Does eating only a plant-based diet put you at risk of nutrition deficiency?
Can vegans be healthy without the need for additional supplementation?
The human body can thrive on a plant-based diet provided certain forms of protein are ingested.
Vegans, whose diet is only plant-based, and excludes all foods that are of animal origin, including dairy, can be healthy provided they consume a wide variety of plant-based protein foods to get all the nutrients/amino acids their body needs.
A vegan diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, peas, beans, nuts, and seeds.
It excludes all products of animal origin, like meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy.
Consuming a spectrum of vegan food provides all round nutrition for optimal health. However, vegans who do eat a balanced diet are at risk of deficiency in some essential nutrients.
Let’s look at how we can ensure that we ingest some of these nutrients in adequate quantities:
The concern most vegans have is that they may not get adequate protein with a plant-based diet. But this is not the case if the diet comprises a variety of vegan food sources.
Protein is made of amino acids. Our body makes most of the amino acids, and a few “essential amino acids” must be obtained from food, since our body does not produce them.
Pea is a great source of plant protein as it contains all essential amino acids. Select vegetables, grains, nuts, and seed contain protein too.
True Nutrition’s Pea Protein is a great source of plant protein.
There are plenty of sources in the plant word to get calcium.
Calcium-rich foods include spinach, broccoli, collard greens, kale, turnip, bok-choy, Chinese cabbage, sesame seeds, almonds, carrots, soy milk, rice milk, tahini, mustard greens, orange, figs, white beans, and molasses.
Absorption of calcium is facilitated by the presence of magnesium and vitamins K1, K2, and D. The absorption is reduced by Caffeine, soda, alcohol, table salt, and tobacco.
Adequate iron intake is important because iron contributes to the production of red blood cells.
Vegans can get their iron needs from cruciferous vegetables, peas, beans, spinach, hummus, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Absorption of iron is enhanced simultaneously consuming foods rich in vitamin C such as lemons, oranges, red peppers, broccoli, potatoes. Drinking tea or coffee with meals impedes the absorption of iron.
Zinc is essential for immunity, cell metabolism, and healing wounds. Plant-based sources include almonds, cashews, kidney beans, chickpeas, wheat germ, dark chocolate, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, oatmeal, and tempeh.
Vitamin D aids in maintaining the health of bones, immune system, nervous system, heart, and lungs. The natural source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. It can also be obtained from foods such as wild mushrooms, cereals, rice milk and soy milk.
Thyroid function and metabolism depend on iodine. Iodine rich foods are sea vegetables, cranberries, navy beans, strawberries, and potatoes.
In summary, being a vegan does not pose a threat of nutrient deficiency when a variety of plant-based foods with quality amino acids are incorporated into our diet.
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