Updated: Feb 19, 2020
A vegan "plant-based" diet has a ton of benefits! But it can be difficult to navigate so that you meet your nutritional requirements.
Almost all foods contain protein. Vegetables including: spinach, broccoli, avocado, corn, peas, and artichokes contain a significant amount. Furthermore, soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, and miso have more than enough protein to exceed your daily requirements! Some of my favorite "plant-based" proteins are: lentils, beans, quinoa, and various nuts and seeds.
In order to achieve the complete amino-acid recommendation, be sure to integrate tofu and quinoa (as they contain the complete profile).
Building Strong Bones
Almonds, collard greens, kale, and calcium-fortified foods are more easily absorbed that calcium from cow milk. Cow's milk can also cause unnecessary inflammation throughout the body. If you are concerned about vitamin D, don't fret! Your body will manufacture enough vitamin D if you are exposed to sunlight for 15-20 minutes daily.
Cereals and milk replacements fortified with vitamin D are two of the best sources of dietary vitamin D for vegans. Another quick tip.... Mushrooms have the potential to be the only non-animal, unfortified food source of vitamin D that can provide a substantial amount in a single serving.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
The amount of vitamin D you need each day depends on your age. According to the NIH, an average daily intake of 400 to 800 IU, or 10 to 20 micrograms, is sufficient for more than 97 percent of people.
Here’s the recommended daily intake of vitamin D based on age:
Babies (0–12 months): 400 IU
Children (1–13): 600 IU
Teenagers: 600 IU
Adults 70 and under: 600 IU
Adults over 70: 800 IU
Iron is abundant in black beans, lentils, oatmeal, dried fruits, spinach, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, and others. Remember, neither plants, nor animals produce vitamin B12 (it comes from bacteria). Nutritional yeast is a good source of B12, but I advocate a supplement for vegans.
You can get omega-3 fatty acids (without saturated fat and cholesterol) from walnuts, broccoli, spinach, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Unfortunately, fish can contain toxins like mercury and micro-plastics.
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