (plant-based foods). Non-heme iron plant sources are more difficult for the body to absorb so adding some Vitamin C rich foods (bell peppers, oranges, kale, pineapple and broccoli) can increase the availability of plant-based iron
A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, iron-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables provides adequate iron intake
If you feel that your diet is lacking in the above-mentioned foods, consider an iron supplement
Zinc is less bioavailable from plant sources but a well-planned diet can provide adequate amounts of zinc from plant sources
Good sources of zinc from plant-based diets include: whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
Absorption of zinc can be improved by using yeast-basedbread, sourdough bread, sprouts and presoaked legumes
Calcium has always been associated with dairy products but there are many highly bioavailable plant-based sources. Ex. Green leafy veggies, dried figs, tahini, nuts, seeds
Now that you know which nutrients may be deficient in a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you can take the extra steps to incorporate more foods that are high in these nutrients or supplement when necessary. If you are unsure whether or not you are meeting your requirements for certain vitamins and minerals speak to your Naturopathic Doctor about running standard blood tests that can easily display deficiencies.